Tag Archives: senses

Apple’s Implementation of the Duration-of-Exposure Effect: Screens at 70Ëš

Hours after writ­ing about the dur­a­tion-of-expos­ure effect (whereby merely touch­ing an unowned object increases our attach­ment to it and how much we value it), a post came into my feed read­er point­ing out how Apple Inc. take advant­age of this effect in their “painstak­ingly cal­ib­rated” stores.

Car­mine Gallo, provid­ing a glimpse into his upcom­ing book, The Apple Exper­i­ence, explain­s how every aspect of an Apple Store is designed to foster “multi­s­ens­ory own­er­ship exper­i­ences”. This on the (very spe­cif­ic) tilt of laptop screens (from anoth­er great art­icle on the top­ic):

The note­book com­puters dis­played on the store’s tab­letops and coun­ters are set out, each day, to exactly the same angle. That angle being, pre­cisely, 70 degrees: not as rigid as a table-per­pen­dic­u­lar 90 degrees, but open enough – and, also, closed enough – for screens’ con­tent to remain vis­ible and invit­ing to would-be typers and tinker­ers.

The point […] is to get people to touch the devices. “The main reas­on note­book com­puters screens are slightly angled is to encour­age cus­tom­ers to adjust the screen to their ideal view­ing angle,” [Gallo] says – “in oth­er words, to touch the com­puter.”

A tact­ile exper­i­ence with an Apple product begets loy­alty to Apple products, the think­ing goes – which means that the store exists to imprint a brand impres­sion on vis­it­ors even more than it exists to extract money from them. “The own­er­ship exper­i­ence is more import­ant than a sale,” Gallo notes. Which means that the store – and every single detail cre­at­ing the exper­i­ence of it – are optim­ized for cus­tom­ers’ per­son­al indul­gence. Apple wants you to touch stuff, to play with it, to make it your own. Its note­book com­puters are tilted at just the right angle to beck­on you to their screens – and, more import­antly, to their key­boards.

When Apple do it right, they do it per­fectly.

via Kot­tke

Increasing Attachment and Valuation Through Touch

The endow­ment effect is old news: the amount that we value an object increases once we take own­er­ship of it. The ‘exten­ded ver­sion’ shows that the impact of the endow­ment effect increases with time: our valu­ation of an object increases more and more as the amount of time that we own it also increases. This is known as the length-of-own­er­ship effect.

A recent study pub­lished in the journ­al Judge­ment and Decision Mak­ing1 has taken an even deep­er look at this effect: study­ing how touch­ing an object increases both our attach­ment to that object and how much we value it… even if we don’t own it (also in pdf). Here are the key find­ings of this ‘pre-own­er­ship expos­ure study’:

  • Touch­ing an object will increase our attach­ment to it and valu­ation of it, wheth­er we own it or not.
  • The longer we touch or handle an un-owned object, the great­er we will value it and feel attached to it.
  • Simply think­ing about an un-owned object increases our valu­ation of it and how much we feel attached to it.

Related find­ings, cited in this art­icle:

  • If an object is being sold at auc­tion, the amount that we value the object will increase as the length of the auc­tion increases.
  • Own­ing a coupon for an object increases our emo­tion­al attach­ment to that object.
  • Mak­ing an item the “focus of a com­par­is­on” increases its attract­ive­ness and the prob­ab­il­ity that it would later be selec­ted. We will also feel more attached to the item and will value it high­er.

via @stevesilberman and Life­hack­er (sug­gest­ing that this dur­a­tion-of-expos­ure effect’ is an explan­a­tion for why we have cluttered homes.)

1 What, you’re not read­ing Judge­ment and Decision Mak­ing? You should; it’s bimonthly and open access.

The Minds of Dogs and How Pointing Evolved

Recent research sug­gests that domest­ic dogs seem cap­able of dis­play­ing a rudi­ment­ary “the­ory of mind” — a very human char­ac­ter­ist­ic whereby you are able to attrib­ute men­tal states to oth­ers that do not neces­sar­ily coin­cide with your own (in a nut­shell). Stray domest­ic dogs, mean­while, do not dis­play this trait, sug­gest­ing that such men­tal attrib­utes are developed through close con­tact with humans. That’s inter­est­ing, but not the main reas­on I’m shar­ing this inform­a­tion with you.

This cog­nit­ive dif­fer­ence between stray domest­ic dogs and their house­bound brethren was uncovered by test­ing wheth­er or not they under­stood the very human action of point­ing (y’know, with your index fin­ger). What struck me most in this dis­cus­sion was this brief the­ory of how the action of point­ing evolved:

Go ahead, let your wrist go limp and look at your hand from the side, or if you’re too insec­ure in your own sexu­al­ity, just pic­ture Adam’s limp wrist at the moment of cre­ation in Michelan­gelo’s mas­ter­piece on the Sis­tine Chapel’s ceil­ing. See how even in this relaxed state the index fin­ger is slightly exten­ded? By con­trast, when chimps do this […] their index fin­ger falls nat­ur­ally in line with their oth­er fin­gers. Pov­inelli and Dav­is reas­on that this subtle evol­u­tion­ary change in the mor­pho­logy of our hands, which occurred after humans and chim­pan­zees last shared a com­mon ancest­or five mil­lion to sev­en mil­lion years ago, is at least par­tially respons­ible for the fact that human point­ing with the index fin­ger is so cul­tur­ally ubi­quit­ous today.

The argu­ment goes some­thing like this. When young infants begin reach­ing for objects just out of their range, adults are most likely to respond to those reach­ing attempts and to retrieve the item for the baby when the lat­ter­’s index fin­ger is more prom­in­ently exten­ded. That is to say, ini­tially, the adult mis­takenly reads into the child’s reach­ing attempt as a com­mu­nic­at­ive ges­ture on the part of the child. Over time, this dynam­ic between the child and adult serves to fur­ther “pull out” the index fin­ger because the child impli­citly learns the beha­vi­or­al asso­ci­ation, so that it slowly becomes a genu­ine point­ing ges­ture.

Our Amazing Senses

As neur­os­cient­ist Brad­ley Voytek points out, “we’re used to think­ing of our senses as being pretty shite”, and this is mostly thanks to the pleth­ora of anim­als that can see, hear, smell and taste far bet­ter than we can. “We can­’t see as well as eagles, we can­’t hear as well as bats, and we can­’t smell as well as dogs”, he con­cludes… and that seems to be the con­sensus on every nature doc­u­ment­ary I’ve ever watched.

How­ever our brain is a mag­ni­fi­cent con­struc­tion (and our senses are equally as won­drous), and so Voytek tries to reverse this idea by explain­ing just how sens­it­ive and amaz­ing our senses really are:

It turns out that humans can, in fact, detect as few as 2 photons enter­ing the ret­ina. Two. As in, one-plus-one. It is often said that, under ideal con­di­tions, a young, healthy per­son can see a candle flame from 30 miles away. That’s like being able to see a candle in Times Square from Stam­ford, Con­necti­c­ut. Or see­ing a candle in Can­dle­stick Park from Napa Val­ley.*

Sim­il­arly, it appears that the lim­its to our threshold of hear­ing may actu­ally be Browni­an motion. That means that we can almost hear the ran­dom move­ments of atoms.

We can also smell as few as 30 molecules of cer­tain sub­stances. […]

These facts sug­gest that we all have some level of what we’d nor­mally think of as “super human” sens­ory abil­it­ies already.

But what the hell? If I can sup­posedly see a candle from 30 miles away, why do I still crack my frakkin’ shin on the cof­fee table when it’s only slightly dark in my liv­ing room?

It may not sur­prise you to hear that the answer to that ques­tion is atten­tion.

* For the Europeans among you, that’s more than a fifth longer than the Chan­nel Tun­nel’s under­wa­ter sec­tion (or Hyde Park to Stansted Air­port for the Lon­don­ers).

How Sounds and Words Affect Taste

Back­ground noises greatly affect how we taste food. I wrote about this earli­er in the year – point­ing out that this is the prob­able cause of bland in-flight meals – but how else can back­ground noise affect our per­cep­tion of taste, and can our non-gust­at­ory senses affect how we taste, too?

To test this, molecu­lar gast­ro­nom­ist Heston Blu­menth­al and pro­fess­or Charles Spence con­duc­ted a fas­cin­at­ing exper­i­ment with some ‘bacon and egg’ ice cream and some var­ied soundtracks. The full exper­i­ment is described in a short extract from the book Art and the Senses that also neatly sum­mar­ises the vari­ous ways that our taste per­cep­tion can be altered by our oth­er senses:

The dis­am­big­u­ation of the fla­vour of a food dish can be achieved by a num­ber of means: either visu­ally, by chan­ging the col­our of the food, verbally by means of labelling, by present­ing pic­tures or oth­er cues on the pack­aging, and/or by the present­a­tion of aud­it­ory cues. […] Fur­ther­more, even say­ing the word ‘cin­na­mon’ has been shown to activ­ate the olfact­ory cor­tex (i.e. the part of the brain that pro­cesses smells). […] Play­ing the sizz­ling bacon soundtrack at the ‘Art and the Senses’ con­fer­ence may there­fore have influ­enced the audi­ence’s per­cep­tion of the bacon fla­vour in the ice cream simply by mak­ing them think of bacon. […] It is at present an open ques­tion as to wheth­er simply writ­ing the word bacon on the screen in the front of the aud­it­or­i­um would have had the same effect.

Is there a name for this exper­i­ence? The best I can come up with is ‘gust­at­ory cross­mod­al­ity’, but that sounds far too excit­ing (and is most likely incor­rect). I’m hop­ing for a pithy, Glad­well-esque ‘Some­thing effect’.

via @mocost