Tag Archives: Affordance

Affordance of Etiquette

How do you know that doors should always open inwards? How do you know that doors without a pulling handle ought to be pushed? Why do pop-up menus come with only yes/no buttons, why are there no seats at the order counter in mcdonalds? Those are easy questions, the real one is why do you not ask these questions?  

A group of psychologists (and computer scientists) have been designing doors (for example) so that they know exactly how you are going to go through it. I must add that they are yet to design a door for burglars. If this design elites sound like a conspiracy theory… ummm its because this page is designed to make you think so.  


If you have entertained the thought of going in to your house by


 pulling the door outwards, you must ve been in for a suprise because it wouldn’t have opened. It is called Affordance (and its not the name of the secret society behind this conspiracy). Affordance is a design feature that guides a user of an object to its proper use, by making it very difficult  to do otherwise. So when next you see the play and pause buttons on your media player on the same button then know that some genius decided that you should never be able to press play and pause at the same time.



Well, these are the social and moral standards that a culture abides by; the codes of conduct.


True Value of Etiquette

On a shallow reading of etiquette practices, it seems nothing more than a ritual. wash your hands before you eat, say your prayers before you sleep, greet people when you meet, give a farewell before you depart, dont talk while eating. Ofcourse the reasons for these are appealing: health, peace of mind, politeness, to display sophistication etc.

But the true value of Etiquette is its Affordance property. The logic is that Etiquettes become norms, it is easier for us to be normal, we try not to be abnormal (lest we be labeled weirdos).

Etiquettes are not very valuable in themselves but in normality they create, and the uncomfortable-ness they impress on you for not following them . In an office setting, imagine passing by your boss first thing in the morning and not acknowledging them with a greeting/smile. You don’t have to think they deserve the greeting but to not greet them in your head will be like trying to press and play buttons at the same time. The brave and crafty ones could find a way, but I will not expect any good music to be playing afterwards.


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