Sunday, May 1, 2011

On superstitions and rituals

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People don't like to mess with their implicit memory -- the type of memory that contains "automatic" sequences of actions, or activities that don't require much conscious thought. This is understandable... it frees up more brain resources to respond to the changing environment. So implicit memory would be part of Maslow's "safety needs".

One example of implicit memory is the user interface, e.g. car dashboard, computer programs, etc. Every time a web browser alters its UI, there are bound to be some people who won't like the change. Mostly because they're used to the old interface, especially if the new interface drastically modifies their habitual mouse movements or keystrokes. Heck, look at the Facebook UI changes and the wall posts that ensue. And even for someone who's relatively receptive to UI changes like me, I get a little peeved at the Firefox 4.0.1 swapping the order of "Open Link in New Tab" and "Open Link in New Window" (Firefox 3 had the New Tab below the New Window)...  although I'm getting used to the change now. I suppose one really annoying thing would be making rapid changes and/or switching back and forth :-P

I agree with Martin Lindstrom's statement in Buyology that superstitions and rituals are psychological crutches that make us feel safer in an ever-more-rapidly changing world... and that the most analytically and rationally minded of us can fall prey to this type of thinking (yours truly, case in point). I almost never press the "4" button on the microwave or when setting my alarms. If I need to heat something for 4 minutes, I press 3:59. If I need to make an 8:30AM meeting, I might set my alarm at 7:39AM, for example. This is rather silly of course, and there is no rational reason of why I do it... that's what superstitions are huh...

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