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Author: admin, 09.09.2014. Category: Small Goals 2016

It looks like Google’s Android UX team used a now-debunked research paper to guide much of their UX work. There are few things as pleasurable as reading a truly acerbic academic paper, but Brown, Sokal and Friedman (2013) is just that. The large, dark-gray structure presents the model trajectory derived from the empirical time series of the flourishing, high-performance teams. Brown, Sokal and Friedman (2013) showed this to be, as my stepfather would say, a load of old cobblers. Losada’s (1999) article followed few of the conventions that would normally be expected from a piece of scholarship published in a scienti?c journal. Fredrickson and Losada (2005) built upon the 1999 paper, testing these assumptions with a larger sample of students. Now this is a blog about interaction design and UX, so how does his war in academic heaven relate to our quaint little field? Jars of marbles are then used as an (apparently metaphorical) device to capture this: in the Android interface, for every bad emotion they cause they look to create enough positive emotions to counter-balance them and so allow their users to flourish. It’s very tempting to now decry Android’s UX as having been built on a house of sand, and drolly add “that’s why Android has a terrible user experience!”. The simple truth is that in no real way was the positivity ratio ever being applied to the design of Android. Second, and more importantly, the positivity ratio was being invoked to truss up the same old design truisms about not annoying users, being mindful of their needs, delighting them, and so forth. It could be that the Android team cited the positivity ratio to give their design work the sheen of respectability that society affords “science”: as long as there is a published paper to back it up, it must be true. The use of “science” as a superficial lacquer designed to impress, with scant regard for truth, has only one description: bullshit.
In his classic essay On Bullshit, Harry Frankfurt (2005) describes bullshit as differing to lies primarily by virtue of the the speaker’s intent and the relationship of what was said to the truth. For the bullshitter, however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false.
Through this definition, it should be clear why the Android team’s use of the positivity ratio could be considered bullshit. Why then, do UX and interaction designers so often feel the need to tart up their work with invidious “science” bullshit? Everyone bullshits at some point, but there seems to me to be a particular desire to show design decisions as being based in some empirical facts. The nature of the grift then is a system that encourages interaction and UX designers to provide empirical or theoretical basis for their decisions but often fails to examine the quality of that empirical or theoretical basis. Believing you understand your motivations and desires, your likes and dislikes, is called the introspection illusion.
McRaney references the work of the psychologist Timothy Wilson, who along with a number of collaborators examined this effect. The really important result though was that for subjects that were knowledgeable about art, introspection had little impact on their choices and subsequent satisfaction. For instance, placing the main navigation on the left “because people read from left to right” (as I am often told) is an example of introspection leading us astray. The best case would be for us to always have good empirical evidence to hand, for us to be engaged with that research in a critical way and for that evidence to truly drive our work.
This seems to me to be how the Android team may have felt the positivity ratio informed their work – it helped them to provide a narrative for design decisions that they would have made anyway, and this is why the Android interface doesn’t need to change despite the positivity ratio being debunked. Excellent article, I sincerely hope this and more articles like it will permit more enlightened design audiences to point the bullshit finger at pseudo-scientific design practices. I enjoyed reading this, thank you for widening the audience for the rebuttal of Fredrickson and Losada’s unsupported mathematics, fudge-factors, and silly level of precision.
However, I thought you were unfair to professionals who referenced them for practical work. Or just a helpful prop to communicate to a broad audience that might include those who instinctively respond to quantitative arguments, or feel comfortable with the academic validation? You don’t really get points in science just because someone may have thought of something similar at some point.
Well my main point was that the positivity ratio wasn’t really influencing their work, either due to the aforementioned bullshitting or due to the introspection illusion. 1) as a former math major, now designer, this sort of stuff irks me to NO end, and if i started debunking everything that was debunkable (based on the math), i would never eat or sleep. 3) do you know about the article “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False?” by John Ioannidis? It reflects the highest positivity ratio (observed ratio = 5.6) and the broadest range of inquiry and advocacy.
It presented very little primary data, and the experimental design, construction of models, and interpretation of results were made with little or no justi?cation.
Not only were the theoretical foundations of this paper (from Losada, 1999) shaky, but this paper continued the trend of plugging in arbitrary values into formulae in order to have the data fit the Lorenz attractor. This is apparently achieved through the typical interaction design mix of delighters, accelerators, thoughtful design, etc.


The incremental improvements, from Project Butter to KitKat, mean stock Android is now smooth, intuitive and often delightful (the less said about TouchWiz the better, though). It could be that the Android UX team lacked the scientific or mathematical wherewithal to detect it was wrong – but even if it had been true, it didn’t really add anything to their design work, so why mention it at all?
Never mind that a huge number of published articles are probably false, nor worry about actually reading the original research.
I don’t bring up this term simply to pedantically berate the Android team (who do some great work) but to consider a more troubling trend. Liars respect truth values, in the sense that for one to lie they must first acknowledge the truth about which they are trying to deceive us. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says.
It wasn’t out of an intent to deceive about the ratio itself, but out of a desire to make their work appear as something that it was not.
It certainly isn’t just the Android team that has done so: one doesn’t have to look long to find examples of bullshit “science” in UX. The designer is neither on the side of the true nor of the false, rather they seek to use “science” to present their work in a certain light. It could just be bullshit, but as long as it is internally consistent bullshit then the “backs up designs with facts” box can be ticked. He found that introspection can result in temporary attitude change, and lead us to make choices that are less satisfying than those made without introspection. Student participants evaluated five posters, one of which they were allowed to take home and keep.
If we extend these results to UX, it would at least mean that UX professionals can effectively introspect about why they prefer certain design features, but that introspecting may have little impact on either the decisions that we make or on our satisfaction with those decisions. User experience work should require we think about user needs a priori, and make design decisions from there.
There is in fact little evidence for any difference in usability between left and right hand navigations on websites (Faulkner and Hayton (2011), Kalbach and Bosenick (2006), though these studies were small and may be too under-powered to detect a small effect). Where that isn’t possible, I think it’s better for us to accept that we don’t always have good reasons for our design decisions and that much of our work is intuitive. Everyone falls prey to biases such as the introspection illusion (and indeed to bullshitting) at times (indeed, the UX community certainly seems to be aware of it), and science can provide a particularly alluring set of post-hoc rationalisations. Introspection, attitude change, and attitude–behavior consistency: the disruptive effects of explaining why we feel the way we do. There’s so very much of it out there these days that to stand up and call bullshit like you have every time we see it would make you not just a curmudgeon, but would likely make you an enemy of half of the UX design lecture circuit.
With, like, *three times* as much positivity”, and left it at that, it would be an fine and admirable way to lead a design team. The idea of a ratio of positive to negative interactions seems to pre-date and be independent of Losada’s work. Let the academics referee, reproduce, dispute or disprove – if I need to go to first principles each time I bring some new idea in to my efforts I might never finish. Cherry picking your research is bad academic practice, but fine for me if someone is just trying to fill in the gaps between the network of thoughts that support the action that they want to inspire. Let the academics referee, reproduce, dispute or disprove – if I need to go to first principles each time I bring some new idea in to my efforts I might never finish. Note also that whilst the Losada (1999) paper was cited, they cite Fredrickson’s popular book, not the 2005 paper.
The Android team proudly and unequivocally claim to have been inspired in their design work by a paper that is, as it now transpires, total cobblers.
The team sought to find more ways to make the user happy and reduce the things that annoy users, and bully for them. It speaks of the status of “science” in public discourse, and the increasing need to back up (often good) design decisions with evidence.
It also helps to give a memorable spin to hoary old design messages that many of us will have heard before. Even if they did actually add marbles to jars, it would just be redundantly confirming design decisions they would make anyway. Neuroscience, as you can see, is particularly abused, but that’ll be a topic for another post.
The important thing is that the audience for this bullshit may be as much within an organisation as it is for the public or design community. This is also true of badly-designed user tests (of which I’ve witnessed a few in my time) that provide little useful information about the design beyond internally consistent bullshit that ticks the “passed user testing” box.
As I noted, we’re encouraged to provide evidential support to stakeholders for our UX design decisions without necessarily being encouraged to check the validity of this empirical basis.
Wilson, Lisle and Kraft (1990) argue that we view rational cognitions as the most likely cause of our attitudes, as opposed to the myriad of minor factors that might influence our thoughts.
Half of the participants were just asked to take a poster; the other half were asked to reflect on why they made their choice. I’d argue further, and suggest that many times UX professionals make judgements where they behave like the participants that were not knowledgeable about art, especially in situations where they do not know much about their users.


The real reason we stick to a left-hand nav is because it is a convention, but alluring rationalisations such as “because people read from left to right” are more available to us than this fact [2]. We may otherwise create false narratives that seem to explain our preferences and choices or, worse, lead us to make poorer design decisions. It seems we’re in danger of fooling others or of fooling ourselves when we appeal to science. Still, the most likely candidate for such ratios pre-dating the Losada paper is in the work of John Gottman.
Mathematically, its trajectory in phase space never duplicates itself, representing maximal degrees of freedom and behavioral flexibility.
And not merely flawed – massively, howlingly riddled with sloppy errors and what can also be described as pseudo-mathematics.
The Google UXers (in particular, Helena Roeber, the head of the Android UX research team) discuss these findings as a model for all human emotional experience. And yet, the apparent foundation of the design philosophy underlying this excellent user experience has been shown to be nonsense.
Even if it were true, the sort of inter-human interactions it could have described (ignoring the degree to which it was being over-generalised by its authors) can only be applied metaphorically to our interactions with an interface. As the talk continues, it’s clear that the positivity ratio really had little or no impact on their design decisions, whereas their design principles did. Whether the positivity ratio was true or not was therefore irrelevant to their purpose, which was to make their design decisions appear more grounded in evidence.
However, this also means that design decisions that have no theoretical justification now need one. I’m not sure that UX design decisions are typically made as a response to research or according to some system (involving marbles or otherwise). Moreover, you chose those reasons out of what was readily available to your consciousness, namely, superficial properties of the foodstuff.
Those asked to just take a poster typically chose artistic posters; those asked to reflect chose more “pop” style posters (the author’s words, not mine), such as one with a cat and the caption “Gimme a break”.
It’s the times when we have to make a design decision where none of the available options can be easily be linked back to what we know about users that we should be wary of our introspections and the rationalisations we try to spin.
Gottman found that couples with a positive to negative experience ratio of 5:1 were less likely to experience divorce, and is probably the work you were referencing (I believe the Android team also mention Gottman in their talk). Indeed, it was claimed that the positivity ratio could be represented by the Lorenz attractor itself. Arbitrary values were plugged into equations in order to give a pleasing result in the form of the Lorenz attractor. Worse, of course, is the implication that people simply don’t critically read the papers that they cite. Indeed, it would mean that the designers would have to add a bad experience in for every three good ones in order to get the positivity ratio right!
Precisely the same design decisions would have been made whether or not the ratio was cited. As in the examples above, this is usually occurs when designers follow best practices and wheel out insights from cognitive psychology or “neuroscience” in order to justify them. Rather, when asked why we made a design choice we first fool ourselves by spinning a plausible narrative for them. The most important things that may influence your gustatory preferences – such as texture, aroma, what you associate the food with, etc. As you might suspect, those that had to reflect were significantly less satisfied with their choices than those who did not when the researchers followed up six months later. What we don’t want to do is make decisions based on what is easier to rationalise, as opposed to what we feel is best. First, Gottman’s work seems to have its own methodological and statistical crosses to bear, so might not be fully reliable. Other methodological problems existed in the empirical work, such as failing to adequately explain methods or the chosen analysis methods. I don’t really buy the evasion that they were using the ratio as a metaphor; they clearly discussed the research as if was true and had influenced their design work, even if the marbles themselves were a metaphor.
Often we don’t know why we designed something as we did, since either the design knowledge we have is subconscious and implicit or there was no real reason why. Those reasons for choosing a poster that were most available to the participants were not the subjective aesthetic factors behind their attitudes towards the posters, but rational cognitions that did not match their actual preferences [1]. Design principles may work because they provide easily available rationalisations for design decisions, and this rationalisation occurs post-hoc. Your mind creates a story to fill the resulting void with explanations that might have nothing to do with the real reasons for your preferences.




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Comments to «Positive to negative thought ratio youtube»

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