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Two Insightful Psych Phenomena Every Jewelry Maker Needs To Know

Posted by learntobead on April 23, 2020

The First Cognitive Thing The Viewer Wants To Do Is Make A Complete Circle

The Cognitive Processes of the Viewer

As a Designer, one thing you need to anticipate is how the piece will be viewed and understood. It turns out that jewelry plays some very important psychological functions for both the wearer and the viewer. By understanding these perceptual and cognitive processes, you the designer have some powerful information to play with. Here I discuss two cognitive processes that happen immediately when the viewer first interacts with a piece of jewelry.

When a viewer walks into a room, and in the room is a stranger who also happens to be wearing a necklace, the viewer has to very quickly determine whether the situation is safe or not. We are pre-wired with an anxiety response, so that we can assess the situation almost instantaneously, and flee or fight, so to speak. The eye/brain looks for clues. One clue is provided by the necklace the stranger in the room is wearing. The eye/brain focuses on the jewelry and performs two simple tests.

When our viewer first cognitively interacts with the piece, her eye/brain tries to “make a complete circle around the piece”. Very simple: Make a Complete Circle. If something about the piece slows her down, or otherwise disrupts this natural cognitive process of trying to visualize a complete circle, she begins to feel some anxiety or discomfort or edginess. This might be a clasp that doesn’t coordinate well with the beadwork. It might be an inappropriate or poor use of color, shape, texture, pattern, or size. It might be a clasp assembly that takes up too much space along the yoke of the piece.

The eye/brain looks to see a complete circle. The viewer, in turn, begins to react to and translate this situation, where things get in the way of or somehow disrupt the process of visualizing that complete circle, as seeing the piece as monotonous or boring or ugly or some other negative, less satisfying characteristic or scary or will cause death. If the brain gets edgy, then the interpretation of the stimuli becomes a negative emotion-laden response. The viewer’s anxiety response is telling this person that it may be time to consider turning around and fleeing, instead of going forward, approaching or even fighting.

These negative traits of the jewelry quickly get associated by implication, with the wearer. The wearer begins to get defined as monotonous or boring or ugly or some other negative, less satisfying characteristic or scary or will cause death. As a designer, you don’t want this to happen.

The Second Cognitive Thing The Brain Wants To Do Is Find A Natural Place For The Eye To Come To Rest

The second thing the brain tries to do, after making that complete circle, is “come to rest.” The eye/brain looks for a natural place to come to rest.

We usually achieve this by creating a focal point. We might use a pendant. We might graduate the size of the beads, or graduate the color intensity or value.

In a very simple piece, the clasp assembly itself might be the natural place for the eye/brain to come to rest. In pieces where there is not a natural place for the eye/brain to make a complete circle and then come to rest, the brain starts to get edgy and feel some anxiety. The piece, in turn, begins to get interpreted as monotonous, boring, ugly, some other negative, less satisfying characteristic, scary, will cause death.

As the piece gets labeled, so does the wearer. Again, you don’t want this to happen. Not to the wearer when wearing one of your pieces. As the viewer runs screaming from the room.

People are prewired with an avoidance response. This occurs in our brain-stem. This protects the viewer from things like snakes and spiders, by making them want to avoid things which are ugly or dangerous.

When someone views the jewelry for the first time, they have to interpret it. One cultural and often subconscious reason people wear jewelry is to make people feel comfortable around them.

As a designer, you can anticipate all this. You now know that the viewer, cognitively when interacting with a piece of jewelry, will first try to make a complete circle, and then will want the eye to come to rest. Otherwise, the brain will start to get edgy and feel anxiety. The person might want to turn around and flee.

The eye/brain wants to make a complete circle, then come to rest.

Design accordingly.

Just one more note: Our brains process a lot of information at once — what we call parallel processing. Other perceptions cognitions co-occuring withthe anxiety response might mitigate the viewer’s reaction. Or might amplify it. Who knows?

Below are two images of one of the entries to our The Ugly Necklace Contest, which somewhat illustrates the point about what happens cognitively. The image on the left shows the whole necklace. The image on the right shows the lower half of the necklace. Look at each image. For each, get a feeling for how motivated you are to make the complete circle, or how satisfied you feel about the necklace.

NECKLACE FULL VERSION: With these beads and this rhythm and configuration, are you less motivated to make the complete circle around the whole piece, or less satisfied when doing so?
NECKLACE CUT IN HALF VERSION: With the necklace shown shorter, with these beads and this rhythm and configuration, are you more motivated to make the complete circle around the whole piece, or more satisfied when doing so?

People typically find that the full version takes more work to motivate yourself to make the complete circle. While the beads vary a bit, they are basically the same color tone. A pattern is set in the lower half of the piece, and the upper half adds little or no new information to excite the viewer. It becomes more work to make that complete circle. It becomes boring.

In the half version, people feel a little more satisfied with it. The artist has made her point, without additional repetition of what feels like monotonous components. People see it as less monotonous, less boring, less ugly. (…And of course, less scary and less likely to cause death.)

In this necklace, the designer created a pendant drop as the natural place rest. There is some awkward treatment, positioning and placement of the protruding elements near the bottom of the necklace, which makes the place to come to rest it a little less satisfying.

Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

Oy Ve! The Challenges of Custom Work

The Importance of Self-Promotion: Don’t Be Shy

Are You Prepared For When The Reporter Comes A-Calling?

Don’t Just Wear Your Jewelry…Inhabit It!

Two Insightful Psych Phenomena Every Jewelry Designer Needs To Know

A Dog’s Life by Lily

Copyrighting Your Pieces: Let’s Not Confuse The Moral With The Legal Issues

Jewelry, Sex and Sexuality

Jewelry Design: An Occupation In Search Of A Profession

Teaching Discplinary Literacy: Strategic Thinking In Jewelry Design

Contemporary Jewelry Is Not A “Look” — It’s A Way Of Thinking

Beads and Race

Were The Ways of Women or of Men Better At Fostering How To Make Jewelry

The Bridesmaid Bracelets

I hope you found this article useful. Be sure to click the CLAP HANDS icon at the bottom of this article.

Also, check out my website (www.warrenfeldjewelry.com).

Subscribe to my Learn To Bead blog (https://blog.landofodds.com).

Visit Land of Odds online (https://www.landofodds.com)for all your jewelry making supplies.

Enroll in my jewelry design and business of craft video tutorials online.

Add your name to my email list.

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