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Seven stages of action in action

Norman’s seven stages of action are meant to illustrate the mindset of individuals while in the process of performing a task. The stages themselves are:

  • Deciding the goal
  • Intention to act
  • Sequence of actions
  • Execution of the actions
  • Perceiving the state of the world
  • Interpreting the perception
  • Evaluating the outcome

I can show process in action through the example of unlocking a locked door. In this situation, a possible goal would be “To return back to my room after class”. The general acts required to achieve this goal would include walking back to my building, returning to my dorm room once inside the residence hall, and lastly entering. One possible intention to act that would follow from this is: “I need to unlock the door to my room”. The sequence of actions upon returning home would then have to include the act of unlocking my door in order to enter it; more specifically this would be “put my key in the lock, turn it and push the door open”. Finally, in order to accomplish the main objective here, I would need to reach my room and do all acts that have been previously described.

These initial four stages summarize the “Gulf of Execution” according to Norman, which specifically seem to encapsulate all the steps of this process that are dependent on my actions, namely my abilities, my knowledge of the device of the door lock itself, my memory of the process of unlocking something etc. More specifically, because the Gulf of Execution can be summarized as the gap between the idea of doing an action and that act coming to fruition, it can also depend on how much visibility or how many affordances are present in the device itself. If performing the function expected of me is far more intuitive, with qualities that possess some kind of a visual clue to its overall purpose, then this gulf would probably shrink, while if it is far more dependent on prior knowledge, it would grow. In this case, the design of the door would likely depend on the visibility of the keyhole and the ease of turning once the key is, implying a somewhat small Gulf of Execution as only those two steps would be required.

After this point, the remaining stages would depend more on the effects of the world/circumstance. Firstly, assuming that I am able to unlock the door, I would “perceive the state of the world”; in this case I would probably hear the sound of the door unlocking or see the key turn fully in the lock. After this, I would interpret what just happened, acknowledging that “the sound I just heard is associated with a door (un)locking”. Finally, the last step would be my evaluation that the door is now finally free to open, allowing me to push the door, enter and complete my initial objective.

In the case of the final three steps, the Gulf of Evaluation (the ease of noting whether the purpose of the devise has been accomplished) would also be very small considering how unique and apparent the sound of a door unlocking is to the average person. Because the gap between execution and evaluation is roughly instantaneous, since you would hear the bolt pretty much immediately after turning the key, it would be very easy to know if the device’s function has been completed. As a result, I would definitely say the model is quite straightforward, with the process being fully described by the seven stages.




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September 2015