Conflicting signals cause distress

So I got into this cab yesterday and asked the cabbie to take me to X. In the back and forth between him (comprehending) and me (explaining), my eyes kept flipping between the rear view mirror (in which his virtual eyes were watching me) and the back of his head (embedded in which were his real eyes, virtually watching me.)

After this very confusing conversation, I was able to explain my destination to him. As I sat back, I started thinking how contradictory signals cause confusion. And that led me to thinking about a similar incident from just a few days ago. ‘Led me to’ not in the step-by-step-follow-the-logical-reasoning kind of way but the jump-and-flip-and-oh-where-did-i-land kind of way.

So in this other incident, I was giving a talk and for that, a remote control device which lets you emulate clicks and point a laser was given to me to navigate through the slides. There were two buttons in the front for ‘next’ and ‘previous’ and one at the back for the laser. Pretty simple, no? But all through the presentation, I kept going back to the previous slide when I intended to go forward and vice versa!

Aside from providing continuous amusement to my audience, it led me to wonder, as I sat in the cab, about why I got so confused by that ‘simple’ device. Here’s why: visualize the front face of that device - two buttons placed adjacent to each other.

| (o) (o) |

Now because of the visual signals, my brain kept thinking that the left button goes back and the right button goes forward while that damn thing was designed to emulate a mouse - left click to go forward and right click to go back!!

Conflicting signals cause distress.

I like the sound of that. Maybe it’ll be my PhD thesis title one day ;-)