TURN SIGNALS ARE THE FACIAL EXPRESSIONS OF AUTOMOBILES by Donald A. Norman

TURN SIGNALS ARE THE FACIAL EXPRESSIONS OF AUTOMOBILES

KIRKUS REVIEW

 It's coping with the technology of quotidian life that wears us down, of course. Norman (Cognitive Psychology/UC San Diego) reassures us that it's not our fault: It's design flaws. If it's broke, Norman knows how to fix it. (The original title of his The Psychology of Everyday Things, 1988, didn't quite work, so subsequent editions substituted ``Design'' for ``Psychology''). Cognitive science--the study of the way stuff gets known--naturally covers a lot of things, and here some are discussed more cogently than others. On learning that the odds are 50,000 to 1 against getting stuck in an elevator, Norman panics. Doing the math, he figures he will get stuck two or three times in his lifetime. On the other hand, he offers a study, actually going to the heart of scientific method, on the thickness of book jackets; a consideration of the meanings of ``real time'' and ``brain power''; an entertaining complaint against Mother Nature for egregious soil erosion; a survey on the uses of the refrigerator door as a communication center; and much intelligence on the real causes of ``pilot error.'' To err may be human, but it may also be the result of bad design. Norman argues for logical relations between a stove's knobs and its burners (``affordance mapping'') and for the efforts a writer owes to readers. The book's technical jargon is minimal and its author writes with the apparent ease of an Asimov. An engaging work by a benign technocrat who has designs on our minds.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-201-58124-8
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Addison-Wesley
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1992