Thursday, August 25, 2011

Urinal Chicken: One More Fascinating Possibility

DQ reader Drew Thaler sent in another urinal chicken scenario, and it's called description error. Here's how he explains it:
Something similar actually happened to me recently, though not with fried chicken.

I was in a seriously filthy fast-food restaurant bathroom -- one that actually opened to the outside, as if it were a gas-station bathroom. Anyway, I finished up, washed my hands, and meant to throw my used paper towel in the trash. But I wound up chucking it in the urinal, by almost unexplainable accident! The urinal and the (overflowing) trash can didn't look alike AT ALL... but I think I was so grossed out by the condition of the bathroom that I wasn't paying enough attention. And boom -- now I'm the jerk making it even worse.

The same thing could have happened to the fried chicken guy -- he was exhausted, wasn't paying attention, went to pitch his chicken and chucked it in the wrong place.

Believe it or not, this phenomenon actually has a name. In chapter 5 of Don Norman's seminal Design of Everyday Things, he classifies this sort of thing as a "slip", more specifically a "description error".

Here's more on description errors, and two examples are throwing dirty clothes in the toilet (instead of the washing machine, hopefully) and putting orange juice on your cereal.

I think that's a pretty fascinating possibility, although it does provide far fewer Photoshop opportunities.

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