Whenever people find out that I majored in Psychology, they ask how I ended up “in computers”, since in most people’s minds psychology equals couch plus notepad. As soon as I break into my usual speech about UX being little more than a digital branch of Human Factors Engineering, and about HFE having evolved from Psychology, they cut me off: “Ah, right, UX is about knowing what users think”. This makes me wish I could refer them to Prof. Nachshon Meiran from Ben Gurion University, who in 2002 wasn’t yet a full professor but “just” a PhD.
Back in 2002 it was the first day of my undergraduate studies. It was marked by the following series of seminal events: At 8am I met my wife to be, who didn’t know this at the time, but I did already suspect (I’m awfully suspicious by nature). At 8:15 the class “Introduction to Physiological Psychology - I” began with this statement by Prof. Ora Kofman: “Many students are scared of this class. I can assure you that the only scary thing about it is me”. At 10:15 Dr. Nachshon Meiran walked into Lecture Hall 6 and opened the class “Introduction to Physiological Psychology - I” in a very disappointing way. He said: “Whoever enrolled to Psychology studies with the assumption that after 3 years and an undergraduate degree, or after 5 years and a graduate diploma, or after god knows how many years and a Ph.D, they’d be able to read people’s minds — I must disappoint them. Nobody can read minds. If you leave class right now, you’ll only lose the deposit”.
I don’t really know whether he was telling the truth or maybe I just didn’t take the right classes, but it appears that at least up to the graduate degree he got it right. We really suck at reading minds. No clue at all as to what’s going on in there. But as UX professionals we’re in luck, because “what people think” really doesn’t matter all that much. This is because human beings, as a bunch of lazy f… as an economic-minded species, passionately hate thinking. And I mean all of us, not just people who voted for [you know whom], or die-hard fans of [that sports team]. Instead of thinking we are constantly busy inventing shortcuts which can spare us this tiresome task.