During the course of my day, I have noticed human-technology interactions that have become so normal to me, that I have committed them to muscle-memory. Here are two examples:

  1. When attempting to wash my hands in a public restroom, I place my hands under the faucet. (I have been trained to expect censor-based faucets)

  2. When using any mobile phone, I swipe down when I want to see something further down. (I expect an iPhone-like user experience)

What human-technology interactions have been ingrained into you?

4 Answers 4


This is always a good quote from Douglas Adams to wheel out at this point:


1) everything that's already in the world when you're born is just normal;

2) anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it;

3) anything that gets invented after you're thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it - until it's been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really

Apply this list to movies, rock music, word processors and mobile phones to work out how old you are.

  • Wow, +1 for that great article!
    – JonW
    Commented May 10, 2011 at 15:33
  • Yes. I'd forgotten that the last 3 paragraphs predicted the rise of the Web 2.0 world about 8 years before it happened.
    – PhillipW
    Commented May 10, 2011 at 18:36
  • I guess, according to Douglas Adams, I'm under 30.
    – Mayo
    Commented Jan 7, 2015 at 16:35
  1. Being on a mac and iphone, pinch to zoom has ingrained in my mind.

  2. Clicking a sites logo takes me "home"

  3. Holding down the power off button will force shut off the device.

  4. I expect automatic looking doors to open

  5. I expect every coffee shop to have wi-fi (not sure if that counts)

  • 1
    #5 made me smile :)
    – Phil
    Commented May 10, 2011 at 15:13

I think that you will find that, over time, the answers to this question could change significantly. People grow accustomed to the way things work and once some new technology or method is familiar it then has a chance to become ingrained. Once that has happened it develops an inertia that can be difficult to shift to make way for something to replace it. Even something better. This is why developing a new UI control is such a difficult and, perhaps, risky thing to do. People get used to familiar UI controls even if they are crap ones.

Sometimes a new control or device does come along that in some way connects with humans in a new way, it becomes fashionable and then it has a chance to displace an ingrained interaction and in doing so become ingrained itself. This may be happening now with touch related technologies and gestures that we see in mobile devices. As it happens some of the controls and widgets used in mobile devices, partly because of the limited resources available on those devices, turn out to be good in general. It may happen that some ways of doing things will migrate from those platforms to our desktop machines as well.

I have noticed that the fact that interactions can be ingrained actually makes it hard to identify them, perhaps because they seem so obvious and unremarkable. This is why the following may come as a surprise to my US friends:

  • I expect light and power switches to be off when they are in the up position.
  • I expect the hot water faucet (tap) to be on the left.
  • I expect the traffic to be on my right when I cross the street.

I think jonshariat's number 5 will count if doesn't yet.

In the future I am sure that readers of this question would wonder why there was no mention of tactile surfaces, RFID sensors, voice recognition, and thought control - the ingrained human-technology interactions of the future?


I think these ingrained behaviours are a product of your age and your environment, but also how useful they are which, in turn, will decide how quickly you adopt them.

I have no expectation of taps (faucets) in toilets (restrooms) having sensors, even though they often do. I expect to have to push down on them and they will run for 30 seconds then shut-off when I'm only halfway done - similarly with light switches in public places.

I expect every new release of software by either Microsoft or Adobe to have totally new menu structures and different navigation so I will have to learn them all over again. This does however validate my rather OCD knowledge of keyboard shortcuts....

Being a Blackberry user, I expect my phone to have a qwerty keyboard and a unified inbox - even though I find the odds are increasingly stacked against me - and I design mobile phones for a living! (not for RIM)

I do, however expect any mouse to scroll horizontally as well as vertically.

My behaviours, and therefore my expectations, will change over time but as I get older and feel less-and-less the need to buy the 'latest and greatest' gadget my expectations are only that new things will be different, usually in some arbitrary way, and by the time I learn them they will have changed again.

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