Friday, July 18, 2014

This Week in EID – Episode 12

I am going to summarize this week’s EID posts out of order today because I am really interested in getting your opinions about two of them. One of them is a really controversial debate in cognitive science and the other is a really controversial debate in society as a whole.  So whichever (or both) of these groups you belong to, please let me know what you think.

The society-wide debate is whether people (kids primarily) who play violent video games are more likely to be aggressive or less considerate afterwards.  This has some visceral appeal to it.  You might think that it has a temporary effect – kids get into an aggressive mood while playing and it primes them to stay this way for some period of time afterwards, probably in the order of hours.  Or you could think that consistently playing violent games has a more permanent effect, rewiring their brains to get used to being destructive and anti-social.  But the truth is that the evidence is mixed.  It is not as clear a relationship as the most ardent believer thinks.  But it is not purely in our imagination either.  My post looked at one alternative hypothesis, but feel free to comment on the basic question too.

The cognitive science debate is whether you think that cognitive heuristics like anchoring and priming are speed/accuracy tradeoffs only, and therefore reduce the accuracy of decisions in order to act faster – which has evolutionary advantages.  Or whether unconscious thinking can increase accuracy because of its greater capacity – in which case overriding it with deliberate thought can reduce decision quality.  My instinct tells me that it is both, simply because that is the way most things usually fall in the complex world in which we live.  Occam’s razor aside, the simplest answer is not always the correct one.

The other two posts were pretty straightforward, but also important topics.  The article on Monday brought up the idea that the details of a situation can make or break whether a design works.  As with the two debates above, this is because the real world is pretty complicated.  I was not familiar with the fall-recovery system problem that this article talked about until I read about it in ISHN. 

Similarly, Wednesday’s article about safety footwear introduces the wide variety of components that go into something as simple as a pair of safety shoes.  I won’t look at my pair in the same way again.