I’m interested in design. I’m fascinated in the way things are designed. Good design makes life better. At a minimum, poor design causes frustration, but it also can lead to terrible accidents. I recently read “The Design of Everyday Things” (a great book), and one of the themes of Donald Norman‘s book is that when people fail accomplish a task numerous times, they tend to blame themselves for failing. They learn that they can’t do the task and stop trying.
In psychology it’s called learned helplessness, and it is debilitating. You might have learned to be helpless without even realizing it.
Computers, for example, are designed to be difficult to use (not on purpose). That’s why my mum says she can’t use online banking and asks me to do it for her. Language courses, too, are designed to make learning a language more difficult.
Language classes are structured like math classes. They build on the lesson presented previously. If you miss a class or forget something, you quickly find yourself falling further and further behind and you might find yourself saying something like, “I’m not good at Chinese.” This system started because it makes logical sense. First we teach 很好, then we teach 天气, then we teach 今天的天气很好。Unfortunately, this style of lessons ensures you’ll get frustrated at some point.
If you do find yourself getting frustrated, try using learned optimism. You will succeed. You can do it, and it’s not your fault you didn’t do it before. 1.3 billion people speak Chinese. If all those people could do it, so can you. Be person 1,300,000,001.
- The Design of Everyday Things
- Learned Helplessness on Wikipedia
- Learned Optimism on Wikipedia
- More on Donald Norman: