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The Man Who Lied to His Laptop: What Machines Teach Us about Human Relationshipsby Clifford Nass
Synopses & Reviews
Counterintuitive insights about building successful relationships-based on research into human-computer interaction.
The driver was insistent: "A woman should not be giving directions." Despite the customer service rep's reassurance that the navigation system in his car wasn't actually a woman-just a computer with a female voice-the driver (and many others like him) refused to listen. There was only one person for BMW to call for help: Clifford Nass, one of the world's leading experts on how people interact with technology.
After two decades of studying problems like BMW's GPS system, Microsoft's Clippy (the most reviled animated character of all time), and online evaluations that lead people to lie to their laptops, Nass has developed a powerful theory: Our brains can't fundamentally distinguish between interacting with people and interacting with devices. We will "protect" a computer's feelings, feel flattered by a brown-nosing piece of software, and even do favors for technology that has been "nice" to us. All without even realizing it.
In his research at Stanford, Nass has leveraged our fundamentally social relationship with computers to develop and test a series of essential rules for effective human relationships. He has found that the most powerful strategies for working with people aren't really that complicated, and can be learned from watching what succeeds and fails in technology interfaces. In other words, if a computer can make friends, build teams, and calm powerful emotions, so can any of us.
Nass's studies reveal many surprising conclusions, such as:
Mixing criticism into praise-a popular tactic for managers-is a destructive method of evaluation.
Opposites don't attract-except when one gradually changes to become more like other.
Flattery works-even when the recipient knows it's fake.
Team-building exercises don't build teams-but the right T-shirt can
Misery loves company-but only if the company is miserable, too.
Nass's discoveries push the boundaries of both psychology and technology and provide nothing less than a new blueprint for successful human relationships.
"Nass, a Stanford researcher, has the fascinating and enviable job of performing research into human interactions with technology. Question: Why did BMW receive so many complaints about its navigation system from male German drivers? Answer: German men refused to take directions from a woman (the system had a female voice). To find out if misery truly loves company, Nass paired happy and sad drivers with happy and sad virtual passengers, finding that miserable drivers preferred to be paired with miserable passengers (albeit virtual), and visa versa. The results are often intriguing, but when it comes to discussing their implications, Nass falters. His experimental anecdotes end with a 'Results and Implications' appendix, and his findings often sound as banal as the platitudes he's attempting to test. The author is at his most compelling when describing technology's human failures in the marketplace, such as the demise of the despised Microsoft 'Clippy,' whose apparent stupidity and lack of empathy doomed him as an application (killing marketing plans to turn him into a beloved Mickey Mouse-like character). Moments like these make Nass's examination an engaging compendium of technological faux pas. (Sept.) Gansky believes that business will be dominated by companies that use social media, have a strong brand, and share, rather than sell, their products or services (like Scott Martin, who started the Christmas tree rental service Living Christmas). By adopting this ethos, companies will help customers buy less but use more of what they buy and, through the use of consumer data, will provide their customers with exactly what they want at the precise moment they want it. Gansky, founder of internet startups Good News Now and Ofoto, profiles well-known 'Mesh' companies like Zipcar, Best Buy, and Netflix, and many that will be obscure to most readers, include thredUP, an 'internet-enabled clothing exchange program,' Basic Electric, a non-profit, consumer-owned power cooperative (that together with a hundred other rural electric cooperatives own and maintain over half the country's distribution lines), and smartypig, an online piggy bank. The profiles and case studies are entertaining, and the author also includes an almost 60 page 'Mesh Directory.' A lot of this information will be new to the reader, unlike many of her insights. Those truly interested in starting a business may find value in Gansky's narrow focus, but her effort is best enjoyed as a 411. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
Counterintuitive insights about building successful relationships- based on research into human-computer interaction.
Books like Predictably Irrational and Sway have revolutionized how we view human behavior. Now, Stanford professor Clifford Nass has discovered a set of rules for effective human relationships, drawn from an unlikely source: his study of our interactions with computers.
Based on his decades of research, Nass demonstrates that-although we might deny it-we treat computers and other devices like people: we empathize with them, argue with them, form bonds with them. We even lie to them to protect their feelings.
This fundamental revelation has led to groundbreaking research on how people should behave with one another. Nass's research shows that:
In recent years, books like Predictably Irrational and Sway have revolutionized how we view human behavior. Now, Stanford professor Clifford Nass brings us a radically new perspective on why people often act in strange and irrational ways.
In The Man Who Lied to His Laptop, Nass explores human relationships through our interactions with technology. Over decades of research, Nass has tackled (and answered) unusual questions such as:
- Why do we find it necessary to be polite to computers?
- Why do many male drivers not trust GPS systems with female voices?
- Why is it possible for a computer to hurt our feelings?
But even more exciting are Nass's revelations about interactions among humans, all drawn from his research with computers. For instance, he has proven that:
- Mixing criticism and praise is an ineffective method of evaluation
- Flattery works even when the recipient knows it's fake
- Introverts and extroverts are best at selling to one of their own
Nass's insights provide a new blueprint for successful human relationships in business and life.
- Also available as an e-book
About the Author
Clifford Nass is the Thomas M. Storke Professor at Stanford University and director of the Communication between Humans and Interactive Media (CHIMe) Lab. He is a popular designer, consultant, and keynote speaker, and is widely quoted by the media on issues such as the impact of multitasking on young minds. He lives in Silicon Valley.
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