Circos Brand Karma

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What Do You Really Want?

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Being a music buff, “This is Your Brain on Music” by Daniel Levitin was a page turner for me on a recent flight to Asia.  I found the description on the multiple-trace memory models to be particularly enlightening.

Here’s what Levitin had to say about why some music evoke certain feelings, while others don’t:

According to the multiple-trace memory models, every experience is potentially encoded in memory… memories are encoded in groups of neurons that, when set to proper values and configured in a particular way, will cause a memory to be retrieved and replayed in the theater of our minds.  The barrier to being able to recall everything we might want to is not that it wasn’t “stored” in memory then; rather, the problem is finding the right cue to access the memory and properly configure our neural circuits… In theory, if we only had the right cues, we could access any past experience… unique cues are the most effective at bringing up memories; the more items or contexts a particular cue is associated with, the less effective is will be at bringing up a particular memory.  This is why, although certain songs may be associated with certain times of your life, they are not very effective cues for retrieving memories from those times if the songs have continued to play all along and you’re accustomed to hearing them…  But as soon as we hear a song that we haven’t heard since a particular time in our lives, the floodgates of memory open and we’re immersed in memories.  The song has acted as a unique cue, a key unlocking all the experiences associated with the memory for the song, its time and place.  (Excerpt from This is Your Brain on Music, page 165-166)

Part of our user interface today uses descriptive words to cue experiences that our users really want.  This is why we show a list of these words in the user interface.  Our belief is that people want to tell a search engine more than just subject matter keywords, but they may need cues to describe the experience they seek because a blank textbox isn’t an effective “cue” for recalling desired experiences (except perhaps, filling out a form), and so searchers stick with the common and over-used subject matter keywords, thereby being deluged with non-specific results.

These aren’t the kind of queries that searchers do today, because with an experience like this

there’s no cue to activate a searcher’s imagination even if what s/he wants is something more than a plain old hotel or restaurant in NYC.  If you don’t get to ask, you can never get an answer!


Written by Morris

May 12, 2008 at 6:53 am

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