While putting away the cutlery I noticed that I always do it one kind at a time: all the knives, then all the forks, etc. While this may simply be a sign of an obsessive personality, I realised there was a general psychological principle at work here.
We often make the distinction between recognition and recall and know, as interface designers, that the former is easier, especially for infrequently used features, e.g. menus rather than commands.
In the cutlery tray task the trade-off is between a classification task “here is an item what kind is it?” versus a visual recognition one “where is the next knife”. The former requires a level of mental processing and is subject to Hick’s law, whereas the latter depends purely on lower level visual processing, a pop-out effect.
I am wondering whether this has user interface equivalents. I am thinking about times when one is sorting things: bookmarks, photos, even my own snip!t. Sometimes you work by classification: select an item, then choose where to put it; for others you choose a category (or an album) and then select what to put in it. Here the ‘recognition’ task is more complex and not just visual, but I wonder if the same principle applies?
Sounds like a good dissertation project!