Greetings fellow web designers! Thanks for all the thoughtful responses. Alas, I have no studies, other than my 11 years of interactive design experience, to back up what should be this patently obvious observation: Linking to the page you’re on confuses users.
Maybe it doesn’t confuse YOU because you do this every day. So if you’re making a site that’s only for you and those like you, by all means, do whatever you want.
But if you’re making a site that you want to reach a larger group, you have to remember that you are not your audience. And, lest we get caught up in a “users are stupid” debate, of course they are not. Web designers, on the other hand….
I challenge each and every one of the posters here to sit down with a less sophisticated user and watch them interact with the web. It could be a parent or a friend. Watch the focus on their face as their mind grapples with the very idea of hypertext. (The idea of clicking something to go to a new page was new to all of us at one time.)
Then watch them try to go somewhere, move the mouse over a link, click it, and wait for something to happen. Only it was a link to the page they were already on. THEN look at their face. See how long they wait. Ask them how they feel when they realize they were waiting for nothing to happen.
This is a textbook Bad Experience. Let’s stop rationalizing what’s convenient in code, and what we’ve gotten used to just because we do it every day, and start looking out for our actual users.
There are very few hard and fast rules in my internal web design handbook, but this is at the top of my no-no list.
Never, ever link to the page you’re on. Your users will thank you for it.