Is that shiny new operating system really that much faster than the old one? Is it possible you’re just being tricked by optical illusions the user interface team implemented? Check out this short clip from New Scientist that explains some of the tricks used with progress bars.
Chris Harrison at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, working with Zhiquan Yeo and Scott Hudson, has shown that animated pop-up download progress bars which use visual illusions make the process seem around 10 per cent faster than it really is.
They then showed different pairs of either pulsing or rippling animations to 20 volunteers, with each mocked-up download lasting exactly 5 seconds. Many participants said that progress bars which pulsated increasingly quickly made the download time seem shorter than those that pulsated increasingly slowly.
A significant number also said downloads were faster when ripples in the progress bars moved to the left rather than to the right.
There are also other studies of how manipulating progress bars can twist our perception.