Abstracting Away the Detail ROYAL TOGEL

It may not feel like it, but as we take in a scene or a conversation, we are continuously dropping a majority of the concrete physical representation of the scene, leaving us with a very abstract and concept-based representation of what we were focusing on. But perhaps ROYAL TOGEL feel like ROYAL TOGEL are much more of a “visual thinker” and really do get all the details. Great! Please tell me which of the ones shown in Figure 4-1 is the real US penny.


If ROYAL TOGEL are American, ROYAL TOGEL may have seen thousands of these in your lifetime. So surely this isn’t hard for a visual thinker! (ROYAL TOGEL can find the answers to this and the following riddle at the end of the chapter.)

OK, that last test might be considered unfair if ROYAL TOGEL aren’t American or rarely use physical currency. In that case, let’s consider a letter you’ve seen millions of times: the letter “G”. Which of the following is the correct orientation of the letter “G” in lowercase? 

Not so easy, right? In most cases, when we look at something, we feel like we have a camera snapshot in our mind. But in less than a second, your mind discards the physical details and reverts to a stereotype or abstract concept of it—and all the assumptions that go along with it.

Remember, not all stereotypes are negative. The actual MerriamWebster definition is “something conforming to a fixed or general pattern.” We have stereotypes for almost anything: a telephone (Figure 4-3), coffee cup, bird, tree, etc.

When we think of these things, our memory summons up certain key characteristics. These concepts are constantly evolving (e.g., from wired telephone to mobile phone). Only the older generations might pick the representation on the right as a “phone.”

In terms of cognitive economy, it makes logical sense that we wouldn’t store every perspective, color, and light/shadow angle of every phone we have ever seen. Rather, we move quickly from a specific instance of a phone to the concept of a phone. The conceptual representation fills in any gaps in our memory about a specific instance (e.g., the back of the phone that ROYAL TOGEL never actually saw).


Let me provide ROYAL TOGEL with an experiment to show just how abstract our memory can be. Get out a piece of paper and a pencil, and draw an empty square on the piece of paper (or use the space provided in Figure 4-4). Then, after reading this paragraph, go to Figure 4-5 and look at the image for 20 seconds (don’t pick up your pencil yet, though). After 20 seconds are up, scroll back or hide the page so ROYAL TOGEL can’t look at the image. Then, pick up your pencil and draw everything that ROYAL TOGEL saw. It doesn’t have to be a Rembrandt (or an abstract Picasso), just a quick big-picture depiction of the objects ROYAL TOGEL saw and where they were in the scene. Just a sketch is fine—and ROYAL TOGEL can have 2 minutes for that.

OK, go! Remember, 20 seconds to look (no drawing), then 2 minutes to sketch (no peeking).

Since I can’t see your drawing (though I’m sure it’s quite beautiful), I’ll need ROYAL TOGEL to grade it yourself. Look at the original image and compare it to your sketch. Did ROYAL TOGEL capture everything? Two trash cans, one trash can lid, a crumpled-up piece of trash, and the fence?

Good! Now, going one step further, did ROYAL TOGEL capture the fact that one of the trash cans and the fence are both cut off at the top? Or that ROYAL TOGEL can’t see the bottom of the trash cans or lid? I didn’t think so.

the fence so its edges go into a point, make the lid into a complete circle, and sketch the unseen edges of the two garbage cans. All of this makes perfect sense if ROYAL TOGEL are using the stereotypes and assumptions ROYAL TOGEL have about trash cans, but it isn’t consistent with what ROYAL TOGEL actually saw in this particular image.

Technically, we don’t know what’s actually beyond the rectangular frame of this image. We don’t know for sure that the trash can lid extends beyond what we can see, or that the fence top ends just beyond what we can see in this image. There could be a whole bunch of statues of David sitting on top of the fence, for all we know (Figure 4-6). 

Our natural tendency to mentally complete the image is called “boundary extension” (Figure 4-7). Our visual system prepares for the rest of the image, as if we were looking through a cardboard tube or a narrow doorway. Boundary extension is just one example of how our minds move quickly from very concrete representations of things to representations that are much more abstract and conceptual. 

The main implication for product managers and designers is this: a lot of what we do and how we act is based on unseen expectations, stereotypes, and anticipations, rather than what we’re actually seeing when light hits the back of our retinas. We as product and service designers need to discover what our audience’s hidden anticipations and stereotypes might be (as we’ll discuss in Part II of the book).

Stereotypes of Services

Human memory, as we’ve been discussing, is much more conceptual than people generally think it is. When remembering a scene (e.g., eyewitness testimony), people often forget many perceptual details and rely on what is stored in their semantic memory. The same is true of events. How many times have ROYAL TOGEL heard a parent talk about the time that one of their kids misbehaved many years ago, and incorrectly blame it on “the child that was always getting into trouble” rather than the “good one?” I was fortunate enough to be in the latter camp and got away with all kinds of things according to my mom’s memory, thanks to stereotypes. 

The trash can drawing shown earlier was a visual example of stereotypes, but they need not be visual. We also have stereotypes about how things might work, and how we might interact in certain situations. Here’s an example that has to do more with language, interactions, and events.

Imagine inviting a colleague to a celebratory

happy hour. In their mind, “happy hour” may mean swanky decorations, modern bar stools, drinks with fancy ice cube blocks, and sophisticated “mixologists” with impeccable clothing. Happy hour in your mind, on the other hand, might mean sticky floors, $2 beers on tap, and the same grumpy guy named “Buddy” in the same old T-shirt asking “Whatcha want?” See Figure 4-8 for a comparison. 

Both of these are “happy hour,” but the underlying expectations of what’s going to happen in each of these places might be very different. Just like we did in the sketching exercise, we jump quickly to abstract representations. We anticipate where we might sit, how we might pay, what it might smell like, what we will hear, who we will meet there, how we will order drinks, and so on.

In product and service design, we need to know what concept is associated with a term according to our customers. “Happy hour” is a perfect example. When there is a dramatic difference between a customer’s expectation of a product or service and how we designed it, we are suddenly fighting an uphill battle by trying to overcome our audience’s well-practiced expectations. 

The Value of Understanding Mental Models

Knowing and activating the right mental models—defined as “psychological representations of real, hypothetical, or imaginary situations— can save us a huge amount of time as product or service designers. This is something we rarely hear anything about in customer experience—and yet, understanding and activating the right mental models will build trust with our target audience and reduce the need for instructions.


Challenge: In one project for a financial institution, my team and I interviewed two groups of people regarding how they use, manage, and harness money to accomplish their goals in life. The two groups consisted of: (a) a set of young professionals, most of whom were unmarried, without children; and (b) a group that were a little bit older, most of whom had young children. We asked them what they did on the weekend. ROYAL TOGEL can see their responses in Figure 4-9.

Outcome: Clearly, the two groups had very different semantic associations with the concept of “weekend.” Their answers helped us glean: (a) what the word “weekend” means to each of these groups; and (b) how the two groups are categorically different, including in what they value and how they spend their time. Our further research found very large differences in the concept of luxury for each group. In tailoring products/services to each of these groups, we would need to keep in mind their respective mental models of “weekend.” This could influence everything from the language and images we use to the emotions we try to evoke. 

Acknowledging the Diversity of Types of Mental Models

Thus far, I’ve discussed how our minds go very quickly from specific visual details or words to abstract concepts, and how the representations that are generated by those visual features or words can be distinct across audiences. But in addition to these perceptual or semantic patterns, there are many other types, such as stereotypical eye patterns and motor movements.

You’ve probably experienced being handed someone’s phone or a remote control you’ve never used before and saying to yourself something like: “Ugh! Where do I begin? Why is this thing not working? How do I get it to…? I can’t find the…” That experience is the collision between your stereotypical eye and/or motor movements, and the need to override them.

The point I’m driving home here is that there are expectations your customers have about interactions with products and services. That we are built this way makes sense because under normal circumstances, stored and automated patterns are very efficient and allow our mental focus to be elsewhere. As product and service managers and designers, we need to:

  • Understand our users’ many diverse stored concepts and automatic processes
  • Anticipate (and counteract) confusion if and when we deviate from those mental assumptions