Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation Now Available on Amazon

First, we appreciate everyone’s patience while we got this volume out.
And now, from Holly Buchanan‘s Foreword to the book…

Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and ExpectationAfter inhaling Reading Virtual Minds Volume I I was like an antsy 3-year old waiting for Reading Virtual Minds Volume II. It did not disappoint.
I love the way Joseph Carrabis thinks. He has a unique ability to share broad rich theory with actionable specifics. Unlike many technical writers, he has a unique voice that is both approachable and humorous. It makes for an enjoyable read.
But what’s the main reason why you should read Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experiences and Expectations? Because where most companies and designers fail is on the expectation front.

Humans are designed as expectation engines.

This is, perhaps, the most important sentence in this book. One of the main points Joseph makes in this volume is this – Understand your audiences’ whys and you’ll design near perfect whats.
Design failures come from getting the whys wrong. That can lead to failures on the experience side, but also on the expectation side. And that can be the bigger problem.

Expectation is a top-down process. Higher-level information informs lower-level processing. Experience is a bottom-up process. Sensory information goes into higher-level processing for evaluation. Humans are designed as expectation engines. Topdown connections out number bottom-up connections by about 10:1.

Why is this so important?

In language, more than anywhere else, we see or hear what we expect to hear, not necessarily what is said or written. Across all cultures and languages, neurophysiologists and psychologists estimate that what we experience is as much as 85% what we expect to experience, not necessarily what is real or ‘environmentally available’.


When people expect A and get B they go through a few moments of fugue. External reality is not synching up with internal reality and the mind and brain will, if allowed, burn themselves out making the two mesh.

Get your consumer/visitor/user experience AND expectation right, get their why right, and you’ll be exponentially more successful.

Here are just a few of the goodies you’ll find in this book:

  • Privacy vs. value exchange and when to ask for what information. Joseph has some actionable specifics on this that will surprise you.
  • Why we design for false attractors rather than the real problem.
  • The importance of understanding convincer strategies. Convincer strategies are the internal processes people go through in order to convince themselves they should or should not do something.
  • Companies spend a lot of time trying to convince consumers to trust them. But what may be even more important is understanding how to let consumers you know you trust them. This book has ideas on how to show your customers/users/visitors, “I believe in you”.
  • How often our own experience influence our designs. Unless you’re able to throw all your experience out, and let the user’s experience in, get out of the usability and design business.
  • How to allow your visitors easy Anonymous-Expressive Identity and make them yours forever.
  • Regarding new material, design, interface, the importance of making sure your suggestions provide a clear path to the past (thus being risk averse while providing marketable innovation).

As always, Reading Virtual Minds provides specific actionable ideas. But it will also make you think and approach your work in a new way. And I think that’s the best reason to treat yourself to this book and the inner workings of NextStage and Joseph Carrabis.

(and we never argue with Holly Buchanan…)

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Technology and Buying Patterns

Note: this post is from Mar ’07. We’re reposting because J references it in Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation.

I was reading through some fascinating research the other day. The conclusion is a little long and I’ll do my best to break it down (so that I can understand it more than anything else).

The conclusion goes like this: “Populations will shift their browsing/buying patterns (patterns of social interaction) based on technological changes that make their lives easier if they move to a new social strata where the technological innovations are more unilaterally applied.”

What does that mean?

First up, we’re dealing with a population undergoing change. “Populations will shift…” and “…if they move…”.

These changes are first psychological (“…a new social strata…”) and may be due to positive changes in their financial situation. The changes will probably generate a positive change in their environment (they’ll move to a different neighborhood, probably one more reflective of their positive change in finances).

The cognitive, behavioral/effective and motivational driver for the changes will be greater access to some technology that makes their lives easier. Examples of this would be living closer to a highway for a commuter, moving to a neighborhood which has faster internet access, things like that. A demonstration of this technology (and evidence to the population on the move that they’re moving to the “right” place) will be that everyone in this new place has equal access to the technology.

Evidence of this psychological move will be changes in what they buy and how they buy it.

Well…uh…hmm…On a first read and after a little decoding, this is obvious. “People whose financial situation changes will change their buying patterns and what they buy.”

But that’s not what this research concludes. The financial change isn’t the impetus nor is it the end result. The conclusion of this research is

  1. people will change their financial situation
  2. in order to have access to certain technologies
  3. that make their lives easier

Companies wanting to incentivise their employees should give them access to neat “toys” (HDTV, up-scale cars, better hotel accommodations while traveling, send them to high-end shows and conferences are examples). Increasing their pay won’t due it. Give them a taste of the good life on the job and they’ll want it at home, and that will incentivise them to work harder to get it.

That’s what I think of as a beneficial use of this research. It also indicates something else; people will put themselves in greater and greater debt in order to have access to things they believe will make their lives easier. The above bullet points start with “people will change their financial situation” and there is no guarantee that change will be positive, only that it will change.

That’s a little different, don’t you think?

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