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.