Feeds

Rude software causes emotional trauma

My PC is ignoring me

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Scientists at California University in Los Angeles (UCLA) have discovered computers can cause heartache simply by ignoring the user. When simulating a game of playground catch with an unsuspecting student, boffins showed that if the software fails to throw the ball to the poor student, he is left reeling from a psychological blow as painful as any punch from a break-time bully.

Matthew Lieberman, one of the experiment's authors and an assistant professor of psychology at UCLA explains that the subject thinks he is playing with two other students sitting at screens in another room, but really the other figures are computer generated. "It's really the most boring game you can imagine, except at one point one of the two computer people stop throwing the ball to the real player," he said.

The scientists used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to monitor brain activity during a ball-tossing game designed to provoke feelings of social exclusion. Initially the virtual ball is thrown to the participating student but after a short while the computer players lob the ball only between themselves. When ignored, the area of the brain associated with pain lights up as if the student had been physically hurt.

Being the class pariah is psychologically damaging and has roots deep in our evolutionary past. "Going back 50,000 years, social distance from a group could lead to death and it still does for most infant mammals," Lieberman said.

The fact that this pain was caused by computers ignoring the user suggests interface designers and software vendors must work especially hard to keep their customers happy, and it's not surprising that failing and buggy software is so frustrating. If software can cause the same emotional disturbance as physical pain, it won't be long before law suits are flying through the courts for abuse sustained at the hands of shoddy programming. ®

Related stories

MS to probe human-computer interface
Laptops cause infertility: official
Computers make you blind: official
PC rage turns the air blue in UK households

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
Relive the death of Earth over and over again in Extinction Game
Apocalypse now, and tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that ...
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.