Tog on panic

Happened across an excellent article: "Panic! How It Works and What to Do About It." It's by legendary interface designer Bruce "Tog" Tognazzini, but it's mostly not really about design; it's about panic situations in the real world, and especially in situations like SCUBA diving and small-airplane piloting.

I've learned, sadly, that I'm totally useless in an emergency. I freeze up. I start thinking things like "I know there's something you're supposed to do in this situation; I wonder what it is?" It's common for people to say that everything goes into slow motion in an emergency, but for me everything speeds up; the situation is generally over before I have a chance to react, even mentally.

Tog suggests that repeated experience of simulated panic situations can help; that may well be true. But I think for me, my usual risk-averseness probably serves me in good stead. If you know your car doesn't perform well enough to get you out of dangerous situations, then you can work on avoiding getting into dangerous situations. And I think the same goes for brain performance.

Of course, dangerous situations can happen no matter what you do. I've been in several of them despite my best efforts. But I now think it's probably just as well that I gave up on motorcycling and never pursued piloting (after getting through ground school).

I sure would like to try hang gliding some day, though. But I'll probably stick to the equivalent of bunny slopes.

2 Responses to “Tog on panic”

  1. M. Hogarth

    Oddly enough, this explains why I’m good in emergencies. Interesting link… thanks for posting it. 🙂

  2. Jenn Reese

    This is only tangentially related:

    When I was studying website usability, I read that when deciding what link to click, the average user does not look at the whole page, assess her options, and then choose the link that best fits her needs.

    Instead, the user reacts in much the same way that a firefighter or cop or emergency person is trained to react: she scans the page until she sees the first viable response and chooses that one.

    I find this fascinating and, in my own experience, absolutely true.


Join the Conversation