Why some people can’t cope with the Internet

Last week I had an email from a customer who simply said they were unable to log in to a new forum I had built for a group of my clients. They couldn’t see where to register and gave up. Their email was a desperate plea for help. The same customer had sent a similar email only a few weeks before because they couldn’t log on to another site they needed to use and asked me for my help. Now, new psychological research suggests that such individuals may actually have some kind of brain malfunction.

Every day I meet people who say “Oh I can’t get on with the Internet, it’s so confusing”. Or they complain that it’s complex, that there is a new “language” to learn. However, each of these people tries to use the Internet, even though they find it frustrating. What appears to happen is that they make a mistake – such as not being able to find the “register or log in” link – but don’t learn from their mistake. When they are faced with looking for a “register or log in” link on another site they haven’t learned from their attempts on previous web pages.

Research at the University of Minnesota has found that there is electrical activity in the brain of people who make mistakes and then learn from them. But this brain activity is missing in people who simply repeat the errors without ever learning from them.

So, people who get confused by the Internet may not actually be confused at all. They may simply be repeating the errors they make – such as not noticing that the “register or log in” link is almost always at the top left of a forum. In other words, whenever they are faced with a forum they repeat the error of not looking in the right place. According to this new research this could well be because they are missing an essential bit of brain functioning which helps other people learn from their mistakes. It’s not the Internet after all that is the problem – it’s a bit of biology.

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