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The Internet Science

Web Users Judge Sites in the Blink of an Eye 233

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the judging-a-book-by-its-cover dept.
dogbolter writes "Nature.com is reporting on a study by Canadian researcher Gitte Lindgaard of Carleton University that visitors to a webpage can make up their minds about the quality of the page within just 50 milliseconds." From the article: "We all know that first impressions count, but this study shows that the brain can make flash judgments almost as fast as the eye can take in the information. The discovery came as a surprise to some experts. "My colleagues believed it would be impossible to really see anything in less than 500 milliseconds," says Gitte Lindgaard of Carleton University in Ottawa, who has published the research in the journal Behaviour and Information Technology. Instead they found that impressions were made in the first 50 milliseconds of viewing."
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Web Users Judge Sites in the Blink of an Eye

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  • Hmm, well. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by omeg (907329) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @05:41AM (#14489196)
    I modded yesterday's article, so now I have a chance to say something about this. I think that if the user can't make up his mind whether he likes the site or not in such a short period of time, then the site is obviously broken.

    If I can't tell what a site is about by looking at the way it presents itself, then its design is flawed and I simply don't want to be visiting it anyway.
  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @05:41AM (#14489199)
    I wonder how this ability to rapidly judge things correlates to everyday life. The 50 millisecond snap decision we make when accessing a website is frequently correct. Websites with poor layout, bad colors, busy graphics, etc. all point to bad websites and typically bad content.

    If we can accurately judge a website in 50 milliseconds, can we also do so with people? Is there something to the snap decision that the group of black youths 20 meters ahead of me are probably trouble? How much should we suppress our natural instinct when it has been shown to be correct for webpages?
  • paper (Score:2, Interesting)

    by 19061969 (939279) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @05:46AM (#14489218)

    I'm just reading the paper myself. More interestingly than judgements being made on gut reaction, it discusses the characteristics of attractive websites. It appears that complexity (as long as it isn't confusing) has no effect on how attractive websites are rated.

    Interestingly, the experiments participants agreed strongly with each other, but there was less agreement between them as a group, and a separate group of "experts".

    Perhaps the moral of the story is: don't bother with usability analysis - get an artists to design a "cool" site.

    However, the design of this study (relying on 500ms views - yes, that's five hundred milliseconds - read the paper if you don't believe me) may not be the best way to rate sites. There is a high correlation between the "short" ratings (500 & 50ms duration) and longer term ratings, but I'm still skeptical.

    And yes, this paper is a dupe [slashdot.org]

  • Re: dupe (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Black Parrot (19622) * on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @05:53AM (#14489235)
    The pathetic thing is that they had the story up with the "notify the on-duty editor if you see any problems with this article" for a while before opening it up for comments, and it still got posted.
  • by tehanu (682528) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @06:17AM (#14489311)
    You know this idea that people make judgements in the first 50ms before you can really gain a conscious impression of it (though probably something flashes in your subconcious) remind me of one of the entries in the "Dangerous Ideas" article in Edge (slashdot had it as a story a short while ago) in which Nobel Prize winning biochemist Eric R. Kandel argues that much of what we call "free will" is processed unconsciously without awareness:

    http://www.edge.org/q2006/q06_5.html [edge.org]

    ERIC R. KANDEL
    Biochemist and University Professor, Columbia University; Recipient, The Nobel Prize, 2000; Author, Cellular Basis of Behavior

    Free will is exercised unconsciously, without awareness

    It is clear that consciousness is central to understanding human mental processes, and therefore is the holy grail of modern neuroscience. What is less clear is that much of our mental processes are unconscious and that these unconscious processes are as important as conscious mental processes for understanding the mind. Indeed most cognitive processes never reach consciousness.

    As Sigmund Freud emphasized at the beginning of the 20th century most of our perceptual and cognitive processes are unconscious, except those that are in the immediate focus of our attention. Based on these insights Freud emphasized that unconscious mental processes guide much of human behavior.

    Freud's idea was a natural extension of the notion of unconscious inference proposed in the 1860s by Hermann Helmholtz, the German physicist turned neural scientist. Helmholtz was the first to measure the conduction of electrical signals in nerves. He had expected it to be as the speed of light, fast as the conduction of electricity in copper cables, and found to his surprise that it was much slower, only about 90m sec. He then examined the reaction time, the time it takes a subject to respond to a consciously a perceived stimulus, and found that it was much, much slower than even the combined conduction times required for sensory and motor activities.

    This caused Helmholz to argue that a great deal of brain processing occurred unconsciously prior to conscious perception of an object. Helmholtz went on to argue that much of what goes on in the brain is not represented in consciousness and that the perception of objects depends upon "unconscious inferences" made by the brain, based on thinking and reasoning without awareness. This view was not accepted by many brain scientists who believed that consciousness is necessary for making inferences. However, in the 1970s a number of experiments began to accumulate in favor of the idea that most cognitive processes that occur in the brain never enter consciousness.

    Perhaps the most influential of these experiments were those carried out by Benjamin Libet in 1986. Libet used as his starting point a discovery made by the German neurologist Hans Kornhuber. Kornhuber asked volunteers to move their right index finger. He then measured this voluntary movement with a strain gauge while at the same time recording the electrical activity of the brain by means of an electrode on the skull. After hundreds of trials, Kornhuber found that, invariably, each movement was preceded by a little blip in the electrical record from the brain, a spark of free will! He called this potential in the brain the "readiness potential" and found that it occurred one second before the voluntary movement.

    Libet followed up on Kornhuber's finding with an experiment in which he asked volunteers to lift a finger whenever they felt the urge to do so. He placed an electrode on a volunteer's skull and confirmed a readiness potential about one second before the person lifted his or her finger. He then compared the time it took for the person to will the movement with the time of the readiness potential.

    Amazingly, Libet found that the readiness potential appeared not after, but 200 milliseconds before a person felt the urge to move his or her finger! Thus by merely
  • Re: dupe (Score:2, Interesting)

    by xtracto (837672) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @06:24AM (#14489327) Journal
    And the most pathetic thing is that, I knew I have seen this story before, but it was not on slashdot...

    it was on Digg: Two days ago [digg.com].

    Now, because I do not want to have tens of comments bashing digg, I just have to say that I still prefer slashdot because of the summaries (digg articles never have decent summaries) and the comments (digg comments are never insightful).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @06:44AM (#14489383)
    It hasn't been shown to be correct. No-one seriously thinks that snap decisions are quality decisions. This is a fact to be exploited by websites you don't want to visit to make you think you do want to visit them.

    It won't justify your racism.

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