Thursday, July 5, 2007

Recognition in young children

At the heart of advertising is rote memorization. In the advertising world they call it ‘branding’.

Branding is the process by which name, logo, slogan, or design scheme becomes associated with a product or service. A brand is a symbolic embodiment of all the information connected to the product and serves to create associations and expectations around it (from Wikipedia).

Through these associations a company wishes you to make one choice over a competitors choice. A side affect of these brands is the snippets of information about the products that get stuck in the brain. It could be as simple as a logo, like in the classic Coca-Cola logo or the iconography of the Pepsi Cola logo, it could even be the colors like the red and yellow of a McDonalds logo, or it could even be the jingle associated with the product like the famous B-O-L-O-G-N-A, which brings me to the interesting snippet of this discussion.

If I were to speak to any child that grew up in the 70’s how to spell ‘bologna’, every one of them would get it right because of the mark of Oscar Meyer’s advertising has made on our consciousness. Today’s children do not know how to spell bologna.

But what they lack in bologna skills they more than make up with a myriad of other products, which is what led me to thinking on this subject. There is a product I was introduced to called “PROMPTZ” which utilizes product imagery to focus young children to learn letters, words and sounds though cognitive mapping these associations for active learning.

Cognitive maps are a method used to structure and store spatial knowledge, allowing the "mind's eye" to visualize images in order to reduce cognitive load. This is where it gets interesting, because to a 4 year old, it is much easier to remember Eeyore than to remember that what sound an ‘e’ makes, and then they can get on to remembering who all the Powerpuff girls are.

This mapping is how many user interfaces work today. A designer or usability person develops an interface based on something familiar. Excel is designed like a checkbook, and PowerPoint designed like slides in a slide carousel. It is actually these links to the familiar, which increases our initial adoption of functions and features within software. Mental mapping puts things in a familiar environment in our minds so it can be cataloged and understood. Once these are present in our minds it is easier to expand this base of knowledge to less familiar territories, to learn new skills, but keeping the basic framework of the familiar to fall back on.


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