However, the word engagement is thrown around so often these days that it’s easy to dismiss it as simply marketing rhetoric. Drill a little deeper however, and the concept of engagement and what an engaging service is, starts to direct us toward some essential aspects of the relationship between the brain and the body. Recent research I’ve been doing also gives us another point of view around why mobile is so deeply engaging vs. some of the other screen experiences – even over Tablets funnily enough.
The most engaging mobile apps tend to be the ones that follow my three rules of NeuroCX, but also ones that audiences can do ‘on the move‘. That is to say, apps that take less concentration and encourage smaller more natural actions. We may be tempted to answer, given our heritage, that the central, most defining feature of our brain is its capacity for pure thought. But neuroscientists have recently discovered that conscious, rational thought is more of a bit-player in the drama that is our mental life and there are in fact a lot more factors than simply just ‘thought‘ involved in deep, engaging experiences.
One of my favourite thinkers is a man called Daniel Wolpert, he’s an engineer and neuroscientist at the University of Cambridge. He provides us with an intriguing answer to the question of ‘why do we have a brain?‘. Daniel tells the tale of a distant cousin of humans, a sea squirt called the Tunicate. The Tunicate is born with a small brain, called a cerebral ganglion, complete with an eyespot for sensing light and an otolith, a primitive organ which senses gravity and permits the Tunicate to orientate itself horizontally or vertically. In its larval stage the Tunicate swims freely about the sea searching for rich feeding grounds. When it finds a promising spot it cements itself, head-first, to the sea floor. It then proceeds to injest it’s own brain, using the nutrients to build its siphons and tunic like body. Swaying gently in the ocean currents, filtering nutrients from passing water, the Tunicate lives out its days without the need or burden of a brain.
To Wolpert, and many like-minded scientists, the Tunicate is sending us a very important message from our evolutionary past – if you do not need to move, you do not need a brain! The brain is essentially the control room that coordinates motion, movement and action. Keeping the body moving is kind of why we exist. So it makes sense that deeply engaging experiences are ones we can either do on the move, or ones that actually encourage us to move as we do them. We do not regard information as a computer would, dispassionately; we react to it physically. Our body and brain rev up and down together and to understand just how our body affects our brain we should first recognise that they evolved together, one has never been ahead of the other.
What’s also fascinating to me, is this idea those somatic and visceral signals from the body as we move feed-back on the brain during activity, biasing our thinking – our attention, mood, memory – so that the brain is in synch with the physical task we’re engaged in. In modern humans the body and the brain exchange a torrent of information within every task and action. Thinking about the options open to us at any given moment, scrolling through the possibilities, triggers a rapid series of somatic shifts. You can often see this in a persons face when they think – eyes widening or squinting, pupils dilating, skin flushing or blanching, facial expressions as labile and fleeting as the weather. All thoughts involving choice or action involve a kaleidoscopic shift from one bodily state to another. Choice is a whole body activity. So it figures that experiences that involve more than just your fingers and your brain will be more engaging.
Services you do on the move are more engaging. Scientific fact. How’s this for a thought;
Welcome to Eden Banks mobile Current Account Application – We would encourage you to go for a walk around the neighbourhood during this process.
There’s no hard and fast rule for creating engagement, and you can’t start stripping experience design down to a layer of digital determinism, but there are clearly facts emerging that begin to help us understand that when the body and the mind are operating in tandem an audience is more potently engaged. So start designing experiences that encourage motion, movement, action and real-world interaction and you’re onto a very positive neurological and biological recipe for success.