Psychology of Design (PoD) Laboratory

Research Reports

Chowdhury, S. K. & Still, J. D. (2014). Revealing Points of Attentional Interest: To Squint or Not to Squint (PoD Research Report No. 3). [ pdf ]


The human visual system can only attend to a limited number of regions within an interface at one time. Several methods for predicting the deployment of attention have been suggested. We describe an interest point method in which participants identify five “interesting” points in a display. Previous research establishes that this method can successfully predict attentional selection in complex scenes as reflected by eye movement data. Here we describe an experiment that examines the traditional squint test (blurring of display) and its ability to promote the detection of attentional interest. Results indicate that blurring an image disrupts the typical deployment of attention in an interface; therefore, squinting should not be used when attempting to detect interesting regions.

Steinhoff, C. & Rodgers, V. (2013). Early Design with Children: Optimizing Brainstorming (PoD Research Report No. 2). [ pdf ]


This is the first study to empirically evaluate the effectiveness of two design methods that elicit ideas from children during the brainstorming process. Experience prototyping and mixing ideas methods were compared. Experience prototyping allows users to use a product, prototype, or program to experience the interaction themselves before brainstorming. The mixing ideas method goes beyond traditional brainstorming by allowing children to collaborate on their ideas by combining ideas together within a group. We measured the average number of ideas generated per child in each group to explore which method, or combination of methods, elicits the most ideas from the children. We found that neither method elicited more ideas than the control group. Interestingly, it was found that the group experiencing a combination of both methods produced more ideas than the other groups.

Grgic, J. E. & Still, J. D. (2012). Relevant Fade-in Notifications Attract Attention (PoD Research Report No. 1). [ pdf ]


Notifications within graphical displays, such as software updates and virus warnings, are often flashed-on demanding the user’s attention. These notifications occur regardless of relevance to the task being performed. This can interrupt the user from their task creating frustration and ultimately diminishing the user experience of the interface. Previous research has explored when notifications should appear. We by contrast, examine how notifications can be designed to notify users of new information without demanding attention unnecessarily. Participants were instructed to divide their attention between a primary and secondary task. Information associated with the secondary task was presented either with or without flashing, and it was related or unrelated to the primary information. We found that notifications that faded on screen and were related to the primary task attracted more attention than the other notifications.


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