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The Notion That Good Design Leverages Human Intuition May Be Wrong

As I read this article, it occurred to me that the notion of good design leveraging human intuition may be wrong. If what many of us take for granted as a basic intuition and innate understanding of symbols is actually not innate at all but culturally learned, then good design has more to do with understanding cultural patterns and not with appealing to innate intuition.

From the article:

Our study shows, for the first time, that the number-line concept is not a 'universal intuition' but a particular cultural tool that requires training and education to master. Also, we document that precise number concepts can exist independently of linear or other metric-driven spatial representations.

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I'm also very skeptical about what I perceive to be overuse of the word "intuitive". The word is often [ab]used as a boast by software companies, e.g. "Upgrade to our new, intuitive user interface."

Of course there is such a thing as instinct, but most so-called "intuitions" are - I believe - phenomena emerging from continuous exposure to our environment after birth - learnings, in fact. In many cases it's quite easy to estimate what has been learned in advance that makes a later experience clear and understandable.
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