scribbles tagged ‘psychology’

security blankets

Sunday, September 21st, 2014 | tags: ,  |

I can’t bring myself to throw out the boxes of ‘paper’ photographs (albums) from under the bed.

I never look at them. I doubt I’ll ever show them to anyone.  They’re just a security blanket for my memory. There’s no history of senility or amnesia in my parents family. Over the last year I’ve seen mum through out multiple photo albums of holiday ‘snaps’ and she’s definitely more of a hoarder than me. Though this weekend I came back from her house with more stuff (Paintings, heirlooms) than things I’d delivered to her. I’m trying very hard to keep the physical balance of things leaving the house, compared to things arriving on a ratio of 4:1. Generally managing.

I’ve thrown out over 4 large clip-arch files full of all my teaching materials for the BSc (Hons) Psychology Course sections that I taught. Remember pre-printed transparencies used with overhead projectors? They’ll never be used again. The degree was assessed as extremely high quality by the UK teaching standards body, a score of 23/24 where the point we dropped was that we didn’t have a quality process in place for measuring the quality or our quality processes. Honestly!

security blankets
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flahsbulb memories

Saturday, December 14th, 2013 | tags: , , , ,  |

Service program coverSo much from the day of Dad’s death is etched onto my memory, it will stay for decades without the aid photography or digital recording.

I was due to go on a business trip, had just driven home to pick up my bags. As I was about to leave the house my phone beeped with a message that I had a voicemail. My parents home number is filed under dads name because he nearly always answers the phone at their home. Dad had called me. Dad has only called me once during the day. The day his brother died. So I knew instantly it was seriously bad news. No point listening to the voicemail of I can talk directly to Dad.

Mum answered.

Wendy: dad just called, um, I just got a call from this number

Mumsie: It’s your dad dear, it’s not good news

I could hear she was not her easy self

Wendy: How are YOU?


Mumsie: he said he was feeling strange when we were having our morning coffee, feeling strange – what do you do with that?  I didn’t know what to do. He said call an ambulance, so I did and when I got back (from the hallway phone, she doesn’t use a mobile yet) he had keeled over. He’s dead.

The maritime reference was a beautiful, natural, touch. They live in the old port of Bristol, dad loved ships, Britain is an island full of nautical sayings. She went on to describe what happened next which involved helicopters. Dad would have approved, many of the retired engineers he mixed with worked on helicopters, he’d shown me video of the testing of  the “Bristol” a helicopter with two sets of rotary blades. She’d been busy on the phone since the paramedics had taken his body. She listed who’d she’d called. How organised and thorough. Mum sounded like me.

Wendy: I’ve got my bag packed for a 2 day trip in front of me, can I come over to your place and get a hug instead?

Mumsie: yes, yes, that would be good, drive carefully though

Wendy: I’ll be there in 2 hours

When the call ended I was stood by my front door with my bags at my feet. A bag with a William Morris print, the strawberry thief. The sofa in dad’s study is a William Morris print. I called work to tell them (about the death, not the William Morris prints). That’s when I started crying. The call ended somewhat awkwardly as I trailed-off into tears and my manager said take all the time you need….

My mind was busy during that drive:

  • I’m glad he died quickly
  • I’m glad I visited last weekend to tell them about my route66 trip adventures and share a birthday (Chinese take-away) dinner
  • I’m glad I moved back to the UK and enjoyed his company for the last 5 years of reasonable health
  • What do you say to a mum who’s just lost her life-long partner, over 55 years living together?
  • I must cancel my hotel
  • Are my tears blocking my road vision or just making my cheeks itchy?

I stopped at a motorway service station and picked up some wine, chocolate and dried apricots. It’s not clear what works for the recently bereaved. I don’t eat chocolate or apricots but I remember a friend telling me that a constant supply of food was useful and both these products would last if not eaten immediately. The wine was more for me, though later I only drank a glass.


flahsbulb memories
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I’m more aware of your presense now

Sunday, November 24th, 2013 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

Stickers on the back of Dad's carI take out the bins at the Wendy house, I think of dad because he always took out the bins at home, it was his job. Not an activity that prompted this thought during his life.

I go to the local Chinese take-away for some lovely food, I think of Dad because he liked to treat mum to a Chinese take-away meal on Friday night. I smile. Not an activity that prompted this thought during his life.

Goodness, so many things prompt thoughts that affirm who dad was, things he did. I notice the way I stand when I’m listening to a story, I stand like dad. I’d never noticed before. I hear my voice as I laugh and I hear the faint echo of his intonation. I never noticed while he was alive.

I welcome these spontaneously intrusive thoughts, they are beautiful intrusions, it’s as if my mind is trying to let me know how alike we are, how together we’ll always be. It’s saying,

“don’t worry, you have always been together and you always will be. He’s part of you”

The thoughts often arrive when I’m in the company of others. I say nothing and let the thought roll. I suspect my continually adding “My dad used to…..” to conversations would upset and begin to bore the people I’m talking with. With family it’s different, mumsie happily chatters about dad which I find comforting and I happily join in. My brothers are relatively silent on the topic, their silence makes me suspect they are finding the experience more painful than I.

I’m more aware of your presense now
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hairstyle as behavioural indicator

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013 | tags: , , , ,  |

You’re not quite as wild as your hairstyle suggests

Wendy bringing the Tea in Hawkins cafe June 1986My PhD supervisor observed 2 months into my PhD. I think he was a bit disappointed. I’d learnt that a key part of his interview process was to judge a person by their hairstyle.

I’d worn all green to my interview, with a large black belt and my back-brushed hair included streaks of green to match my outfit. I’d adapted gothic and rebranded it with a green theme. The green streaks in my hair were an accident, but a pleasant one.

I’d seen an advertisement in the Guardian for a PhD on “Information Technology and Human Memory”. It sounded intriguing. The PhD I was currently lined up to do was:

  • sponsored by IBM
  • more money than my friends in employment were making
  • deadly boring – compare key-stroke mathematical equations that describe human interaction with the computer and find or develop a better model
  • stupid – even in 1986 I knew that there are things that influence human behaviour with a computer which are much more significant than keystrokes

So I was looking for something better. I wrote to the Psychology department asking for more information and bleached some white streaks into my black and orange hair (pictured). Next day I received a phone call asking me to come for an interview. Perhaps I should tone-down my appearance for an interview. I bought a brown hair-dye and died it to what I thought would be normal. Brown hair die is made from green and red colours. The red colour is very sensitive to the pre-existing bleach on hair, it doesn’t ‘take’. The green dye has no problem taking. Instead of turning my bleached streaks to a suitably humble brown the dye turned them green. Ho Hum. Too late now, I’ll go to the interview as normal me rather than professional looking me.

What a fun interview. The interviewer opened by asking

Wendy, is the paperless office a realistic goal?

We chatted about this and agreed on reasons why it was not the right goal, but it could happen. Finally I asked,

So what exactly is this PhD on?

Oh, that’s up to you, anything as long as it involves psychological theories of human memory and IT


This was the PhD for me, freedom to follow what interested me and what I might come to believe in with an excellent thinker to work with and guide me.

An excellent thinker who liked whacky hairstyles.

hairstyle as behavioural indicator
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no cognitive dissonance here…

Saturday, June 16th, 2012 | tags: , , , ,  |

Recently I was asked a favour by an acquaintance. Our mutual friends had recommended she ask me. They think I have ‘Integrity‘, so she could trust me to do as I say.  Should I be more flattered by this direction or more concerned at the number of people that weren’t recommended for having integrity.

Wikipedia describes integrity as:

the inner sense of “wholeness” deriving from qualities such as honesty and consistency of character. As such, one may judge that others “have integrity” to the extent that they act according to the values, beliefs and principles they claim to hold

Well this explains why I’m happy being single, I’ve already got an inner sense of wholeness!



no cognitive dissonance here…
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One flew over the fairy’s nest

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012 | tags: , , , ,  |

As a child, I remember falling in love with Richard Dadd’sThe fairy fellers’ master stroke“‘ when I first saw it, in the Tate gallery. I went on to read about Richard’s exceptional and tragic life. When studying for my psychology degree I recognised some of his paintings on the covers of books about mental health

Richard Dadd stayed in the hospital that is now known as the Maudsley hospital. It’s probably the oldest (1247) psychiatric hospital in the world!

Tiger is now an ‘informal‘ patient here. Informal means that theoretically he consents to being there – he can leave. He believes that he would be sectioned if he tried to leave. I’d be scared if he didn”t have 24hr  professional care nearby

One flew over the fairy’s nest
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Holy pronoun, I wrote it!

Thursday, September 1st, 2011 | tags: , , ,  |

A book!

Bound with an ISBN number, available to the public  in a library

My agent:

  • commissioned the book
  • met with me, irregularly, to check progress
  • provided encouragement and suggestions to improve the process and book quality

My publisher:

  • provided strict regulations for binding, cover-cloth, font size and placement
  • specified the primary distribution method – library system
  • specified the minimum number of copies – 3

My printer:

  • a large Xerox machine in a University department
  • me, one copy a night across 3 nights

As author

  • It took 4 years of research and scribbling before I was ready to publish over 300 pages
  • I knew every sentence, every sketch, intimately
  • weeks after I’d deivered it to the publishers I’d rewrite sentences, paragraphs, and themes in my dreams

It was difficult to let go of this growing  intimate part of my life. I wanted to chuck it away and start writing again from scratch, I could do an infitnitely better job with all that I’d learned along the way. But I’d run out of money, I needed a job. The book was ‘good enough’. Good enough. hurumph. I wanted it to be special, unique, exceptional. More than good enough

Even when your book isn’t a PhD thesis, the agent a PhD superviser and the publisher a University, the experience of writing a book has strong similarities

Holy pronoun, I wrote it!
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can’t say how

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011 | tags: , , , ,  |

“It’s a little-known fact that the world’s best chicken sexers come almost exclusively
from Japan”

For some reason psychologists and philosophers investigate chicken sexing. Psychologists lured me into reading obscure articles on chicken sexing because, amongst other things, it is a skilled human activity that cannot be articulated. Just one mention in my undergraduate course, carefully juxtapositioned with a reference to how wine tasting is a similarly non-articulatable skill.

Chicken sexing? Chicken sexing! Maybe the idea stayed with me so long and in preference to wine tasting because of the word sex. Maybe its that the act of labelling a chicken with a predicted sex is called ‘sexing’. From one comment in a 1985 class on cognitive psychology, I developed an interest in reading about chicken sexing. So it was, so it is.

“If I went for more than four days without chick sexing work I started to have ‘withdrawal symptoms”


can’t say how
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road-crossing is an athletic skill

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011 | tags: ,  |

This article published in the British Psychological Society’s Readers digest concludes that “Athletes are more skilled at crossing the road than non-athletes (when they can’t go backwards or sideways while crossing)

For me this article raised many more questions than it answered, for example

  • Will local councils be sending pedestrians on athletics courses to reduce road traffic accident rates?
  • Will crossing the road be introduced as a new Olympic sport?
  • Did being unable to go side-ways or backwards during the crossing give the athletes an unfair advantage?
  • Will road-crossing skills be used to identify the potential athletes of the future?
  • Who funded this research? Is this a good use of their money?


road-crossing is an athletic skill
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ways of describing the vernal equinox

Sunday, March 20th, 2011 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

Ostara, in the form of a hare is cohorting around the garden today, delighting the local adult children (Sampo and I) celebrating the shift from more than 12 hours of night to more than 12 hours of daylight.

With a clear view of the sky, in the Wendy House orangerie, the circular dining table has taken the role of an altar dressed in green cloth, laid with candles, flowers, seeds, pen and paper. Drinking large mugs of hot spiced apple juice from the caldron on the woodburner. Yummy. In a small celebration we’ve danced a clockwise circle round the table, written our hopes and desires on the paper, burnt the paper. Tomorrow I’ll put the ashes in the garden, plant the seeds where the growing daylight will nourish and draw them towards the sky

That’s the vernal equinox described in story form. The focus is on the people words that draw images and emotions, describing what people do and how they do it. This writing style is traditionally the domain  and humanities.

I find the scientific style of writing which often deliberately excludes explicit reference to people and beliefs fascinating in itself. Some ‘social sciences’ have included people by treating them as the objects to be studied, for example psychology that conducts research with human participants (not called people) and produces research papers written in the scientific tradition of the passive 3rd person. Wikipedia articles are examples of writing in the 3rd person passive, which I understand as core to the current scientific style. Wikipedia describes the vernal equinox in detail.

Here’s a few things I found out written in a more scientific style:

The word “vernal” is of Latin origin and refers to the season – spring. The word “equinox” is another word of Latin origin that means “equal night”. The vernal Equinox is a time when day and night are of nearly equal length, 12 hours, across the world. Today is the March equinox, which is the vernal equinox in the northern hemisphere and the autumnal equinox in the southern hemisphere.

ways of describing the vernal equinox
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classical conditioning

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011 | tags: , , , ,  |

Bathroom floorAs a pre-school child one of my absolute favourite games was Wednesday’s washing the bathroom floor. Mumsie would fill up a beach-bucket with warm foamy water, give me a smallhand-size brush and leave me in the bathroom. I was allowed to slop the hot foamy water all over the floor. What FUN! When I’d finished I told mum and she’d come in and finish off the details with her own BIG bucket of soapy water and a towel. I’d help with the towel

During my first week at school, when I got home on Wednesday I asked for my bucket to help wash the bathroom floor, but mum had already done it. I cried

Psychologists call this ‘Classical‘, as oppose to ‘Operant’ conditioning, where a person (originally tested with dogs) learns to associate the co-occurence of an event (bell ringing) with a rewarding experience (enjoyment of food) such that when the event contiunes without the reward the dog behaives as-if the reward is coming.

For me this was associating ‘fun’ with washing the floor, the association still exists to this day. As soon as the hot soapy water hits the bathroom floor, I’m thinking ‘YAY Bubbles, SWISH!

Thanks to mumzie for having the insight to let this happy association happen

classical conditioning
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Streets in the sky

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

I first heard of the Park Hill estate during my undergraduate environmental psychology classes in 1986.  The architect’s, Ivor Smith and Jack Lynn’s, vision for a high rise estate to replace sprawling slums in the northern English city of Sheffield with “Streets in the Sky”. Streets in the sky would recreate the strengths of the communities which had flourished in the back to back slums and provide improved living conditions at a bargain price. Taking people out of small, damp, Victorian terraces where  kids played in the streets and giving them streets in the sky with views over the city, inside toilets, covered walkways, balcony’s where children could play and neighbours could chat, with room for attractive open park land around the high rise buildings.  Smith and Lynn’s designs were heavily influenced by Le Corbuiser’s Breton Brut as evident in his Marseilles Unité d’Habitation. Breton Brut became known in Britain as ‘Brutalism’,  simple functional form. They wanted to build in a sense of neighbourliness into these functional spaces.

These changes were intended to improve the standard of living for people now living in a slum area locally know as ‘Little Chicago’ in the gangster era.  The Park Hill estate was completed in 1961 with 995 flats that could house over two thousand people overlooking Sheffield city centre. Front doors opened to a 12 ft wide balcony, a street, that runs right across the estate over bridges between buildings.  Milk floats could trundle from door to door along streets named the same asthose in the original slums they replaced.  People that were neighbours in the slums were rehoused next to each other.

Worthy, admirable intentions

When built,  the social ideal didn’t happen

The estate soon became known as Sheffield’s San Quentin. The failure of the original design vision has been blamed on many things including

  • easy access routes for muggers
  • poor sound insulation
  • the streets being open to the inclement Sheffield weather
  • the building’s ugliness
  • the poverty of the occupants

In 1998 Park Hill became the largest grade 2  listed building in europe.

This centruy English Heritage, Urban Splash and Sheffield city council have been renovating Park Hill.

It’s difficult to tell from the publicity what is being changed to make the project work  as a successful place to live this time. A recent BBC TV programme about the renovation focussed on English heritage’s aesthetic and structural requirements for preservation not mentioning any changes to the space aimed at improving the occupants expereince of living there. The programme made the vision appear less social that the original. So what will have changed since it first opened?  It looks like the renovation will be

  • It’s prettier with bright rainbow colours
  • occupants will not all be council tenants, some will be home owners and some shared ownership. They will be a different socio-economic mix
  • the streets will not be open to the Sheffield weather
  • living there comes with the kudos of living in a classic listed building
Streets in the sky
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practical pairings (pt 4) – elusive

Sunday, July 25th, 2010 | tags: , , ,  |

10 more days to produce a joint practical report. Each day I walked passed Steve’s home and called for him. He was always either out, off his head, or sleeping. He didn’t turn-up for classes either.  I suspect he was really living in Pill village.

After a week of not being able to coordinate any sensible time with Steve I decided to cut my losses.  Doing the work in half the allotted time, with half the workers, my maths told me this would be 4 times as hard to do now because I’d tried to work with Steve. Sigh. No more calling for Steve. Hoorah!

The experimental work, persuading 20 people, all strangers, to give me 15 mins of their time to make 30 line-length comparisions was a fun way to meet people in pubs. The research for, and writing of, the report was also fun.

Steve was soon forgotten.

practical pairings (pt 4) – elusive
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practical pairings (pt 3) – doors of perception

Saturday, July 24th, 2010 | tags: , , , ,  |

Paul let me into Steve’s home. Student accomodation, 9 boys sharing a kitchen and washrooms. Ewe. Steve was lying face-down on the hallway floor making a gurgling sound that could have been a variation on his normal giggling.

what’s wrong?

he’s stoned


No, high

I laughed. Steve had already started without me. Our coursework was an experimental study of the effects of the Muller-Lyer illusion characteristics on visual perception.  Steve had clearly bypassed the constraints of the specific illusion, the visual sense and the experimental method. Steve had gone straight for an immersive qualitative experiential study through the doors of all perception.  You had to admire his rebellious,  innovative and hands on approach to his degree studies.

I’d heard about drugs, not taken any, not really interested in taking any. The opportunity to talk to someone while stoned was a first for me and very tempting. Our interviewing skills practical wasn’t due for a while, but a bit of up front practice could come in handy.  Happily I bounced over Steve’s twitching body, sat on the floor by his head and tried to attract his attention.  He garbled and giggled and gurgled, but nothing recognisable as a word, no phrases. I got bored of watching this body with all the control skills of baby.

when is he likely to be compus mentus?

I dont know

can you let him know I called and ask him to call for me when he’s got his marbles together


practical pairings (pt 3) – doors of perception
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practical pairings (pt 2) – posing practice

Friday, July 23rd, 2010 | tags: , , ,  |

Not cute, like Brad Pitt or Jonny Depp are cute.

Not handsome, like Daniel Craig or Sean Connery are handsome.

Steve had something, like Robert Carlisle or Gary Oldman have something.

Instead of working on our psychology practical coursework we spent an October Saturday afternoon wandering round warehouses, photographing them. Steve giggled a lot, like my grandmother or Alan Carr giggle.  Often. I wandered after him, playing the audience, taking photographs, and enjoying the peace of the places.  Practical work? We can start on Monday, no hurry….

practical pairings (pt 2) – posing practice
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practical pairings (pt 1)

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010 | tags: , , ,  |

lecturer: you will work on this psychology practical in  pairs

Ony 2 weeks at University, one as a fresher and one on the course. It was easy to predict how the 29 girls and 3 boys would pair:

  • Tom, from Dudley, the folk music fan would pair with Rob the straight looking, quiet, guy. Rob was sectioned less than 2 weeks later.
  • Steve with his white and lime green mohiecan haircut, white leather biking jacket, gold nose-ring, black and bleached stained never-ending drainpipes would pair with Karen the silent dumpy shuffling goth who reminded me of a doormouse in need of a haircut.
  • The gaggle of girls who dressed for their intended career paths as personnel managers in neatly ironed pastel coloured blouses and pencil skirts would all pair together.
  • Heather from Sheffield, in her Def Lepoard t-shirt, locks that bounced on her hips, cowboy boots and a laugh that could stop a bus at 100 yards – would pair with her flatmate – me. I definitely got the best deal.  Me, straight a-line bob, pointy nose, cheshire-cat-grin and home-made 1920’s styled hand-made clothes in black and white.

I was wrong with two predictions.  Without a glance her way Steve strode straight passed Karen, placing himself between Heather and me.  There was something sneaky and slinky about the move. His first conversation with me was to ask if I would consider working with him on this practical.  I was flattered. People who clearly put so much time and effort into peacocking rarely noticed my acceptable variation on mainstream self-presentation. What prompted this?

Karen’s hand lifted a swathe of black backbrushed bush from her face and her piecing brown eyes clearly shifted from Steve to me. She turned abrubtly and shuffled double-speed in her overly tight long skirt, to Heather. Heather welcomed her with all the warmth of an earth mother. My already strong relationship with Heather wouldn’t be dented by this unexpected abberation.

I agreed to work with Steve, we arranged to meet that weekend ….

practical pairings (pt 1)
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Is Anakin Skywalker suffering from borderline personality disorder?

Friday, June 11th, 2010 | tags: , ,  |

The British Psychology Society Research Digest includes many thought provoking and entertaining articles from all over the world.  Sometimes it is difficult to work out if the articles are serious, tongue-in-cheek, or some-other-body-part connecting with some-other-body-part that should ultimately be censored (smirk).

For example, in  a recent edition a French researcher wrote a thesis diagnosing Darth Vader with a mental disorder – Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).  Evidently this could explain why the film is popular with teenagers – a group where BPD is more prevalent than the rest of society.  Surrupticiously implying that people with BPD will tend to like the film. 

I’d like to make it thoroughly clear that despite any evidence to the contrary, I’ve always found the Star Wars films rather unengaging.  Really, no, it’s true…. Mwa hahahahaha HA!

Is Anakin Skywalker suffering from borderline personality disorder?
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slip not Freudian

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009 | tags: , ,  |

wendy  @  ho mail

slip not Freudian
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Friday, June 12th, 2009 | tags: , , ,  |









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Tuesday, March 24th, 2009 | tags: , , , , , , ,  |

WES ©:   Wendy Experience Scale*

What is this?

This is a tool for assessing product and services experiences.   The tool uses a questionnaire  developed with the help of Excel and 84 pots of tea.   The  WES © can be administered to any Wendy  that uses a product or service that you want to assess.   The WES © will tell you whether that product or service meets the stringent, to be published, Wendy  International Standard of Experiences (WISE).    Unlike assessment tools such as the SUS which focuses merely on usability with  Likert scales**,   the WES ©   focusses on product and service relevant experiences including usability with  9 semantic differential scales*** .     The scales tap into the following experiences:

  1. Fabulousness
  2. Aesthetics – Visuals
  3. Fitness for purpose
  4. Financial value
  5. Aesthetics – Tactility
  6. Usability
  7. Complexity
  8. Engagement
  9. Predictability****




 Also known as ‘ FAFFAUCEP’   (pronounced faff-Oh-sep)

The WES © is currently in a Beta release stage and is available for use* by product and service developers on condition that they ask advance permission and provide me with a full report of the product, service,  assessment conducted including the results which will be used to build the  WISE standards.

Administering the WES ©

Let a common all garden Wendy use your product or service  to complete a common task that it was designed to enable.   Provide a unbroken supply of tea during use.   Observe the Wendy complete the task collecting usability style observational data.   When the Wendy has completed the task,   or given up  provide her with a copy of  the WES © and ask her to mark an X on the line between each pair of experience  descriptors that indicates her experience on  this continuum.   There is a practice item that you should encourage the Wendy to complete then discuss her answer to make sure that she understands how to use the scale.     As the Wendy completes the scale ask her to describe examples that have lead to her reporting this experience.   This information will be extremely useful for either developing marketting materials or deciding what to change to improve the experience.

Below is an example of a WES ©  completed by my marking X’s on each scale item describing my experience of my wireless radio.   You can make your own practice scale that covers some dimension of the Wendys or the product being assessed.   In the example below the practice item asks about whether the Wendy considers the product a worthy conversation piece.

Practice by identifying  where you are  on this scale:

never talk about it


tell the whole  world about it


Where is the Wireless Radio on these scales?:

Absolutely Fabulous


Cover-it-with-a-brown-bag ugly


                                   Just what I need


Don’t see why I’d want to use it
You’d have to pay ME to use it


Take all my cash, and credit, NOW!
Squeeze, stroke, and lickable


Cooties, don’t touch IT!
Did I brake it or what?


Works a treat                  
I can  use it first time


training-required nightmare
   Snore, Snore, Snore


Fun, Fun, Fun

Its  obvious what it was going to do


it was full of surprises





Analysing WES © Results:

Allocate the location maked on the line with a weighting number between 1 and 10.    

For even number questions the weightings increase towards the left,   for odd number questions the weightings increase towards the right.     Sum all the weightings.       The total possible score is 90.   Higher scores indicate better Experiences.  

Coding the example provided above looks like this



9  from right
Aesthetics – Visuals


6 from left
                                 Fitness for purpose


6  from right
Financial value


6 from left
Aesthetics – Tactility


5  from right


8 from left


7  from right


7 from left



8  from right

 Total score = 62/90 = 69%

The  average of multiple  WES © scores can be  used  to provide  overall Experience score for the product.  

The   normalisation data to enable comparision across different products and services  and  indicate the value of the score relative to a benchmark will be published as part of WISE.   Note that without the normalisation data it is possible that all procucts receive scores in the 80’s (a  roof effect)  or below 20 (a floor effect).     Our expert, on-site, Wendy (me)  recommends that prior to the publication of WISE we should assume that any score under 60 is at best a mediocre product or service and any score under 45 is an experience that should be avoided.

For in depth analysis each item should be verified with the  observational measures taking during the use phase and the comments made by the Wendy’s when completing the questionnaire.  

In this example we can clearly see that the tactile aesthetics (score = 5) provided the biggest opportunity for improving Wendy’s experience.   Wendy talked about the radio being a bit too big to put in her pocket,   she liked the bouncy rubber bits but all the little buttons were a bit too small and pointy to enjoy pressing them,   she prefers rubber-buttons (who doesn’t?!) and the industrial-safety feel for portable.    


Next Steps

The WES ©  development team haven’t decided whether to gather normalisation data on the vo version, refine the  item labels before collecting normalisation data  or just chuck the semantic differential format and  develop  WES © (v1) based on a creatively cunning perverison of  Kelly’s Repertory Grid technique.  


* Use is permitted by prior agreement with the inventor (me,   Wendy!)

** the linguistically pedantic should note that Likert scales tend to use split infinitives such as ‘strongly agree’ which can irritate those completing the scale undermining its efficacy in cases where people choose not to select any options that include split infinitives for purely curmudgeonly reasons.   This makes the scale unreliable for responses from educated people from Yorskhire.

*** The semantic differential is based on the assumption that everyone interprests the scales in the same way.   Unfortunately,   this assumption is not true rendering the WES © useless to anyone other than Wendy.

**** For some products or services predicatability is not a positive experience quality (e.g. games).   Administrators are advised to either scope the item to refer to the service or product  controls.  

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Mach 4

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009 | tags: , ,  |


When returning an assessed  cousework essay on UK history in the 19th century to a 17yr old me¦


Tory School teacher (TST):   you are very Machiavellian

Wendy:   is that a good or a bad thing?

TST: let me know when you find out


Within a couple of hours I’d  read a copy of The Prince .   It was fascinating, written beautifully, based on multiple case study research to provide a  pragmatic set of behavioural recommendations for a leader (Prince) occupying a recently acquired territory to maintain effective control.   In the 1960’s psychology used the term Machiavellianism to label a personality Disorder with the core theme of  deceiving others for personal gain.      I wish I’d kept the essay that prompted the TST’s comment.        


You  can self-assess yourself for 1960’s style psychology Machiavellianism here.

Today I scored as a ˜Low Mach’.   The results say that I reject Machiavelli’s opinions.   Indeed, I am not and have never aspired to be a prince, princess or banker.    Alternatively, I could have lied here and on the questionnaire¦.

Low Mach

I vote that we rename Machiavellianism with the more topical outbreak of:


Chief Executive Bankerism

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retrieval failure work-around

Thursday, December 4th, 2008 | tags:  |

was I going to tell you something?

can you remind me what it was?

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distributed (human) memory

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008 | tags: , , , , ,  |

<Essay warning>

Not distributed within the mind,  distributed across people and other things.   The work of Yvonne Rogers  in the 1990’s introduced me to the idea of distributed cognition.   Here are some examples from my everyday life:

  • placing my empty bottles by the front door to remind me  to take them to the bottle-bank when I leave the house (memory distributed between bottles and Wendy’s absent mind)
  • going upstairs to get my passport,   when I get upstairs I’ve forgotten why I went there,   going back downstairs and seeing the holiday (excitement level: Amber) details on Darling I remember why I went upstairs. (memory distributed between holiday details on Darling and Wendy’s absent mind)
  • At the pub quiz,   trying to name a song title from hearing a snippit of the  tune,   I can only hum the continuation of the  tune,   another team member can sings the lyrics to my hummed tune,   a third team member can now name the band then the fourth team member can remember the song title (memory socially distributed between team members).  
  • I can’t remember my password as letters and numbers,   I can’t remember the layout of a keyboard,      when infront of Darlings keyboard I  can reliably produce  my password  (memory distributed between keyboard layout and Wendy’s absent mind).   The recent move from US to UK keyboards has been a bit password-disruptive.
  • I can’t remember how to get from St Nicolas’s market to Clifton,   but when I am in Bristol I can walk the route directly with no trouble whatsoever,   very pleasant it is too   (Memory distributed between the city-scape and Wendy’s absent mind).   Note that the Schrocks recently experienced the way that St. Nicholas market can suprise you by turning out to be exactly where you  are wandering.

People, sensibly, strategically delegate the effort involved in constructing some memories to post-it notes,   lists, calendars,  address books,   mobile phones,  bag-contents, places,  blogs, photoalbums, family and friends.  

A die-hard cognitivist might say this is just context-cued recall.   Both paradigms provide the means to describe human behaviour,   but the approaches to psychological  theory building and  research are radically different.   The cognitivist would attempt to identify the specific cues that work most effectively and assess them in a lab,   one specific unusual context,  rather than analyse everyday activities in commonly meaningful contexts.   These different research techniques would yield different practical,   application, recommendations.

The cognitivists make the research language and approach to understanding human behaviour their domain as specialists,   ‘everyday’ approaches enable results to be readily recognisable, understandable and communicable to people outside of a specialist discourse.   They also afford more meaningful pragmatic applications.  

<Essay warning over>

My next essay will probably be on Reading’s buses

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old news: cognitive psychologists study missing minds

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008 | tags: , , ,  |

also known as:   Remembering what to remember

I first encountered the currently popular (in Psychology of memory circles) ‘prospective memory’ as a term to describe  remembering what to remember through Baddeley & Wilkin’s 1984 article ‘Taking memory out of the laboratory’ .   The Laboratory,  Lab, was typically where British psychologists studied  human memory  using rigourous exprimental methodologies.   The lab was normally a windowless, beige, unadroned room lest participants, then ‘subjects’,  be distracted or inadvertantly influenced by non-experimental phenomena that might undermine the effect of the experimental manipulation.    

I liked Baddeleys work because he’d systematically estabished the positive  impact of re-instating memorising context on  recall levels through various studies including  the influence of alcohol (Vodka) or physically being under water (diving)  when memorising,   and recalling.   Both these experimental studies sounded fun,   were themselves memorable,  and were even repeatable* in less rigorous forms with colleagues at University during normal studenty nocturnal activities.  

‘Taking memory out of the laboratory’ was published in a book called ‘Everyday memory, actions and absentmindedness’  .    This was ground breaking news to me in 1984.    There I  was in the middle of a degree course, approved as official content and jargon by the British Psychological Society,  where I had focussed my study  on memory research.    I had just about got the hang of the technically specific language of psychological memory research such as retro-interference, auditory-loop, digit-span, recognition vs recall  and much more.    Then,   THEN!   Those gosh-darn leading memory researchers sprang some non-technical terms that made sense and weren’t  part of the current disciplin jargon.   How cheeky is that?


Cognitive psychologists study the absense of mind.   It was too much,  I had a couple of vodkas and fell in  a local canal with my miss spelt revision notes to celebrate.  


PS:   If I remember I’ll tell you why I’m telling you about prospective memory in a later post…

* Actually conducting the experiements makes them  more memorable and easier to understand an evaluate than just reading or thinking about them over a cup of tea.

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excusable violence

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008 | tags: , , ,  |

According to get Reading:

She then fled downstairs and tried to call 999, but he grabbed the phone off her and punched her twice in the face.   She began screaming so he put his arms around her neck so she couldn’t breath”   she was “in fear of her life” and “honestly believed she might die”,

This behaviour is reported as ‘out of his normal character’ and he says

“He is dreadfully upset about what has happened,”

Whether ‘in’ or ‘out’ of character he chose to stop her seeking social support (calling the police),   punch her in the face  two times  and throttle her when she tries to get support locally by screaming.   He could have chosen  to ignore her or do a silly dance.    It was his choice and he did choose extreme violence.    Evidently he ‘lost it’ (self-control?).   Lost it  appears to be part of  a socially acceptable storyline to excuse violence.   Psychologists label loss of control as a psychological  disorder  and use it to explain the curiously termed  domestic violence.    

perpetrators of domestic violence  rarely receive adequate psychological treatment, because they are viewed as criminals, rather than individuals with psychological problems.

In the above case the offender got a suspended sentence and fined the cost of a good night out,   60 quid.   No requirement for a psychological assessment or treatment with the fine hardly touching the actual expense of the social services his behaviour  drew upon (e.g. Police, NHS).  

How safe do I feel in a society where the legal system thinks I can be justifiably (for 60 quid) be repeatedly punched in the face and throttled when I try to call for assistance if the agressor claims its not habitual and they regret it?      

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familiar strangers

Monday, June 23rd, 2008 | tags: , , ,  |

Since moving to Reading I’ve found lots of familiar strangers,   I see them on the bus everyday during my commute,   in the local cooperative store when I’m picking up milk for my tea,   behind the counters in Jacksons,   in the local internet cafe.

During my 1986 final year degree course Environmental Psychology classes I  learned that people are more likely to exhibit altruistic behaviours to familiar strangers (than complete strangers)  when meeting those familiar strangers outside of the normal context.   Each will recognise the other easily but have difficulty placing the source of this familiarity.

This means that when I meet someone who normally rides on the  same  bus as me everyday,   in Jacksons,   I will think I know them and be nicer than I would be to someone totally unrecognisable.


More familiar strangers means more oportunities to be squishy.   Given  my natural  curmudgeonist tendencies this can only be a good thang.

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fuzzy categories and tag clouds

Thursday, October 4th, 2007 | tags: , ,  |

I have trouble keeping my categories stable.   Evolving categories.    By using mini-series such as ‘cute accent’ and ‘dreamy cheese’  I’ve tried to curb my tendancies to create categories and re-assign posts.   The WordPress categories  are  painfully insufficiently fuzzy for my taste.

The new version of WordPress (2.3) has support for tagging and tag-clouds.    Tags could easily evolve to replace my categories because they support the natural emergent and fuzzy quality of both my categories and interests.   Hoorah!  

Replacing my categories with tags could  clean-up the Wendy House archive navigation for you and me.  Tags do not yet offer some of the useful properties of the category system such as hierarchical relationships and hence  similarity groupings.     I’m starting to use tags on my new posts but old posts are not tagged.  

Will adding tags to old-posts spam your RSS readers?   I’ve asked the WordPress support forum to clarify before I start wrecklessly adding tags to past-posts to while away  the long winter evenings.  

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dichotomy in the universe of closed questions

Sunday, April 22nd, 2007 | tags: , ,  |

Waffle Warning

dichotomy in the universe of closed questions

a ‘closed question’ is a question that has a specific answer,   answers like:

Lets suppose that in the universe of possible questions there are an infinitie number of closed questions.  

What is the dichotomy in the universe of closed questions?   The dichotomy is between questions that can be answered ‘no’ such as   ‘Wendy,   do you live in an igloo?’,   and questions that can be  answered ‘yes’ such as  “Wendy do you live in a wooden house?”   Tonight’s beer-induced Wendy-epiphany is that this dichotomy of closed questions may not be equally populated.   I suspect that there are more possible questions to which the answer is ‘no’ than there are questions to which the answer is ‘yes’.   This suspicion is based on the following preliminary analysis:

Take this question structure as an example:   “Wendy, do you live in a   [insert word here]?”

If the inserted word is a physical home-type without counting all possible insertions  I am estimating that the answer is more often No than Yes.  

Example physical home-type:   house, bungalo, igloo, TeePee, tent, hotel, skyscraper, apartment, condominium, flat, tree,  bath, lake, road  

If the inserted word  is some other plausible descriptor of living conditions I suspect there is  still an obvious weighting towards no over yes.    

Example plausible descriptor:   mess, illusion, happy place, circus, bubble, dream, fantasy

If the inserted word is not plausible  the answer is most likely to be no

Example not-plausible words:  pin, parrot, toe-nail, bling, 43

There are more no than yes answers in the range of possible answers.   People tend to produce ‘yes’ answers,   it’s been studied by psychologists so that they can create and understand the results of questionnaires.   Since people tend (bias?) to agree, to provide ‘yes’ answers,  the tendancy  has been  given the  fancy name of    ‘acquiescence bias’.        

People, not psychonlogists,  use skill and prior knowledge  to help raise the baseline for the production of ‘yes’ answers above  that which would be predicted by either a

  • model that assumes the answers produced are a proportionally representative subset of all possible answers  (More ‘No’ responses), or  
  • counter-balanced   (half no, half yes) answers approach normally used in questionnaire design to ‘control’ the bias.    

Some people, and psychologists,  are so cunning they minimize asking questions that can be answered no and can effectively use this acquiescence bias to move towards, and gain, a concensus.   People are wonderfully clever like that;   giving each other the opportunity to say yes.

I really like questions where the answer is ‘yes’,   I’ll leave you with this example:

Wendy would you like another beer?”

Waffle warning over  

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fear of failure

Wednesday, April 4th, 2007 | tags: ,  |

thirty-sixth post in a Wednesday series detailing the frightening truth’s behind Wendy’s singleness.

Reason # 36: fear of failure

Friend:   Did you know [Name]* wanted to go-out-with** you?

Wendy: No.   Why didn’t he let me know?

Friend:   he thought he wasn’t good enough for you

Wendy:   a self fulfilling prophecy if ever I heard one

According to Psychology Today corporate Amercia, which employs most of the boys I meet,  focuses on rewarding actual success rather than the type of activities that lead to innovation and success, including effectively dealing with inevitable failures.   This puts the social forces in place that enhance fear of failure.  

*Names have been changed to protect the wussy.

** ‘go out with’ is a British euphamism for girlfriend-boyfriend specific type activities.

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Tuesday, February 6th, 2007 | tags: , ,  |

is not only Premenstrual tension,   its also Periodic Male Tension.    According to The Guardian online:

A study by psychologists from the University of Derby, England, suggests that men may experience cyclical symptoms similar to, or even worse than, those suffered by pre-menstrual women, including moodiness, discomfort and loss of concentration.   Everything, it appears, apart from the bloat.

 The study is based on ‘self report’,   they asked people to report experience of symptoms traditionally associated with pre-menstruation.   They asked the women on 3 separate occassions and men just once.   There is no mention of the likely differences between men an women when self-reporting symptoms  (example scientific study of gender bias in self-reporting symptoms).

Gosh,   and there’s me thinking girls had a unique experience around menstrual cycles based on hormones and physiological differences.   Silly me,   its just the bloating.   Boys clearly know what it’s like because the experience has been adequately described in answerable questions and measured by someone in Derby.  

The next grumpy boy I encounter will be asked “is it your time of the month then?‘      

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