Seminar #2
Title: The Psychology of Everyday Actions
Week of Jan. 28 2019


This topic deals with some of the basic principles of problem solving. Some of the traps and pitfalls we experience  in our environment and in our faulty reasoning perpetuate improper response. In order to overcome these situations we must be aware of the design we propose for objects and be conscious of the messages design sends to the users.


Norman makes a good case for the need to be aware of our own state of mental models as we interact with the environment. Learned Helplessness and Taught Helplessness are two examples of how our state of mind can hinder the usage of objects. Other situations arise when the design of the object imposes artificial Gulfs or a mismatch between user and object. Norman goes onto state that the 7 stages of action outline the process, in which a user must go through, to complete intended goals. He then goes onto propose we ask 7 basic design questions which target the 7 stages of action. These would then address the problems we find in everyday design.

Which State is this system in?


Be prepared to discuss some case studies regarding the design of objects and the errors which arose with the interaction, based on the readings. Come prepared with your own cases which will be used as discussion topics for the seminar group. How do the readings relate to the design of an object or artifact?  Can Norman's discussion on the topics covered in the reading help resolve or at least identify why errors were made? If you were to address each of the 7 stages of action with relation to the design, could problems within the design be avoided.


Chapter two "The Psychology of Everyday Actions" of Donald A. Norman's "The Design of Everyday Things".

Seminar Preparation 

Identify a software artifact which you interact with on a regular basis. The interaction is the result of forming intentions to accomplish goals. Using the reading as support for your argument, discuss the pitfalls in the design. How can one "use the seven stages to ask design questions", Figure 2.7,  to improve the artifact?  Will a simple redesign satisfy the criteria expressed in the Gulf of Execution and the Gulf of Evaluation? Be sure to suggest improvements if warranted.

Be prepared to answer the following questions:


Marks will be awarded for presentation, preparation and participation in the discussion which exhibit emulsion into the subject matter. Students who do not come prepared can expect a low participation mark.