Is It a Tool Thats Worth Grabbing?
Coffee: Studies of the human brain's "tool response" raise compelling questions for programmers and system designers alike.When something that might be a useful tool appears at the edge of your vision, your brain gets ready to grab itbefore youve consciously noticed its there. When tools are seen at the lower right, a right-handers brain shows more activity than when the same objects are off to the left; when the object is obviously not a tool, the brain produces much less "prepare to grab" activity. These findings, from Todd Handy at Dartmouth College, are an eerie echo of the opening of "2001: A Space Odyssey," where an early humanoid makes the mental leap to using a bone as a club. The follow-up question is whether we recognize tools by that kind of low-level signature"Hey, I could grab that with one hand"or whether we use higher-level knowledge.
Handy and his team are now looking, for example, at different peoples reactions to images of rock climbing aids to see if climbing experience affects response. Id love to suggest variations on that theme. For example, would a person who knows Morse code show a distinctive "tool" response to a telegraph key?