Who's fault is it anyway?

People tend to use faulty mental models when thinking what caused some action to fail or succeed.

People blame environment for their own misfortunes. If things go wrong, it wasn’t my fault but the environment caused it. I got no chance. And the opposite happens when things go well. It all worked out since I was in flames today.

Outside observes do the opposite conclusions. If someone else succeeds, they say she was lucky. If she doesn’t, they say she just wasn’t good enough to make it.

So why, why on Earth do people blame themselves if they can’t use some software or any device in general? Somehow people assume that they should be able to use them. If they don’t succeed, people give up and decide they can’t manage, that they are just too bad with devices and computers. This is learned helplessness. It’s easy to admit after couple of fails that it is just impossible for them to do the task and ask someone else to do it.

Why don’t they stop to think that why I, a fairly intelligent human, can’t manage to handle this situation? Donald A. Norman can tell you why: Because the software or device you are trying to use is designed badly. There aren’t that many tasks in the world that should require reading a tight manual or taking a course. This is not an excuse for the learned helplessness, though. When you next time you have problems doing a task, think about it. Is it because of you or is it the bad design? How would you improve it? But don’t just give up.

And if you are the designer, you don’t have excuses.

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