Notice the placement of the ATM. It’s positioned such that the user is turned sideways, perpendicular to the restaurant hosting the ATM. This orientation means that the user is positioned such that she (a) directs her gaze towards the entrance of the competing deli next door (b) cannot see people leaving the restaurant behind her, (c) cannot see people coming down the sidewalk behind her, and (d) sees the kitchen of the restaurant only in her peripheral vision.

Smarter placement (i.e., positioning that would increase user safety and restaurant brand awareness) would have set the ATM perpendicular to the restaurant, so that the user would look into the kitchen as she completed her transactions. She is also able to see both directions of sidewalk traffic in her peripheral vision and can easily turn her head each way. She is better able to survey her environment, and the target of her gaze is the restaurant hosting the ATM.

More broadly, the ATM asks the question: how do design choices constrain the potential of our actions? There’s an element of environmental psychology to this, how the positioning of interactive features of our the environment guide our decisions and create circumstances that determine what we might do next. The very crux of this is that these process happen below the level of conscious awareness so that the conscious placement of the ATM can end up guiding unconscious decisions.

How aware are we of manipulation in our environment, whether positive or negative? How responsive are we to such manipulation?