Can things be designed so well that they actually lead to design flaws or hindered performance? I recently received a thermal cup as a gift and I was excited because my other one was leaking and it didn't do the best job at keeping the heat inside when there were hot contents in the cup (and not burning my hand). So when I got this new one, I wasn't calibrated to it's functionality. The next morning at work, I started my normal routine by heating up some water and pouring it into my cup to make green tea. Came back to my desk and let it sit for about 30 mins, thinking this would be long enough to let it cool down a bit. WRONG! The cup was cold to the touch, but the contents were like lava in my mouth. I left my drink for 2 hours, and when I come back after lunch I went to take a sip and bam! Still hot! Not lava hot, but hot enough to burn. So what I've concluded is that in order to enjoy my hot beverage at a reasonable consumable temperature it must be made at a minimum of 4-5 hours prior to consumption. Does anyone else see this as a problem?
Now think of the opposite. It works great for cold contents as well. After spending hours outside on a hot day, an ice cold beverage is nothing short of pure bliss. The issue is this cup was not just designed for cold, but hot as well (although we all know the problem with hot contents). So does this mean I always have to plan hours in advance for when I would like to have a hot (not super-hot) beverage? Do I have to temperature control the contents prior to pouring them in the cup so I have a better idea of the consistent temperature in the cup shortly thereafter? Do I need to quickly get caught up with the cooling rate of various types of liquids to better gauge the window period of safe and enjoyable consumption? And do you think the designers of this cup thought that this would be something that their consumers should have been made aware of? ***Beware: the contents of this cup are probably very cold or very hot. Good luck!***
I started to think about other designs that are "too good" that have led to expensive mistakes, cognitive deficits, and even injury (and potential insults from onlookers). These couple things came to mind.
Luxury Vehicles. When I was in high school, I learned how to drive. The one thing all high school teenagers want is a car. I didn’t have one at first, so I borrowed my parents' cars (after a little begging). My parents were very successful, so I was lucky because when I borrowed their cars, I was cruising in luxury. So what's the catch? If you have driven both an economical and luxury vehicle (not at the same time), besides all the interior differences, the biggest difference is in the performance and handling of the vehicle. Meaning, when you drive fast in a luxury vehicle, you don't really feel like you're driving fast. I think you can see where I am going with this. One day I was driving in the typical Florida rain and I didn't realize how fast I was going. Sure enough, I get pulled over. Officer, "Son, do you realize how fast you were going?" Teenage me, "Honestly sir, no, I don't." At the time I didn't have the human factors training I do now, but I don't think it would've helped my case by trying to explain that "it wasn't my fault that the car was designed so well it afforded me to drive fast, even in the rain…sir"
Google. Yes, the almighty Google! What's wrong with Google you say? Well, you literally have an answer to almost any question (or at least someone's opinion about it). The problem is, why would you need to remember or learn how to do anything now since the answer or procedure is available right at your fingertips. Research has shown that when we think we can access information from someone or something else, then we are less likely to recall that information on our own (Sparrow, Liu, & Wegner, 2011). This is not a new concept. Transactive memory (Wegner, 1985) basically states that if two people spend a lot of time together, they may each store a different piece of knowledge related to a topic, and are more likely to recall that information when together than if asked separately. The difference now is that the internet has become our daily partner, and we are depending on it as our external memory store. It does such a great job at remembering everything, we don't really need to do this ourselves, we just need to know where to find it. Is this a good or bad thing? I won't get into that, but at a minimum, there are pros and cons. Feel free to battle it out in the comments below.
Sparrow, B., Liu, J., & Wegner, D. M. (2011). Google effects on memory: Cognitive consequences of having information at our fingertips. Science, 333, 776 -778.
Wegner, D. M., Giuliano, T., & Hertel, P. (1985). Cognitive interdependence in close relationships. In W. J. Ickes (Ed.), Compatible and incompatible relationships (pp. 253-276). New York: Springer-Verlag.
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