Symbols Models and Inhibitory Control

One of the things I find fascinating about US TV is the educational channels etc.

Every now and then I stumble across something which sucks me in for a couple of hours.

On Monday (I was sick… better now though, thanks for asking) I started watching something about childhood development. The topic was interesting for a metadata geek like me, because it covered childhood understanding of symbols.

It was fascinating, they had little toddlers interacting with high quality images of interesting things. At a certain age they all tried to pick up the thing in the picture, be it a toy or a drink bottle.

They were interacting with the picture as if it was the real thing.

Or in geek speak they where interacting with the symbol as if it was the referent.

This was attributed to a lack of “inhibitory control”, the first inklings of which we develop in our early years.

Some of this is so simple everyone can do it. I.e. all adults know we can’t drink from a glass depicted in a picture. But this “inhibitory control” thing is a spectrum.

In fact sometimes it is the other way round, i.e. we don’t have to inhibit our interaction with the model, we have to inhibit our interaction with the real world, because of something depicted in the symbol / model.

For example some of us believe we should be ‘nice’, because we have a model that says doing so leads to better outcomes. But being ‘nice’ all the time is hard.

This (as almost everything does) got me thinking about metadata.

It got me thinking, if we can make modifying metadata / models / symbols so easy it is like dealing with the real thing, then we lessen the inhibitory burden on our users.

They don’t have to inhibit their desire to interact with the model as if it were real, because it is real.

They can shape the real world by shaping the model and visa versa.

Imagine if you could shape what was possible in the real world by simply tweaking the model.

… now I know this is mostly mindless drivel, but I have to ask what does your mental model for the quality of information coming from a ill coach potato teach you to expect…

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