Bill Brandon, editor at the eLearning Guild just reminded me about Albert Mehrabian's conclusions regarding how humans determine whether we like one another. Mehrabian and his colleagues wanted to determine the relative influence of facial expressions and spoken words in human relations. After various experiments where subjects read words, listened to words spoken, and watched someone speak specific words, Mehrabian et al. concluded that the totality of interpersonal communication is conveyed:
- 7% through spoken word
- 38% through voice tone
- 55% via general body language
To be sure, these exact numbers can and have been challenged. But the relative influence of these communication modalities is generally accepted.
These findings have important implications for those designing immersive environments. Take, for example, a frequent in-world situation where a user must gather information and apply it in a new, potentially ambiguous context. The designer must decide the best way to present the new information and the best way to present the context for the user to apply it. Is a block of text the right way to set this up? Perhaps voice-over will assist in smoothing out ambiguities. Maybe an NPC with a facial expression or a gesture will be necessary to convey the full meaning, particularly when feedback is involved.
The process of design can be greatly informed by this awareness, as well. How do you develop and review storyboards? Is this an entirely paper-based process? Or, do you do storyboard walkthroughs with reviewers taking different "roles" so that the review is active, participatory, and more "life-like"?
While these details may seem to be more trouble than they're worth, it's this attention to detail that can make the difference between a transformational experience for your users and just another (maybe) learning event.