Sajid Sadi Thesis Defense

September 10, 2012


MIT Media Lab, E14-633


Since the time of the first philosophers, logic and observed human behavior have stood somewhat in contradiction. More recently, scientists have started to delve into decision- and choice-making to understand why the way we act differs from rational choice, and indeed from our own desires. We believe that it is possible to take the knowledge gleaned about human cognition and design systems that can augment cognition in helping us reach our goals.

This dissertation presents mental prosthetics, a model for distributed, embodied, design-embedded, just-in-time interfaces that augment the human judgment process. Drawing information from the activity of the users around them, mental prostheses analyze behavioral patterns in a way orthogonal to human cognition. Unlike many of today’s persuasive interfaces, these mental prostheses attempt to focus the user on making rational decisions at specific inflection points in choice architectures where a rational judgment is most effective. Lastly, these devices provide calm yet understandable feedback to draw the user’s attention at the correct time to the information available.

This dissertation provides several prototypes and design explorations as a means of sampling the various approaches to data collection, synthesis, and feedback. Focusing on self-reflection, these sample designs form a subclass of mental prostheses that we term reflectOns. We show through the studies carried out in the course of this dissertation that these systems are effective in changing behavior to align with user goals. Lastly, this dissertation provides a set of design guidelines that assist in the creation of new mental prostheses. While we discuss a variety of scenarios in this work, it is only the beginning of the exploration. The design guidelines provide insight into both the critical aspects of the design of such systems, as well as possible input and feedback methodologies. These guidelines, together with the reflectOns themselves, provide a basis for future work in this area.

Host/Chair: Pattie Maes


Alex 'Sandy' Pentland, Drazen Prelec

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