A new study found what’s the best way to offer directions to listeners that could help improve future human-computer communication or artificial intelligence. It’s an interesting concept that leads to numerous arguments among people. Disagreements can easily spark due to differences of what “good directions” actually mean.
Researchers from the School of Psychology at the University of Aberdeen gathered a group of participants and had them play “Where’s Wally?”. The character is best known as ‘Waldo’ for those in the United States, with the trademark red and white sweater and hat. It’s a beloved children’s illustration book that poses as a bit of a challenge for adults as well. Waldo is a sneaky fellow.
The team of researchers then asked the participants to describe where they found the usually hidden character. They discovered that strong landmarks were commonly the first thing mentioned. Something like a huge tree or a statue were proven to be the part of the beginning of their sentence. Items that were visually weak often fell to the end.
However, if Waldo had a stronger presence among the crowded pictures and mess of random items throughout the sketch, he was the one they mentioned first. Through this observation, they drew the conclusion that directions are better not depending necessarily on how they’re given, but in which order. Presenting a more visually impacting item proved to be the most efficient way to direct others to Waldo.
If the first word of the sentence was something that stood out better, then the chances were greatly improved. This also aided when listeners were given instructions on how to find the animated character. Those who were given the directions in the right order, meaning important landmarks first, were able to find Waldo much faster.
According to co-author of the study, professor Micha Elsner, that is because listeners start visualizing before the directions are fully given. By starting the sentence with a major landmark, they were given a head start because it pointed them more quickly toward something obvious. However, if the target was easier to spot, then it’s recommended that directions start with them.
The specific order of words seemed to hold a significant role in offering directions. It might not aid in directing confused tourists, but it has excellent potential in computer-given instructions. Developers should take heed of the study, in order to create better algorithms. It could improve efficiency, speed, and become useful to artificial intelligence (AI).
Image source: walk4life.info