By Mona Sakr

Antle, Corness & Droumeva (2009) consider the importance of embodied metaphors in user interface design.

An embodied metaphor links elements of an embodied schema to an abstract concept. For example, we use verticality to talk about hierarchy (‘going up the career ladder’) and proximity to talk about relationships (‘they’re so close!’).

How can these types of metaphor aid the development of intuitive interfaces i.e. interfaces that offer immediate success and do what you expect them to. Antle et al. predicted that interaction in a digital environment was better supported when the body was used to control output, rather than a particular input device, and when the the link between whole-body movement and output relies on typical embodied metaphors.

To explore this, they looked at adults in an auditory environment in which whole body movements could be used to control pitch and volume. Rather than tell participants what types of movement would control sound, they observed how long participants took to determine the link between input and output. When this was done quickly, they recognised the interaction as ‘intuitive’. As predicted, common embodied metaphors (e.g. volume being related to up/down movements) helped participants to interact with the digital environment in a more intuitive way.

In conclusion, the researchers suggested that this highlighted the importance of ‘leveraging embodied metaphors in design’ (p. 252).

Antle, A. N., Corness, G., & Droumeva, M. (2009). Human-computer-intuition? Exploring the cognitive basis for intuition in embodied interaction. International Journal of Arts and Technology, 2(3), 235-254.