RxDM Storycast EP10: Dr. Brad Wyble of Penn State – Podcast

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In this episode, Buddy Scalera talks to Dr. Brad Wyble, Associate Professor at Penn State University.

If his name sounds familiar, it may be because I’ve referenced his work in this podcast and in presentations that I’ve made at conferences, including Content Marketing World.

Dr. Wyble is a Harvard-educated PhD who teaches in the Penn State University Department of Psychology. Dr. Wyble studies visual cognition with an emphasis on exploring how a visual stimulus becomes a consciously accessible representation.

He’s published a wide range of papers on psychology, vision, and something called “attentional blink.

If you are a marketer working in visual and digital channels, you may find his research useful and enlightening. Enjoy the show.



Dr. Brad Wyble Penn State University Profile

Wyble Lab

Dr. Brad Wyble on Google Scholar

Dr. Brad Wyble on Twitter



BUDDY SCALERA: Welcome back to Rx Digital Marketing Podcast: The Storyteller Edition. Today I have a very special guest, one that typically doesn’t fit in the profile of the guests that I’ve had in the past. This one is a scientist and an accomplished scientist talking about things that are very relevant to what we do as professional communicators. Before rambling on too long, let me welcome my guest, Dr. Brad Wyble of Penn State. Dr. Brad, welcome to the show.

DR. BRAD WYBLE: Oh, thank you very much. I’m glad to be here.

BUDDY: Yeah, you have done quite a lot of very interesting research which I hope to unpack today and hope to be able to leverage for the people who are out there doing visual storytelling. So first, can you just talk a little bit about what you do there at Penn State and the type of research that you specialize in?

DR. BRAD WYBLE: Sure. Essentially what we’re trying to understand is the set of rules by which the brain decides which pieces of information are important, and particularly within the visual domain. So, the goal is to figure out as we’re looking at a given piece of information how does the brain decide, first of all, what is important and then how does it translate that information into a usable mental representation. And this might be something that you use only very briefly and then discard, or it could be a piece of information that you incorporate into a longer-term memory store and hold onto for a longer period of time.

BUDDY: So, from an evolutionary perspective, Dr. Wyble, you’re basically studying what we have as humans evolved to do in terms of speed and memory. Is this just part of the evolutionary survival, this, you know, constant evolution that we saw from Darwin from our ancestors?

DR. BRAD WYBLE: Yeah, I think there’s certainly an aspect of that in this. The visual system excels at rapidly interpreting whatever it’s currently seeing, especially in the domain of as natural images and things that we’re used to seeing. So, one of the sort principles that people think about with regards to this works is that in many cases, it’s actually more difficult to remember something sometimes than just to go back and reprocess the information. So sometimes we wonder about, we found these cases where people are very bad at remembering or detecting a difference between two slightly different versions of an image. You see these puzzles, for example, in the Sunday funnies, you know where’s there’s two with subtly differences from each other and finding like the five different differences. So we’re bad at that. We’re really bad at that. And because, in large part, whenever we normally look at the world, things aren’t just randomly appearing and disappearing. Like we can more or less depend on things in the natural world to be somewhat similar from one second to the next. So, the question is why would the brain bother to store all of that information? Instead what it seems to do is process the raw data so quickly and efficiently that if you want to figure out where something is, you just look back and use your eyes to reacquire that information rather than bothering to hold onto all of it. So that seems to be, at least from evolution’s perspective, a better solution to dealing with the world, to dealing with the need for rapid perception and memory. Essentially some people put it like this – you use the world as your memory system, right, like you just leave the content of the world as out there and you just get it when you need it. Now you can also, of course, store things in memory, but it seems that we do that less often than we have in the past thought we did.

BUDDY: But I would imagine there are times when you’re just literally processing whatever’s around you and then there’s other times where you’re using your visual memory to learn something, that is if I were to show you how to change a tire on a car, there’s a certain amount of memory that you’re getting and you’re processing in real time, is that right?

DR. BRAD WYBLE: Yes, absolutely right, so it’s of course the case that you can remember some things when they’re presented to you in a way that’s meaningful to you and that you have some motivation to be wanting to store it. And that processing occurs in a dynamic basis. Information is presented and you’re essentially decoding it in real time and then putting that information into memory in some usable format. And it’s a really interesting question what that format is. Right, it’s a great question. If I watch a video of someone changing a tire, I’m not obviously remembering a certain pixelized representation of it. I’m not even remembering necessarily snapshots of what happened. I have this sort of higher level more abstract (indiscernible) representation of the sequence of events with maybe some visual details thrown in there as well.

BUDDY: Right, because we can imagine, and some of us better than others, an abstract of that experience that we’ve seen, right? We can envision a room without having seen the whole room because of experience so we can process a certain amount of stimuli and then use it from experience to generate perhaps an abstract representation of that in our minds.

DR. BRAD WYBLE: Yeah, exactly, yeah. And so I think one way to say it is that we sort of simultaneously process things and remember them a multiple different levels of detail. So we might remember this sort of overall layout of the room or the events that occur in a video and we also have sporadic details stored as well, of sort of lower level things like maybe the shirt the person was wearing, or maybe not. You might a very sort of neutral representation of the actor in the video without having ascribed any particular details to them, in fact even a face. So, for example you can, there’s lots of studies where we have, not me but I mean other folks in psychology have done, for example, cases where you are having a conversation with someone and then you intentionally interrupt that conversation with something passing between you and then you replace the person you’re talking to with someone else and the person who’s on other side of that conversation doesn’t even realize that they’re now talking to a different person.

BUDDY: What do you mean, like literally physically swap out an image? Is this on a television, it has to be on…

DR. BRAD WYBLE: No, no, no. This is in person. Right, so imagine that, it’s a great designed (indiscernible). So I’m the experimenter and you’re just a sort of passerby on the street and I approach you with a map and I’m asking for directions to get to somewhere. And then I’ve arranged so that two people would carry a big plywood door in between us and while they’re carrying that door in between us, I go behind the door and one of the people carrying the door swaps out and now you’re talking to, once that door goes past, 5 seconds later, you’re talking to a different person. And approximately half the time people don’t even notice that the switch has been made. Now obviously, you know, within certain limits, like if you replace someone who’s extremely tall with someone who’s extremely short or someone who’s extremely old with someone who’s extremely young, the chances of noticing the difference go up but if it’s two people who are roughly of somewhat similar build and appearance, there’s a shockingly real chance that someone won’t even notice the difference.

BUDDY: You know, it sounds like a comedy set-up, but I know that it’s not from what you’re explaining. Is this why people are considered to be poor eye-witnesses in crimes?

DR. BRAD WYBLE: In part, yeah. Yeah, we sometimes focus on, not necessarily, even when sometimes we do focus on the face we can often mistake one person for another if they look very similar or in some cases, we’re not even focusing on the face. We just interact with someone as a sort of abstract person and then you could sort of replace that person with anybody else and we wouldn’t have necessarily have stored enough information to notice the difference.

BUDDY: And we fill in the blank with our own, maybe I didn’t see that person correctly because we maybe doubt our own what we saw or we just keep going because it’s not essential information?

DR. BRAD WYBLE: Yeah I think that’s usually it. You just keep going. I mean there could be some slight level of maybe noticing that something’s slightly off, but there’s also kind of a social contract and so you just of course sort of skate past that feeling of uncertainty and go well, you know maybe…

BUDDY: …Maybe it was just me.


BUDDY: Now one the things that really drew me to you and we had talked about this a long time ago, and one of the reasons that I wanted to come back to you, was speed of visual processing and you were part of a team that published a paper I think through MIT or did a study through MIT where you determined that people can see and recognize something in 13 milliseconds. Can you just explain what you had worked on and then what that really meant in terms of speed of recognition?

DR. BRAD WYBLE: Sure. So to the study in question would present a sequence of images where each one was on the screen for literally just 13 milliseconds and then it would swap out to a completely different image and it’s so fast that it’s kind of difficult to imagine, you normally don’t see things even close to that speed. Like for example, a film is 24 frames per second so this would be substantially faster than that and also in a film, each subsequent frame is similar to the previous frame as you sort of integrate them together, whereas in this case, each image is completely disconnected from the previous image. So you sort of end up with this visual soup, just like this blob of data that’s coming at you and if you tell people in advance or in some cases even afterwards to look for a specific kind of thing in that sequence like a kitchen or a car, we find that they’re not completely at chance at being able to detect that’s stimulus. Now they’re not great…

BUDDY: Yeah, yeah, we’re not talking about recognizing, I don’t know, five numbers in a series or anything, right? You’re talking something that’s quick.

DR. BRAD WYBLE: Right, and also you often miss it. So it’s not the case that they were, that they got it most of the time. They were still pretty poor, but they were above chance accuracy, which in other words means that they were not guessing blindly. Some of that information was successfully percolating through to their higher order levels of processing. And so what that tells us is that as each image came in, even though it was only on the screen for about 15 milliseconds there was enough of that stream available for it to make contact with your goals and intentions and ability to understand the meaning of that image. These were novel images, by the way. These are ones people had not seen before so it’s not the case that the case that you were getting the same images over and over and over again.

BUDDY: Let’s just put it in context. I understand that 13 was perhaps the fastest recorded. If 13 milliseconds was the fastest recorded that you were able to report on, approximately how long, just for context, does it take somebody’s eye to blink, in milliseconds?

DR. BRAD WYBLE: Umm, gosh, how long does an eye blink take, off the top of my head? Oh maybe 300 to 400 milliseconds?

BUDDY: Yeah, so we’re talking like dramatically faster than we would have even though as, you know, the amount of time that it takes to process information, right?

DR. BRAD WYBLE: Yeah, for sure.

BUDDY: So then let’s play this through. Playing this through again this is probably due to evolution, right? Those of us who 600,000 years ago were not able to process this, maybe they got eaten by a tiger, right, and now the rest are the people, we are the beneficiaries of that evolutionary improvement I guess?

DR. BRAD WYBLE: Uh huh. Yeah, yeah, well it’s a combination of that but also the fact that you’ve spent your entire life seeing things. So your visual system has, by the time you were 20 years old, has spent roughly 18 hours a day for 20 years perceiving things. And so you’ve become essentially an expert perceiver of the normal kinds of objects and things available in the environment and so it’s a combination I think of that, the evolutionary pressures which have forced us to be able to very quickly apprehend what’s going on in a given scene and also the potential that is unlocked by the vast amount of visual experience that someone has.

BUDDY: So we are instantly filtering in and filtering – I say instantly because I can’t imagine measuring anything below…

DR. BRAD WYBLE: It’s too fast.

BUDDY: Yeah, I mean it’s just, it’s, for all intents and purposes, it is instant.

DR. BRAD WYBLE: Yeah, think like at the time scale of browsing a website and clicking buttons. It’s pretty instantaneous.

BUDDY: And then not to the speed component, we are processing more than just that single items perhaps that the eye is focused on, right. Like, we can with our peripheral vision see if somebody is running towards us with a knife and then maybe focus our attention on that and that is an an ability that we’ve, I think and I’ve read it in your research here that, you know, to process what’s important we’re able to also ignore and forget things, is that right?

DR. BRAD WYBLE: That’s right, yeah, yeah.

BUDDY: Can you just unpack that a little bit, talk about what it means to, you know, instantly discard information.

DR. BRAD WYBLE: Right, so we ran some other experiments where we ask people to look for a target on a very simple display. It’s just got four, three numbers and one letter. And you just simply have to report where that letter was on the display. So it’s incredibly simple and everybody’s really good at it. So the idea is that in order to do this task, you have to detect the fact that there was a letter present. That’s a key part of the task. But then what we do is we give them a surprise question where we ask them, like after they’ve done this 50 times in a row we say wait a minute, what was the letter that you just saw? Right, like literally just three seconds ago. And people are terrible are reporting that letter. So it seems to be the case that you can process that letter, do something with it and yet the information is not really held onto in a robust fashion. Presumably because you didn’t think it was necessary, so then of course on the very next trial, we ask them again ok now what was the letter and then of course, they’re very accurate. So once they sort of realize that the letter is important then they can change within just a few seconds how they process the information so that they will be remembering the letter from that point forwards.

BUDDY: I’m here with Dr. Brad Wyble of University of Pennsylvania. That’s right, right? I got that right?

DR. BRAD WYBLE: Penn State, Pennsylvania State University.

BUDDY: Penn State, I knew it was one my neighbors. We are talking about his studies in visual processing. We’re going to take a break. We’ll come back in 2 minutes and we’ll talk about how you can utilize this information and knowledge as you put together resources that tell visual stories. Stay tuned. We’ll be right back.

[End of Part 1]


Part 2

BUDDY: Ah, there you are. And we are back with Dr. Brad Wyble and we’ve been talking a lot about the science of vision and the speed at which we can really start to discern different information, and even how the eye can be tricked. But now Dr. Wyble I’d like to ask you a little bit about, you know, what can we use from some of the science that you’ve studied as we develop resources like websites and apps for our users, particularly as we’re trying to break through the noise in the real world.

DR. BRAD WYBLE: Well, this is not something that I normally spend a lot of time thinking about, although I do think it’s fascinating to try to take what we’ve done and put it in the real world. One of the things we discovered is that it’s possible for someone to use information very briefly and then discard it. Whereas you force them to hold on to that information during a delay, for even just a few hundred milliseconds, that is sufficient to create a memory representation that will go much deeper and be more enduring. So, for example if there’s perhaps an interactive widget that someone has to work with they might form a better, more robust memory of that experience if there’s some piece of information that they have to hold for a duration.

BUDDY: That’s interesting. Sometimes when I think about the way we might create a new app we might guide people through how to use that app, both, you know, by using you know like a full page slide that explains some of the features or something like Google AdWords. The way Google AdWords will train you is literally it will show you where to put your mouse by doing a call out, circling the icon, dimming out the rest of the page and forcing your eye into that corner so that it’s saying to you remember this. Is that what it is, like we are, we sometimes just have to force people remember this?

DR. BRAD WYBLE: Well I think in that case it sounds more like you’re directing their attention to the correct location, whereas I was speaking more of once their attention is at that location if they have to hold onto something for a brief duration and then do something with that information at a subsequent point in time, that will for a memory that’s a little bit more robust.

BUDDY: Because as you had noted earlier our brains are very efficient at getting rid of non-essential data, right?

DR. BRAD WYBLE: Yeah, right, yeah.

BUDDY: Which is what makes sometimes advertising so challenging because we can think about, you know, the YouTube example where you get that countdown and sometimes we play a game with our peers and we’ll say like watch two YouTube videos. Can anybody remember who the advertiser was but, you know, it’s out of our brain because it’s non-essential to us, right?

DR. BRAD WYBLE: Right. And the thing that really seems to stand out, and this outside of the domain of what I typically do, it seems clear that stuff that’s meaningful or interesting in some way, that’s the real stuff that hangs around and that’s why with the Super Bowl ads, right, which are such big deal, you know, because they tell a story within an ad and it sort of, it’s not just that it’s a good story but that it’s somehow perfectly calibrated against the current sort of culture that people live in where to make it sort of stand out at that particular year that this is most memorable ad that Budweiser could put out or something along those lines, right? And so that’s also what makes this difficult is that you’re, you’re sort of a moving target, right? Like the thing that would be most interesting to someone is a function of the sort of time in history that we’re currently at plus what they’re doing at particular moment in time, who they are, all those things sort of integrate to come to some very specific set of things that are difficult to find about what they would find the most meaningful.

BUDDY: That’s very interesting and it sort of triggers a thought in my mind of something that generationally when I was young we were starting to get into this MTV era of much faster and faster video cuts and I remember my father, he said he couldn’t keep up with it and yet I find that these video cuts are very comfortable to keep up with it, and my kids are able to keep up with even faster and faster medium. Are we, is this, we’re not evolving, right? We’re just learning how to watch these faster cuts. What do you think that is?

DR. BRAD WYBLE: Yeah, I think that’s exactly what that is. We sort of are calibrating our internal sense of time against the sort of input that we’re being given. You know, and that’s why I think that if, you know, we now go back and look at old movies like 40 or 50 years ago, in some cases they can be hard to watch. Just because there’s these long, drawn out cut scenes and it’s like, and we’re watching this guy walk to the car but, you know, in a modern movie, just like it would cut right away and I think that it, you know, you can’t turn it off, right. Like your brain has become so accustomed to these rapid cuts that it’s just changed your sense of time. It’s not the case that what we do now is better than what they did or vice versa, it’s just, you know, it is what it is. And you know, like movie trailers. Like you go back and watch a movie trailer from like the 1980s and it’s just, it seems so weird like I can’t believe that I [laughs] that I would have considered that compelling back then just because they’re so slow and even the tone of the narrative is very different. So there’s so many little cultural conventions that change over time that we automatically sort of internalize.

BUDDY: So we’re learning and I think that was something that you had referenced earlier while we were on the break was we do learn and I’m going to give you an example and then prompt you to comment on it is, you know, back in the earliest days of websites there were no banner ads, you know, we’re both around long enough to remember pre-banner ads and then banner ads came in and we looked at them and now we have this phenomenon that is, at least in our industry, is considered banner blindness. Like people know where to look and literally know how to ignore a banner that literally comes between the text. Why are we getting good at ignoring banner ads?

DR. BRAD WYBLE: That’s the brain doing what it’s best at, right, you know trying to figure out how to get to the, you know, if somebody’s really interested in reading an article then the ads that pop up will often be counter to that objective and so you’ll be figuring out a way to sort of get around that as effectively as possible. It’s a sort of battle that you’re fighting against the intentional system which is in some cases trying to weed out what the advertisements are trying to, are trying to do.

BUDDY: Why is this happening though? We’re not in any danger, there’s no tiger waiting for me if I don’t skip that banner. Why are we doing this? What is it, purely out of will or something else?

DR. BRAD WYBLE: I think it’s not intentional. It’s just the natural, the natural process of the human condition to try to want to focus on the stuff that you think is relevant and to downplay or turn down everything else. And you know we’ve been forced to do this not just in the case of banner ads like there’s lots of – in the world around us we’re constantly focusing a very small subset of the information that’s available, so the attentional system is just wired to do this from day one. It’s what allows us to get by in the world. People who, for example, have compromised attentional systems due to like brain, for example, have a very difficult time filtering out visual clutter. So like if you just look at your desk, it’s probably crowded with all kinds of different stuff and you know your brain, your eyes just instantly go to the stuff that they need to and this is also why, you know, if your desk is really messy as mine often is, you know, after a while you stop noticing the dirt and sometimes you like come in after a while and just like wow, that’s terrible! There’s a ton of dust behind the printer, there’s, and, you know other people who come in to your office they probably see that right away because they haven’t gotten used to ignoring that particular pile of mess and clutter.

BUDDY: And that’s where, you know, like I’ve heard, you know, we can’t smell our own breath, right. These are things that otherwise might drive us crazy having, being able to process all of that information is not actually necessarily a good thing. We need to be able to focus on what’s important, right?

DR. BRAD WYBLE: Um hum. Yep. We often like to focus…transitions are a big driver of attention, you know things that are new or different and so that why like obviously if there was like a big red blinking ad in the middle of the screen that would be very difficult to ignore, but it would also be to some degree adversive. And so it seems like the challenge is to try to figure ways of making things that grab our attention without also being so incredibly annoying that someone just closes the website and goes to something else.

BUDDY: [laughs] You know one of the things that I’ve observed developing web properties and just you know using the web is that we are perhaps as fast as you’ve recorded in some of your studies able to immediately tell if we’re on the right website. Sometimes we have to dive a little deeper to see what the site is about but I can immediately see if a website was built for a child of 10 or under and a website is built as a professional journal. Are we processing mutually agreed upon design signals or is there something else or is it just learned behavior? What are your thoughts on that?

DR. BRAD WYBLE: That’s a good question. If someone who’s never used the web before, would they notice this and differences and I suspect they probably wouldn’t. I think that the sort of savvy web consumer has learned where banner ads tend to be and also sort of roughly the proportion of them, right. Like if you’re in a, if you’re on a web page like those ones where you can click to see something, and then you’re put into this 60-slide slideshow. So basically the ratio of ads to the content that you’re interested in is really high versus a website where’s maybe a blog and just like a few select ads somewhere in the corner. I think many of us have just sort of gotten really good at looking at the distinction between those two situations.

BUDDY: And perhaps not the least of which is because we have to prioritize our time. We literally don’t have the time to look at every website and we certainly want to be able to process the things that are important, but we just can’t, so we have to filter out, right?

DR. BRAD WYBLE: Right. Yeah.

BUDDY: So in a lot of what your studies have been about this ability of the brain to filter in and filter out. I guess the speed at which that happens, your tools improve, the studies improve, am I understanding that properly?

DR. BRAD WYBLE: Yeah, I think that’s a big part of it. We’re just trying to understand the rules by which the system filters things in, filters things out, and also how it compiles the stuff that does make it through all the filters into a meaningful set of information. And this includes, for example, stringing together a sequence of different events into one, into one sort of overarching sequence.

BUDDY: What does that mean, so stringing together events into a sequenced? Do you mean when you represent a tree and then a car, you know, when you put those together they could be a tree or a car but people can string it together as some sort of narrative?

DR. BRAD WYBLE: When it makes sense to do so, yeah. So, so for example if you’re sort of out and about in the world you can be looking at different things at different points in time and you will be constructing a narrative of your own experience as you’re moving along and some parts of that will be denser in time, like if something interesting was happening whereas if you were sort of mind wandering and sort of consumed with your own thoughts you could walk five blocks and hardly even remember a single step of what you were seeing as you walked. Yet you still have a pretty good memory of the conversation you were having with yourself as you were walking along.

BUDDY: We are literally you know multitasking or as much as the brain will allow us to multitask by not walking into a telephone poll. We’ve processed enough but we know that we have to have that conversation so we focus as much of our brain on that attention requirement, would you say?

DR. BRAD WYBLE: Uh huh. Yeah. So, you might avoid the telephone poll but you don’t remember having avoided the telephone poll.

BUDDY: [laughs] Right. It’s like driving to work, there’s days you’re just like how do I get here but you got there, right?

DR. BRAD WYBLE: Yeah exactly. Or what floor level of the parking garage am I on, like you’ve, all that information is gone, which is a good thing in general because you know there’s not enough room necessarily in the brain to store all of these little individual details. You become more efficient in doing your job and everything else that you want to do if you can sort of prune out the information that’s less necessary.

BUDDY: That’s amazing. Now I’m going to ask you to indulge me and talk about my second passion which is telling stories with pictures, specifically in comic books. We’ve talked about this a little bit. There’s an amazing thing that happens. We have 2D static images on a page. Let’s imagine two panels and one panel you’re standing there and the next panel, you’ve thrown a punch. That little bridge between those two panels makes us think that there’s action happening when in reality we filled in that blank. Is this part of what you’re seeing as attentional blinks or is there some sort of scientific explanation that you think might be able to help us understand what’s happening when people read from panel to panel comic book narratives?

DR. BRAD WYBLE: That’s really fascinating. I don’t think that there is a particular lab or groups of labs who are studying in particular the way that experience visual storytelling in this way. People have been looking at how people experience it in movies, like how we sort of, what are the rules by which movie makers cut camera scenes and shots from one second to the next in order to make a sort of visually appealing and coherent temporal narrative. But I think that the question of how you would do this in comic book format is equally compelling. I hadn’t really thought about until we’ve been talking about it. The ways in which we fill in those blanks and we create a story is what I was talking about before about creating a story from multiple different points in time is exactly like what you do when you read a comic book or any kind of visual form like that is you’ve got panel A, panel B, panel C and you sort of string them together and you create the overarching narrative of what’s happening inside your mind. Then the question how do that I think is largely up for grabs. I mean it’s clear that we do it but I think that we as, in terms of a scientific basis for understanding the way in which that occurs beyond knowing that it happens, I don’t think we have a very good understanding of that process.

BUDDY: And one of those things that we had touched on earlier was the fact that you have to focus your eye on a panel and make a choice not to look at the whole page in its totality because if you’re only going to get the story when you look at the panels ostensibly in sequence, one to two, two to three, three to three, three to four, four to five. There’s five on the page. You can absorb that whole page but you’re not going to have the same experience so I think that the focus that is required to look at a website and click on an individual target link is similar to what we do in comics, which is to target not just on a page, on a panel, on a person, but also on a word balloon of dialogue. It’s an incredible amount of focus when there’s so much other stimuli flowing around us at all times.

DR. BRAD WYBLE: Uh huh. Yeah so one of the things that would be interesting to know, I mean obviously there’s eye tracking, right, that would be the sort of first go to method for figuring out how people view this. If people are looking at comics where there are word balloons, typically when the average person looks at the average scene, the things that they look at most closely in terms of where their eyes go to are faces and text, and also as it turns out cell phones. If someone has a picture of a cellphone in a picture, people will look at the cell phone over, but that obviously is a modern thing in the last 20 years but that’s apparently the case. So the question would be you know if you’ve got a panel with like a series of panels with words balloons in each one and the same people talking I would bet that in the first of those panels people look back and forth at the faces and also at the word balloons. Whereas possibly by the time you get to the third or fourth panel in that sequence, they’re no longer looking at the faces but they’re still aware of who’s talking by getting in the periphery but they’re focusing primarily on the word balloons. I think that studies like that I think would be really interesting as far as where people are looking at. So, once you’ve sort of figured out the visual context of something you don’t need to go back and relook at that thing. It’s fine to have it in your periphery where you can sort of monitor and make sure that it’s the same people in the comic strip or the same ads in website or the same banners and then you might notice if those things change in the periphery but you’re not necessarily spending time looking directly at them unless they do change.

BUDDY: If you think about how we navigate a website we will look at the content that we care about. We will ignore the logo once we’ve seen it. We could look at the navigation, the way it flags out and then once we are where we perceive we need to be we’re no long necessarily, maybe, looking at the navigation and we’re starting to dive into the content. We’ve looked at websites from the perspective of a where do people click and navigate. If you’re clicking and navigating and hitting either the home button, you’re renavigating and trying to figure out the context of the site. If you’re look at the nav in a navigational sense, you know, the about page, you know, the details versus in the body three-quarters of the way down you’ve already committed to certain amount but realize that either you want to continue to the next step or you are not on where you need to be but if people are renavigating using header information or going back to the home page, we think that that sends a slightly different signal than the content that they’re clicking on within the body of an article.

DR. BRAD WYBLE: That’s why people write consistent web page layouts because it allows them to be more efficient. They can sort of know automatically where to go to find the information.

BUDDY: So, Dr. Wyble, I am constantly in awe of the work that you do and I really appreciate you sharing some of your knowledge and insights with my listeners. Where can they find you? I know you have a website at http://wyblelab.com/ and I think you’re on Twitter as well?

DR. BRAD WYBLE: Yeah, I’ve got a Twitter account. I don’t remember what it is off the top of my head often [laughs]. But if you search for Brad Wyble on Twitter (https://twitter.com/bradpwyble), it would come up there. And I also give conference presentations at various different points. There’s one in Florida that we go to every year in May called The Vision Science Society (https://www.visionsciences.org/), although that’s a bit more for vision nerds like myself. You know we sort of trade our latest findings back and forth. Another one we often go to is called Psychonomics (http://www.psychonomic.org/page/2017annualmeeting ) which is an older conference. It’s been around for a while and it’s really rather sort of nuts and bolts of how the brain processes information.

BUDDY: And if people are fortunate enough to be still in the position to be taking classes, can they study with you?

DR. BRAD WYBLE: Yeah, I mean we teach, obviously I teach here at Penn State. I don’t teach, well Penn State has a world campus, an online set of courses. I don’t teach any of those myself but certainly I do teach here on campus and I also work with students conducting a variety of different research projects, We’ve got some, for example, right now in virtual reality, a little thing on how these things translate into the three-dimensional realm of VR. We’ve also got some experiments with touch and haptics where we print out shapes in a three-dimensional printer and then we see what people can remember about the things that they’ve just touched, which you know. Is that, for example, analogous to the way in which we can briefly store and then forget information with our eyes?

BUDDY: [laughs] Oh my god. You have the coolest job in the world.

DR. BRAD WYBLE: Well it is a lot of fun. [laughs]

Buddy: Well thank you so much for spending a little bit of time with us. We will definitely reconnect again, talk about the state of things as these different visual channels start to evolve obviously we need to start thinking about VR and obviously a lot of companies are already deeply into AR and then you and I one day we’re going to have crack the code on this comic book thing.

DR. BRAD WYBLE: I would love to do that. This has been really fun.

BUDDY: Alright folks we’ll be right back after this quick break.



Dr. Brad Wyble Penn State University Profile

Wyble Lab

Dr. Brad Wyble on Google Scholar

Dr. Brad Wyble on Twitter


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