Sunday, November 27, 2016

It is important to read all the warnings and precautions first

I was surprised to learn from "Why We Make Mistakes" by Joseph Hallinan that I am not alone.  I thought with my habitual impatience and eagerness, I was more or less the only one who plunges ahead without reading the manual.  Now I find that RTFM is a well-known set of letters to stand for the exasperated growl "Read the F* Manual!".  Education professors who work with young people wishing to become teachers are familiar with the notion that many have that "If I told them, they know it".  This idea can be extended to "If they read it, they know it."  The original and the extension are quite wrong.

I read today that with a high-end automobile comes a 700 page manual.  I saw a reference that one study found that 69% of a group did not read the manual.  Why?  I suspect that our experience with manuals is that they are not helpful.  When I read that it is important to read all the warnings and precautions first, I suspect that I am being manipulated and I don't mean in a good way.  

As a consumer and end-user, I am familiar with pages of legalese which attempt to forestall any liability or culpability (I learned these terms from documents I said I agreed with but did not, could not understand) when a product exposes me to dangers and financial scams or other losses and regrets.  I am familiar with the advanced language that says, "Sorry, that didn't work as it should.  Try again later."

One of the most interesting results of a search "How many people don't read the manual?" was this
It is from an unnamed document that says
You've already unpacked it, haven't you? You've unpacked it and plugged it in and turned it on and fiddled with the knobs, and now your four-year old child, the same child who once shoved a Polish sausage into your new VCR and pressed fast forward, this child is also fiddling with the knobs, right? We might as well just break these devices right at the factory before we ship them out, you know that?"

The page from an Australian website goes on to say:
Why don't people read manuals?
There are two reasons:
First, deeply entrenched in the human psyche is a little voice that says, "You can work it out – and it will be too hard to find what you need to know in the manual anyway".
Second, they are invariably right about the manual.
Manuals are often hard to follow and some tend to bury the information that users need amongst other related but irrelevant information.

See? That's the thing about our minds, collectively the finest cognitive organs in the universe: they notice instances.  If you and I have a natural impulse to skip the manual, it is likely because we have tried previous manuals only to find that we had to fall back on that technical activity mentioned above: fiddling.  Experimenting, watching, trying and re-trying may have already shown your brain they are the fastest, most fun and least injurious approaches.

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