All posts tagged design

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Green curved flames

Attract, Attach

I’ve been conducting this really fascinating experiment at conferences and talks recently – I ask people to unlock their mobile phones & swap them with the person sitting next to them so they can both snoop through their apps & information. Try it, the reaction is quite remarkable.

Over the last 10 years we’ve created this incredible phenomenon – The connection to our tech, data and apps is quite remarkable. It’s brilliant to observe.

People are glued to their screens late into the night & then waking up at dawn and checking their tweets before they’ve said good morning to their loved ones. We’re posting extravagant status updates and self-revealing blog posts – Laying it all out bare for the world to judge us. I know people who are conducting deep, connected relationships with people they’ve never met from continents they’ve never even visited. This is frontier land. We’ve drenched society in digitally induced chemicals that bestow focus (and sometimes a distinct lack of!) and new levels of stamina and vigour towards micro tasks. The motivating engine of the brain firing on more cylinders than ever before.

Why the connection to tech?

Scans of the brains of people so deeply attached to digital have found that when they’re focusing on a goal, a whole host of brain parts start to light up. The two most important ones are the caudate nucleus – part of the primitive reptilian brain, which is usually only highly active in amorous individuals – and the brain areas associated with dopamine and norepinephrine production. Both of those brain chemicals are associated with pleasurable activities and excitement. Of course, dopamine is what gets released when you take a hit of cocaine, too – so it’s not surprising that for the brain, handing over your phone to a stranger is like handing someone your last gram of cocaine.

Go a day without your phone. I dare you. Some of you will start to feel the same sort of emotional pain that you might feel if say, someone broke into your house & stole your most personal belongings.

The human memory is short and terribly fickle

But what does that mean if you’re going to enter the arena and try and create the next big thing? Let’s say you’ve dreamt up a product that you want people to use everyday and you’re the kind of entrepreneurial go-getter who is well up for chasing that dragon to market no matter what. You’ve got a seriously big problem amigo, because literally hundreds of thousands of games, productivity tools and other apps are already in the market, and thousands more are launching every week. Many big, bold entrepreneurial thinkers are finding that their ideas aren’t so unique after all.

Here’s a startling fact – 21% of people who download a new app never look at it more than once. All that effort and expense building the perfect product and service only to see over 1 in 5 of them leave before they’ve even got started.

There’s another weird anomaly too – Even well heeled companies with big marketing budgets don’t always hold sway over the little bedroom developers a lot of the time. The UX is tight, the research is solid, the app looks good enough to eat & then pppppsssssssssssssssss… nobody uses it. But hang on a minute, it was meant to be one of the game-changers, the new-new. Total heartbreak for someone who’s given it their all.

Don’t cry, you probably just forgot the audience are human

Things are never as simple as they seem. There’s a lot more going on than meets the eye. Things you could never have possibly know.

Have you ever heard of oxytocin? It’s sometimes called the “hormone of love”. It’s a lovely little chemical that one. Studies have shown that oxytocin plays a crucial role in bonding; when released in your brain during certain types of experiences, it’s what makes you bond to someone or something. It’s also involved in other corollary emotional responses, like trust-building and empathy. So that could be it right there – Your app was as good as the one before, and better than the one that will come after, but you became a #FAIL because you just didn’t quite nail the Trust & Empathy factors.

Spend less time on the shiny stuff & focus instead on building trust and empathising with the audience – #WINNER

There’s now also a lot of research on oxytocin that suggests a dark side to the so-called love hormone. While affecting positive behaviours of trust and bonding, it can also affect opposite behaviours like jealousy, envy, and suspicion. Oxytocin triggers and amplifies social feelings of all types, not just the positive, feel-good ones. When the person’s association to an app or service is positive, oxytocin bolsters pro-social behaviours; when the association is negative, the hormone increases negative sentiments. So that’s another reason you have to get the chat-up-line right… if it stinks, you’ve lost the audience in spectacular style and there is no second chance in todays hormone fuelled marketplace.

What if your app is great, but the ‘when’ and ‘where’ isn’t?

Here’s an interesting factor – Maybe someone just downloaded it at the wrong time? But what can we do to always make the wrong time, the right time? Recent studies have showed that listening to your favourite music has a similar effect on your brain as other pleasure-inducing activities like having sex. MRI scans reveal that when you listen to music that excites you, your brain releases dopamine during the most exciting moments of the song and even in anticipation of those moments. So what if you can get a person to play their favourite song at the same time as downloading and interacting with your shiny, new, same-same-but-different app or service app for the first time? That new factor alone might give you the edge and stop you being ditched by the 21% of people who download it but never look at it more than once. It sounds bonkers, but it’s true.

Before you get started, whack a tune on dude!

Shake, rattle & keep rolling

Novelty is one of the key factors in driving brain plasticity. I don’t mean making your product like a small and inexpensive toy or ornament either, I mean mix it up. Really mix it upA lot. Research shows us that novelty can, in fact, help keep a relationship fresh and rewarding. Engaging in fun, exciting, and new experiences even within the same, familiar, experience can get the dopamine and norepinephrine flowing and reward your brain as if it was the first time you’d downloaded it and the thing felt fresh.

Summary

So just remember you’re designing for humans & humans are full of all sorts of weirdy chemicals and stuff. Get someone to stick on a favourite song, inject a big dose of empathy, because these people are taking the time out of their already addicted lives to focus on you for 5 minutes. Find something that makes you trustworthy and if all that works and they start to open the app regularly, shake it up amigo and you’re almost there.

Now… luck… THAT… we cannot codify.

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The Genius of Design from the @BBC

In 2010 the BBC ran an amazing Documentary series exploring the history of design. Covering all the angles of the design process it’s a really amazing tribute to our trade. Here are all 5 parts collected for you in one place.

Part 1 – Ghosts In The Machine

The first episode of this new series tells the fascinating story of the birth of industrial design. Alongside the celebrated names, from Wedgwood to William Morris.

Part 2 – Designs For Living

In the crisis-stricken decades of the 1920s and 1930s, with the world at the tipping point between two global wars, design suggested dramatically different ideas about the shape of things to come.

Part 3 – Blueprints For War

The Genius of Design examines the Second World War through the prism of the rival war machines designed and built in Germany, Britain, the USSR and the USA.

Part 4 – Better Living Through Chemistry

The story of design enters the 50s and 60s, when a revolutionary new material called plastic combined with the miracles of electronic miniaturisation.

Part 5 – Objects of Desire

Picking up the story of design from the drab days of the late 70s, the final episode tracks the explosion of wild creativity that defined the ‘designer decades’ of the 80s and early 90s.

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The Biological Power of Push and Pull

On the 28th February 2015, in front of c1500 people at TEDx I stood up and launched my campaign against dumb, linear problem solving digital services.

Someone had said to me last year when I told them I’d got TEDx;

Oh no… you’re not going to stand up and do the hormones and Tinder rant are you?” …Whoops. I did it again.

You haven’t picked the REALLY big TEDx event, have you?” …Double whoops. Go big or go home, right?

When I set up Nexus explicitly as a behavioural design company, I had a mission in mind – to use technology to “Better connect people to digital experiences” and help people learn about themselves, evolve and get smarter.

In order to do all of that, I have to draw a line through the services out there that fundamentally rub up against my design philosophy (basically, all the ones that make us biologically dumber) and there was no better place for me to do that than on those hallowed boards, in the circle, in front of the big red TED.

I’m a fraud. It’s true.

We all know what I am and what I’m not… I’m not a neuroscientist. I’m a strategist. An experience planner. A designer with an unhealthy fascination in brain science – What a dangerous concoction I am.

Since the age of Mad Men, marketers have tried to tap into the human subconscious, basically try to influence consumers to buy their products. We worked out a long time ago that the brain reacts in a unique way when it spots a famous brand name or logo. You see, it doesn’t treat it like any other word or picture, instead it activates parts of the brain normally used to process emotions, and so you could argue that we, in the design community, on behalf of brands, have always been in the habit-forming, brain manipulation business. It’s what we’re paid to do. It’s our job. But a lot of agencies out there who worked out the emotions and story-telling trick have just used it to sell more ‘stuff’.

I say – Shame on you people. The brain is a really fragile, incredible thing. Respect it. We should be using this incredible opportunity we have to break habits, not create them. Stimulate the brain in good ways.

The Times They Are a-Changin’

10 years ago things started to get really juicy and in a big way. The invention of the iPhone started flooding the market with a new type of design – ‘The App’.

Apps suddenly brought digital design into the pockets of the people on a huge huge scale. Directing us like drones with instantaneous gratification and rewards galore. At best guess, about 1.5 billion smartphones were in use by the end of 2014 – That’s a lot of apps being consumed by people. But it’s also created a problem and a really really big one – Enthusiastic designers, creating stupider people.

The brain solves problems in two ways and it’s got nothing to do with the whole left-brain, right-brain tripe that is on posters all over the world too. That’s total nonsense.

There is linear problem-solving, which includes problems that have only one solution and are usually often better solved analytically. An example of a linear problem might be choosing to say yes or no, or left of right… a simplification of something.

Then there are complex, nonlinear problems which can have more than one solution and are solved much better with a different kind of thinking. They require non-conscious thinking. These types of problems are what we often refer to as Insight Problems. These types of problems require creativity – the ability to combine information in a whole new way.

The intense repetition of a task creates new, stronger neural pathways associated with that particular task. So the more Linear and Non Linear tasks people do, the stronger the brain learns to think in that particular way. As a person becomes an expert in a particular thing, the areas of the brain associated with those tasks actually grow. It’s why we get better at what we do if we do it repeatedly. Contrary to popular belief, this is not limited to children or youth either… but people of all ages.

So guess what happens if you make someone continuously perform a Linear task? You teach the brain to get simpler… you dumb people down.

Bus Drivers & Taxi Drivers

Here’s an example of how the intense repetition of a linear and non linear task affects us. There’s a really neat area of the brain called the hippocampus. It has a specialised role in developing the skill used to solve problems & navigate routes. It’s basically one of the bits of the brain that make us smarter and more analytical.
Now a Bus drivers hippocampus is much smaller than a Taxi Drivers because it’s under-stimulated. They drive the same route day after day. They’re Linear problem solvers.

Where-as Taxi drivers have a much bigger, more stimulated hippocampus because everyday they get to choose their own destiny. They solve creative challenges. They’re Non-linear problem solvers.

As a design community we’ve become rather obsessed with turning everyone into Bus Drivers for some reason. Everybody wants to make things simpler and on a massive massive scale. What an epic fail that is for humanity. Back in the day a chap called Einstein made this quote;

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler

We might have wanted to pay a bit more attention to Mr Einstein, but in the last few years the tables on the app store have started tipping dramatically towards the Linear side of the equation.

I call it the Solve and Evolve paradox.

The Biological Power of Push and Pull

Here’s the next part of the story. The bit that’s going to get me into trouble. What a lot of people aren’t aware of is that both types of problem solving encourage lots of hormonal & biological responses. Digital is effectively a biological activity in as much as it encourages different types of hormones to be released in response to the content of the activity or task.

When you engage in digital services hormones are released almost instantaneously and recent research showed that something like a steroid hormone can alter almost every function of our body, from Growth to Shape to Metabolism to the Immune functions and even of course our brains – its mood and memory – possibly even someone’s personality and behaviour.

So the more we encourage people to use a particular app or service that hasn’t even been planned with some of the above in mind (literally) it could be doing two things;

  • Making people stupider
  • Messing about with peoples physiology

You think I’m joking don’t you? I wish I was. Let’s take my old nemesis Tinder on a test drive. Now there’s a dirty little app that hit the market 18 months ago. It’s been nicknamed by scientists as one of the most addictive apps on the market.

This type of new linear digital mating ritual did not even exist until a few years ago, so it’s really a totally new frontier. A whole uncharted set of triggers, behaviours and reactions designed in an app-developers head and released into the wild with very little thought beyond the potential to change the dating game.

Here’s the story of what’s going on…

You find a couple of people in close proximity to you that tickle your pickle, so you swipe them to the right to let them know you’re nearby & interested. Each swipe with your finger sets off a small chain-reaction of events within your body that can be as narcotic as crack.

Your body has gone into adrenaline high-alert in anticipation and swings full throttle through the gears of excitement, stress, anxiety and joy. At least four emotions in one swipe & in literally seconds. That’s pretty cool huh. Designers don’t tend to think about the emotions that come during or after an interaction only really the interaction itself.

At the same time the adrenal glands are starting to produce the hormone testosterone, which is what we call an anabolic steroid and one seriously potent chemical. Testosterone fans out across the body & starts to have its physical effect almost instantaneously. It also returns to the brain, changing the very way people are going to think and more importantly behave.

It just increased peoples confidence and also their appetite for risk.

There’s a really cool side effect of Testosterone feedback loop too… it involves success and failure.

Both male or female, regardless or what happens next, whether they succeed or whether they fail, they actually emerge with much higher levels of testosterone than when you first opened that app. Those elevated levels of testosterone give you a sort of androgenic priming. It gives you the edge, making your reactions much much quicker.

Over the years Scientists have replicated these effects with athletes, and believe the testosterone feedback loop may actually explain winning and losing streaks in sports.

This is total body re-engineering using just your thumb, an app and a photo of someone near-by. But what goes up must also come down… There’s a flip side to winning streaks of course. When you lose, you go the opposite way. Quite literally crashing into the opposite end of the spectrum.

There’s something else going on too – It has to do with the amount of time we let people play on these apps and services.

Adrenaline coupled with Testosterone were really evolutions way of making you run fast enough to get away from a bear in the woods. But after a prolonged siege the body also does something else.

After playing on services like Tinder for roughly 20mins or longer (it varies dramatically between men, woman, big, small, old, young etc), another part of the brain tells the hypothalamus to send a chemical message to the pituitary gland. This message has caused another hormone to start leaking out of the adrenal glands and across your body to take over from the testosterone and this one is the really really nasty one. It’s called Cortisol.

Cortisol is another steroid hormone. Only this one is released in response to stress and anxiety and not excitement or fear. But what we’ve done is trick it to be released during what was actually designed to be, effectively, a leisure activity. Cortisol kicks in to support us during a long siege & hangs around in the body for quite a while.

Cortisol has one main far-reaching command – glucose now – It starts to dismantle your body at a biological level. So people who pull out their phone to play on apps like tinder for a couple of minutes, are running off testosterone which is great. Get stuck in pal. But if people are spending 20, 30, 40 minutes at it, then they’re running off Coritsol, which has in effect ordered a complete re-tooling of your body away from leisure and ready for all out war… we’re letting people eat their own bodies.

We’re encouraging the body to react to stress. We’ve designed Stress.

So not only are we teaching the brain to get stupider by repeatedly making people perform a linear task to find the future Mr or Mrs Smith, we’ve also just induced stress in everybody finding love at first swipe for more than 15 or 20 mins.

Back to the mission

So why have I told you all this? Well – It’s pretty basic… I imagine a lot of you have never even stopped and considered that all these little digital experiences we’re creating have such an amazing effect on us physically, psychology etc. They’re just apps, right? But with every swipe, touch, pixel and ping we’re changing ourselves and the people around us.

If an idea is worth spreading, it’s that we need to make sure we design experiences that are non-linear and that they create short bursts of positive ripples rather than long bursts of negative ones.

Nexus is a company I’ve formed to start using all these amazing little biological quirks to create products that start to have positive effects. That bring these learnings into industries and services that probably have just had teams of really talented designers and user experience people happily designing away with no real legitimate reason to stop and consider what it is they’re actually designing from a biological or psychological feedback perspective (don’t even get me started on the Stamford Marshmallow Test!).

There’s another thought too – What if we could create products that actually start to reverse the effects of atrophy in the hippocampus and amygdala – make people smarter and more analytical? Make people less stressed or depressed?

We’re collecting an incredible amount of data about people and I want to use that data to start to map the human psyche. Help understand our motivations and design the right kind of services that support those motives, rather than random stress inducing dumb ones that make us stupider and eat us.

Don’t dumb down say, banking. Make the people doing banker smarter.

I’ve got nothing against bus drivers, they get me to where I want to go… but I really want to do is start helping people aspire to be taxi drivers… metaphorically speaking anyway.

Live long and prosper.

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B = f(P,E)

Behaviour

Design revolves around finding a pain point or gap and then creating a solution for it. That’s the essence of what good design is and what good design should be. But my design interests have always sat slightly to the left or right of that core principle. What drives me is the reasons, behaviours and cognitive biases that make someone want to use (or not!) a piece of design, a service or a pattern, and not necessarily the thing itself. More importantly, I want to design products that actually move the cognitive needle – drive people back into itself and with that return, allow it to change us in some way shape or form – often quite literally.

One of the major themes in my work is the idea of a “life space” – A “life space” is the combination of all factors that influence a person’s behavior at a given moment in time, not just the screen in front of them. Therefore, a life space may include instantaneous thought, memory, drives and motives, personality, biases as well as the situation and external environmental factors.

Personality

There have been numerous studies over the decades, looking at the way the brain evolves and changes over the course of our lives. Every situation we encounter, every life moment we live in has an effect on the brain. It’s what gives us our individual personalities.

It’s an ever-evolving and solving 1.5kg blob of plasticity.

I started working in Investing Solutions four or five years ago and one of the areas I studied at length was the effects of stress on the brain. I was really fascinated to discover that hormonal responses generated by stressful situations generate subsequent risk taking attitudes. I was also blown away to discover that there is now enough empirical evidence to suggest that exposure to long-term stress can cause what’s know as ‘Hippocampal Atrophy‘ – Something normally associated with memory-loss conditions, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. That’s a pretty frightening side-effect when you stop to think about how hugely stressful the lives many of us live are.

Environment

What if we could create the opposite effect? What if we could actually use the digital experiences we create to start to reverse the effects of atrophy and change certain Behavioural Biases to make us behave better or just think differently? In theory it may actually be possible to stave off the effects of stress and mild forms of depression – maybe even before they appear – using brain focused functions so simplistic in their design that they seem almost too good to be true.

What’s commonly know now is that within the suffers of stress and forms of depression is a tendency to “amplify” unpleasant information and that makes the brain overreact to negative emotional stimuli. It’s also been shown that the children or partners of mental health patients are potentially at higher-than-normal risk of developing the same condition themselves, in part because they may inherit their parent or loved ones trait to overreact. It’s an inherited behavioural bias. So working backwards from suffers themselves, to some of the people around them, may be a really important place to start.

Reversing a behavioural bias and start to “rewire” the brain isn’t as complex as it might sound. We just need to design the right experiences into the services we build.

The trick is going to be teaching people (implicitly or explicitly) how to control the activity that is generated in a network of interrelated brain regions that are directly linked to stress and depression – the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, anterior insula and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. We can already do that using basic Neural Feedback Displays – hell, I’ve been playing with several cheap and cheerful EEG gizmos for years now. They don’t do much more than let me see roughly and crudely what’s going on inside my head, but that’s somehow a good enough place to start and it gives me a deeper connection to myself. When I perform an action, it shows me what the reaction inside my brain is, and that starts to show me more about myself than I knew before.

One of the exercises I’ve been studying shows neural feedback in the form of a thermometer on the screen. You show people sad or negative pictures that might ordinarily raise their “temperature”, and then get them to try to lower that “temperature” by adopting more sanguine mental states. After a while you start to work what the reaction looks like and in doing so create a sort of mental pro-action to stop it occurring in the first place. It’s therapy friends, but not as we know it.

You can start to reverse the behavioural bias. Over the course of a period of time you can start to change the actual structure of the brain. Which is a pretty neat concept.

There’s another technique where a pair of faces is shown to someone on a screen every few seconds; either neutral and sad, or neutral and happy. Then a dot replaces one of the faces, and the user is asked to click on the dot. During one particular experiment using the dot technique, some people had the face replaced by the dot selected at random, but other people always had the dot replace the more positive face in the pair. Over a period of time of engaging in the dot technique, the group that had the dot replacing the positive face, where in effect being trained to avoid looking at the sad faces.

This kind of attentional-bias training, is so simplistic that most good scientists would bet that it could not alter psychological symptoms. But they’d lose the bet.

In both the examples above it’s been proven that stress-related responses – for example, increases in heart rate, blood pressure and cortisol levels – to negative stimuli – are significantly reduced using both techniques. These stress responses are a key marker of depression, and they diminished roughly one week after the experiments began. Incidentally, some people in the experimental groups also developed fewer defensive responses to negative faces, such as startled blinking however the people in the control groups showed no such improvement.

In another experiment researchers at Cardiff University showed eight people how their brains reacted to positive imagery. After four sessions the participants with mental health conditions had seen significant improvements in their depression.

Was it a placebo effect? Possibly. But so what, that’s still a positive outcome!

As part of the same experiment another eight people with mental health problems were asked to do the exercise but just think positively and were not shown the brain images. They showed no change over the same period of time.

The researchers said they believed the scans allowed participants to work out, through trial and error, which sort of positive emotional imagery was most effective for them.

Once you’ve taught someone the mindset to lower that temperature or unlearn that negative thought, it’s a simple case of asking them to try to recreate that mindset in their daily lives, in normal stress related situations – Call it mindfulness, call it brain-training, call it CBT… you can even call it brainwashing if you like… it’s doesn’t matter, call it whatever best fits – the point is not the label that matters, the point is the start point of the process. You show people the mirror and they start to see themselves.

Summary

There have been plenty of experiments that have failed too by the way. Or shown only a correlation to success in a percentage of the people in the test. Which is totally to be expected.

To me, the interesting aspect of all these techniques is simply that they start by giving people an insight into themselves and their biases and only then do they work towards letting people control their own brain activity.

Most people (especially those living with stress or depression etc) are actually acutely aware and really interested in a way of engaging with themselves.

I’m not suggesting we mass ship EEG devices like EPOC to sufferers of anxiety, stress and depression so they can see what’s happening in their heads – but what I am suggesting is that we can build experiences that help people to understand themselves better and by starting there, we might in turn be able to start to help people reverse or reduce the effects of some of the conditions that can debilitate a lot of people.

People are dynamic creatures with dynamic thoughts, emotions, and psychological forces. To understand people you have to consider all possible factors that influence a person’s behavior and consider how those factors interact and change in time to influence the person’s present state.

So in designing solutions that start to move the needle on behaviour and start to break biases it’s imperative that we look at all the factors and start to influence people piece by pieces. Reversing negative brain patterns and negative cognitive biases starts with understanding the individual and moves out from there to a series of small interactions that gently nudge the brain into reverse.

It’s a noble idea I know… and probably one that many of you would scoff at. But my brain is already growing out of the curiosity of where this might lead me.

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Designing Distractions

While the brain can seem almost boundless in its potential, it has limitations, such as processing speed, attentional limitations, working memory limitations, and sensitivity to interference, which can be both internal and external. You’ve all been there – that annoying, wicked challenge that you just can’t seem to get your mind to process. Frustration brews. It all goes bad.

But occasionally you might have a ‘Eureka Moment’ where the solution seems to miraculously present itself to you.

The eureka effect refers to a common human experience of suddenly understanding a previously incomprehensible problem or concept… Some research describes the eureka effect as a memory advantage, but conflicting results exist as to where exactly it occurs in the brain, and it is difficult to predict under what circumstances one can predict a eureka effect.

Eureka can be conceptualized as a two phase process;

  • The first phase requires the problem solver to come upon an impasse, where they become stuck and even though they may seemingly have explored all the possibilities, are still unable to retrieve or generate a solution.
  • The second phase occurs suddenly and unexpectedly. After a break in mental fixation or re-evaluating the problem, the answer is usually retrieved.

The Eureka Theories

There are also currently two theories for how people arrive at the solution during a eureka moment.

  • The first is the Progress Monitoring Theory (when you hear me referring to PMT in the office, please be aware that I have a slightly different definition than most people!). A person will analyze the distance from their current state to the goal state. Once a person realizes that they cannot solve the problem while on their current path, they will seek alternative solutions. In complex problems this usually occurs late in the challenge.
  • The second way that people attempt to solve these puzzles is the Representational Change Theory. The problem solver initially has a low probability for success because they use inappropriate knowledge as they set unnecessary constraints on the problem. Once the person relaxes his or her constraints, they can bring previously unavailable knowledge into working memory to solve the problem.

Currently both theories have support, with the progress monitoring theory being more suited to multiple step problems, and the representational change theory more suited to single step problems.

FMRi (Functional magnetic resonance imaging) and EEG (Electro Encephalogram) studies have found that problem solving requiring insight (non-linear problems) involves increased activity in the right cerebral hemisphere as compared with problem solving not requiring insight (linear problems). In particular, increased activity was found in the right hemisphere anterior superior temporal gyrus.

I’ve been interested in moments of ‘eureka’ for a while now because along with the moment itself is a real sense of achievement, euphoria and self-worth. We know that a quiet mind allows the weak connections of non-conscious processing to rise to awareness.

Basically that the act of coming back fresh to a problem is valuable in itself.

New research by Neuroscientist David Creswell from Carnegie Mellon sheds some more light on this phenomenon.

Creswell wanted to explore what happens in the brain when people tackle problems that are too big for their conscious mind to solve. He had people think about purchasing an imaginary car, based on multiple wants and needs. One group had to choose immediately. These people didn’t do great at optimizing their decision. A second group had time to try to consciously solve the problem. Their choices weren’t much better. A third group were given the problem, then given a distracter task – something that lightly held their conscious attention but allowed their non-conscious to keep working. This group did significantly better than the other groups at selecting the optimum car for their overall needs.

FMRI scans showed something interesting happening with the third group. The brain regions that were active during the initial learning of the decision information continued to be active (we call this unconscious neural reactivation) even while the brain was distracted with another task. This reactivation was predictive of how good participants were at making a better decision — more reactivation was associated with better decisions.

To put it plainly – people who were distracted did better on a complex problem-solving task than people who put in conscious effort. This isn’t so surprising – the problem-solving resources of the non-conscious are millions if not billions of times larger than that of the conscious. What’s surprising is how fast this effect kicked in – the third group were distracted for only a few minutes. This wasn’t the ‘sleep on it’ effect, or about quieting the mind. It was something more accessible to all of us every day, in many small ways.

Deliberate Distractions

So now to the bit that I’m driving towards – Designing complex flows, patterns, challenges, data-capture and encouraged behaviours.

What we’ve been doing for decades now is try to simplify complex tasks – I agree this should be encouraged. Of course we want to make complex things simpler. But what if we’re missing the trick of building in other mechanisms for helping audiences solve complex challenges… like telling them to “Stop”.

Some classic examples;

  • Filling out application forms online – Big pain drain.
  • Managing an investment portfolio – Oh boy that one hurts the novice investor.
  • Writing an article (like this one!) to submit to the masses of people who demand something punchy – The pressure!

We have a lot of analytics running within our digital experiences that track everything an audience does now. From where they click, to how long they dwell… we even know where they came from to arrive at the challenge. So we can pretty much derive if they’re slick or if they’re thick. It’s how we learn about their behaviour and make our systems smarter, our messages more potent and our support programmes better.

So why wouldn’t we turn that same machine learning back on the audience? Literally tell them when they’re in a bad spot. Let’s say we spot erratic, confused or behaviour that implies someone is over-thinking or struggling to solve a problem, why not just prompt the user to take a break?

Pete, go play Angry Birds for 5 minutes buddy, come back when you’ve cleared your mind.

We’re letting people go about a cognitive challenge the wrong way – by allowing them to continue pushing at a problem consciously when we should be allowing them to go off and ignore the problem.

If we do this you’ll genuinely find that you’re audiences gets better outcomes and faster, with less effort.

There are so many things we’ve got wrong with design because we haven’t stopped to look at the brain. As we begin to develop the tools to understand the brains quirks better, I suspect that many more surprising discoveries will emerge.

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Go Small or Go Home

Have you ever started a financial plan but didn’t stick with it? If you are like millions of other people, you’ve set out with the best intentions but failed to keep the momentum going. Relying on motivation and willpower doesn’t work.

When you begin any new self-improvement program, you’re enthusiasm is high and you’re motivated by the pleasure of what you want or the pain of what you don’t want. But motivation naturally diminishes with time.

When your motivation wanes, you rely more on willpower. But no one has an endless supply of willpower. It’s a resource that gets “used up”. Every time you will yourself do something you don’t really want to do, you use up some willpower. Every temptation you pass up depletes your willpower reserve.

By evening, you may find you have no willpower left. That’s why most people usually blow a new diet in the evening after eating healthy all day.

95% of our life is dictated by the subconscious mind, the part of our brain that runs our lives on autopilot. This is why you can do everything from brushing your teeth to driving a car without thinking about it.

By consciously deciding to create a new habit, you can harness the power of your unconscious to create a new neural pathway. Once a new habit is established it becomes easy to do –motivation and willpower are no longer required!

Something like financial planning needs to become a habit like brushing your teeth, not a fad like dieting or exercise. Once a habit is established people find themselves doing it effortlessly.

Set Small Goals

Setting big goals is exciting but starting with small boring goals is more likely to lead to success.

Taking small actions tricks your brain. Your subconscious likes to be in control – it doesn’t like change. A big change often sets up subconscious resistance, but you can sneak a small change by it.

If you ask neuroscientists or researchers they will likely tell you that change rarely happens overnight by changing something in its entirety. The best path to sustainable behavioral change is taking small steps.

It wasn’t that long ago that we’d go big or go home on wholesale redesigns of online services every year or so. What a massive error that was.

Now we have a far greater understanding of the human brain that we design services with micro changes and more importantly introduce micro-actions – actions so small and simple anyone can do them – is crucial to changing the behavior of your audience.

Your actions are a reflection of how your brain is wired to function. By changing an audiences actions – even if we start with a micro-action – you can actually start to reprogram the brain, and trigger a virtuous circle of more action. Changing subsequent actions thus becomes both easier and more likely to succeed.

As Designers we’re in the business of behavioral change and we want to try and create experiences that make the audience do only one daily action, they’ll soon start to I notice that they become more conscious of other small things they could do better.

Design for the mindset of “what small thing could I do better today?”

How your brain learns

Not long ago was it thought that the brain stops learning after a certain age. Not true, it doesn’t! The brain keeps learning throughout your life through a process called neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity – also referred to as Brain plasticity – is an odd term for most people, with the word “plastic” causing images of Tupperware or Saran Wrap to pop into your head. However, brain plasticity is a common term used by neuroscientists, referring to the brain’s ability to change at any age – for better or worse. As you would imagine, this flexibility plays an incredibly important role in our brain development (or decline) and in shaping our distinct personalities.

Neuroplasticity happens when the brain’s building blocks, neurons, connect with each other and keep the brain active!

Changes in the physical brain manifest as changes in our abilities. For example, each time we learn a new dance step, it reflects a change in our physical brains: new “wires” (neural pathways) that give instructions to our bodies on how to perform the step. Each time we forget someone’s name, it also reflects brain change— “wires”that once connected to the memory have been degraded, or even severed.

Neurons want to form lasting relationships

We have as many neurons in our brain as stars in our galaxy. Hundreds of billions. Neurons are very social and want to form lasting relationships. When you learn, new neuron relationships are formed. The more you use a relationship, the stronger it gets. “The cells that fire together, wire together”.

The Brain is not that clever

Designing for micro-actions is important because we experience hundreds of thousands of stimuli daily, and it is impossible for the brain to keep up. Focusing on small changes allows your brain to effectively start the process of neuroplasticity.

Create, Focus and Complete

Your brain is really smart. And lazy. It is constantly trying to save effort by creating habits. Why? Because habits are “pre-programmed” and require less energy. To help create habits, your task is to pick activities that are easy (which a micro-action is, duh!), then focus and repeat.

Action creates more Action

Your actions re-program your brain. When you take action and succeed you get a sense of accomplishment, advancement, and other positive feelings. Your brain starts learning, and it makes you more ready and likely to take the next action, and thus triggers a virtuous circle of even more action.

Hence, taking action:

  1. Reprograms your brain by building new neuron connections, and
  2. Triggers more action.

Often, people think of childhood and young adulthood as a time of brain growth—the young person constantly learns new things, embarks on new adventures, shows an inquisitive and explorative spirit. Conversely, older adulthood is often seen as a time of cognitive decline, with people becoming more forgetful, less inclined to seek new experiences, more “set in their ways”.

But what recent research has shown is that under the right circumstances, the power of brain plasticity can help adult minds grow. Although certain brain machinery tends to decline with age, using micro-actions there are steps people can take to tap into plasticity and reinvigorate that machinery.

Neuroplasticity and the Senses

One of the important findings of recent neuroplasticity research is the discovery of how closely our senses are connected to memory and cognition. Because of their interdependence, a weakness in one is often related to—or even the cause of—a weakness in the other. For example, we all know that Alzheimer’s patients slowly lose their memories. One way this manifests is that they eat less food. Why? As it turns out, visual deficits are also a part of Alzheimer’s. People eat less because they can’t see the food as well. Another example is in normal age-related cognitive changes. As we grow older, we get more forgetful and distracted in large part because our brain does not process what we hear, see, and feel as well as it once did. The result is that we can’t store images of our experiences as clearly, and so have trouble using them and recalling them later.

Use Triggers

A trigger is something that leads you to automatically doing something else. Smokers, for example, are triggered to smoke after a meal. Use triggers to your advantage. If you commit to always checking your bank balance after breakfast, after a few weeks you’ll automatically think about doing it after your morning meal. Visual triggers work well, too. For example, encourage your audience to leave their bank card next to the bed when they go to bed so they’re reminded of the task they need to do the following morning.

Do it Early

Always do your financial planning in the morning when your willpower is high. You’ll reap the rewards all day!

Make it Convenient

The more difficult and time consuming it is to take an action, the less likely an audience will do it. This is why so many people who buy gym memberships drop out. It’s just not that convenient. Get everything you need ready ahead of time so that when it’s time you can, as Nike says, “Just Do It”.

Make it Fun

If people don’t enjoy doing something they aren’t going to stick with it. Find ways to make the executable lifestyle change as enjoyable as possible.

Don’t Break the Chain

When Jerry Seinfeld was an unknown, he created the habit of writing new material daily using a wall calendar and a red marker. Every day he wrote, he put a big red “X” through that day. He didn’t want to see any blank days that “broke the chain”. Build mechanisms into your interface and user experience for exactly this and you’ll find that after one month a new habit will largely be formed.

Make it a journey not a destination

I’m not a taoist, or any ‘ist’, ‘in’ or ‘ish’ for that matter, but I do include a few of the basic concepts of Taoism in my approach to problem solving, design and taking small actions.

Tao translates to “Way” and that’s the basic idea right there. Taoism is about the journey, focusing on and enjoying what lies in front of you instead of always looking ahead at your destination. That’s a really great guiding principle when you start designing services and products too. Think about the journey you want to send the audience on and the story you want to unfold before them, rather than obsessing over the potential outcome.

Brain Journeys

Every human brain has 3 basic goals;

  • Learning
  • Being Social
  • Having Fun

So to conclude, think about the little actions you’re design, how often and how few they are, but also how you categorise them;

Somewhere between the size, the frequency and the type of actions (across the above three categories) is the answer to behavioural change.

Summary

By using these steps and these categories to create a habit we can start to trick the audiences brain into creating new neural pathways. Once that habit is formed the audience can use it to serve as a gateway to bigger changes that can truly change behavior.

A journey of a thousand miles really does begin with a single step.

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Designing Fear

How often has fear held you back from doing something you knew in your gut you should do?

There’s a pattern to everyone’s fears. Take a step back and you might notice that many of your decisions stem from one core fear. This could be a fear of belonging in a social situation, not being the best at something, a fear of something being too complicated or it could even be a fear of letting others down.

When we’re designing digital services for our various audiences we often focus on the obvious attributes – “Does it function well?”, “Does it look slick?”, “Is it useful & usable?” etc – but often (if not always) we neglect one of the most important attributes from our planning – “Will our product address the fears of our audiences and help them past those fears?”

Think about a time when you confronted, adapted and learned to overcome a certain fear or panic inducing situation… It was a pretty awesome feeling, right? Now imagine that you digitise that moment and bring it to your audience online. We have to design that attitude of overcoming fear into the solutions we’re creating.

The mind is good at generating doubts. We tell ourselves: “There’s no way I’ll succeed in that” or “It’s an obvious idea” or “It’s too expensive” etc and Fear has a knack for masquerading as rational thought. Having a big dream or idea is intimidating. “What if it fails?“, “What if the dream is unachievable?” – Often we find ways to reason ourselves out of these kinds of risks.

An audience will actually talk themselves out of doing something when they’re afraid of the thing you’re asking them to do.

Researchers continue to find evidence that being pro-active and facing fears is the best way to overcome them. But what are the internal processes of perceiving different types of threat and fear?

Ready for a little science lesson just to help you understand where fear comes from?

THE AMYGDALA AND FEAR-PROCESSING

When we encounter a risky situation, our brains become vulnerable to a process called the “amygdala hijack“. The amygdala – the part of your brain associated with memory, decision-making, and emotional responses – has a quicker reaction time than the cortex, or rational thinking part of your brain. So you basically what you need to know is that fear takes hold more quickly than logic & it has a more potent effect in a lot of cases.

It sends us into fight-or-flight mode. But sometimes when we’re stressed rather than in real serious danger, the amygdala can overfire, leading us to make bad decisions because it confuses that stress with fear.

The pathways through which we consciously and subconsciously interpret fear are not well understood by neuroscientists. We know a bit about amygdala and its role in fear and fearlessness but as with many advances forward, it appears the more we know about the brain, the less we actually understand how it works.

In a study released on January 27, 2013 scientists identified specific neurons linked to a certain type of fear memory held in your amygdala. The study examined how fear responses are learned, controlled, and memorized. It’s that fear memory that could be a real killer for your service – once a service is deemed ‘something to fear’ the audience will resent it and not return.

Neuroscientists have found that a specific class of neurons called SOM+ in a subdivision of the amygdala plays an active role in these processes.

In another paper published February 3, 2013 from the University of Iowa, we’re told that the amygdala is not the only gatekeeper of fear in the human mind. Other regions – such as the brainstem, diencephalon, or insular cortex – can also sense the body’s most primal inner signals of danger when basic survival is threatened. So fear is a complex thing and the biological reactions to fear are really powerful deterrents from your service.

In short – When we’re faced with stress the part of the brain that takes over, the part that reacts the most, is the circuitry that was originally designed to manage danger and it is important to understand that the impulses that come to us when we’re under stress – particularly if we get hijacked by it – are likely to lead the audience astray or in a lot of cases send them off in the opposite direction completely. Design the best experiences in the world are irrelevant if we ignore that a topic might be a stressful and therefore fearful one.

FREEZE, FLEE, OR FIGHT

Humans display freezing and risk-assessment behaviors in response to fearful situations. Understanding how to switch an audience from passive to a more active fear coping strategies is key to adapting to the stress and unpredictability of modern life. It’s also something we need to design for.

Another thing to remember is that it’s often the moments of unpredictability that people regret most when they look back on experiences. There’s a pattern that we see when it comes to regrets. People regret what they didn’t do more than they regret what they did do. Fear can make you run and hide, it can motivate you to take action, and it can freeze you dead in your tracks. Which in the case of a lot of things we design can mean that services are just ignored or overlooked completely.

But can we consciously condition our audience to be more active and less passive in the face of the fear of dealing with say, Debt and Financial Management online – which is absolutely terrifying and stress inducing for a lot of people – I believe the answer is “Yes“.

TAKING A MULTI-PRONGED APPROACH TO FUNCTIONAL ANXIETY

I define “functional anxiety” as that moment when anxiety and fear are so overwhelming that they can start to negatively impact a person’s ability or desire to face a function head on.

One of the most common causes of fear is simply being unable to name the elephant in the room. When you get in a situation that is heading south, you’d rather be in denial than admit it. Say, for example, you’re in debt and everything you try to fix it, just simply isn’t working, but you’re surrounded by others also working hard at it and succeeding. What do you do? These things can go on for months or even years and in the end you’ve made it worse by prolonging not being in control.

It’s my belief that we need to start taking a different approach to services like “PFM” (Personal Financial Management) and create experiences that call upon a different set of principles, those used within Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

Designing CBT led experiences offer up a way of helping audiences understand the thoughts, feelings and attitudes that influence their behaviour. The ones that prevent better behaviours happening, which would allow a person to progress even in the face of fear.

There’s a common misconception that ‘tools’ will fix a problem, they can’t. They can show you the semantic facts, but there needs to be more. We need to codify counselling.

The core principle of CBT is addressing fears and bad behaviors head on and then finding new paths to alter your course – So in the instance of Debt & PFM, often the response of getting honest, brutal feedback is scary enough to spur someone into action.

Fear in a lot of cases, is so overwhelming emotionally, that people often don’t take a straight approach to sorting it out.

With that in mind, the core principles of designing services that set out to change behaviour and conquer fear should always be “Transparency” and “Truth“.

SHARPEN YOUR OWN FEAR DETECTOR

Developing services that have a self-awareness to know when fear is dictating a decision is an important first step in taking control of the design. Let’s call it the ILF – Internal Lookout Function – the ability for a digital service to recognize when a user is hesitating or not behaving in the way we expect or want them too, and then reminding them not to make a rash decision in response to the fear that might be causing that behaviour.

It might be that when we notice erratic or even negative behaviour we simply ask the user what it is that they’re struggling with. Once we know what that block is, then we can start to prepare for those situations before they happen. If you know, for instance, that they become extremely defensive about their debt because of a fear of not being the best at budgeting their monthly pay, then we can prepare and serve up features in advance that don’t let that fear take over in the moment and create a sort of ‘self fulfilling prophecy‘.

GET CLOSE TO WHAT SCARES YOU MOST

Fear stifles our thinking and actions. It creates indecisiveness that results in stagnation. I have known talented people who procrastinate indefinitely rather than risk failure. Lost opportunities cause erosion of confidence, and the downward spiral begins.

Often experiencing one of your biggest fears is the best way to learn to cope with it. Say you’re biggest fear is losing your family because of debt and everything you do is a response to that fear – then trying to simulate what would actually happen in the predicted situation will often show a different, more palatable reality.

The best way to learn to deal with a fear is for it to happen and for us to realise we’re still alive the next day to tell the tale. If you stop avoiding the thing you fear and get close to experiencing it, you often find it’s not nearly as bad as you think. So start designing fear into the actual scenarios you’re designing to fix the situation. Don’t just design a PFM tool that shows the audience the output of adjusting their behaviour, start by showing them the behaviour that they fear that is causing the actual problem in the first place.

CONCLUSION – EMBRACE FEAR AS A GOOD THING

It’s really important as neuro-designers that we don’t take an audiences fear in a given situation as negative. Fear is a healthy and natural human reaction. Understanding and recognising that our audience have fears and then encouraging the audience to confront the thing they fear will help us prevent it hijacking situations completely. So design your service to be scary.

Compassion is also our greatest weapon in the fight against an audiences fear – “You’re doing the best you can and that’s okay right now” – is probably the most powerful statement we can tell people while they face down fear.

Starting to get to know what are the one or two driving fears an audience has and what are the situations that tend to bring those fears out is a key principle in designing for behavioural change so factor it into the planning stage when you’re identifying the qualitative and quantitative pain points you’re going to set out to fix. You’ll find that once you get the audience through fear, you’ll have changed them for the better and your service will become a deeper, more meaningful experience.

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Get your S.C.A.R.F on

One of the real joys of my job is looking at frameworks and methodologies and research from totally different industry thinkers and re-applying it to UX. Why shouldn’t we? I’m just not good at re-inventing wheels.

Observing the customer journey, it is possible to analyze what is going on for users at a cognitive level and find opportunities for improvement.

In 2008, David Rock, cofounder of the NeuroLeadership Institute developed the SCARF theory.

The model that he describes in his article, “Your Brain at Work,” proposes that the first motivation of social interaction is to minimize threats and maximize rewards — the old fight or flight analysis.

The second motivation for social interaction is to draw upon the same neural networks that regulate our primary survival needs.

He concludes that the human need for social interaction is as necessary as that for food and water.

SCARF defines five domains of experience that activate strong threats and rewards in the brain, thus influencing a wide range of human behaviors. It’s a really fascinating model to look at when we’re designing experiences.

The brain is focused on increasing or sustaining reward and avoiding negative experiences so ask yourself does your product fulfil these identified human needs? Am I creating something sufficiently engrained with the right triggers to make it a success?

According to the SCARF theory, the brain constantly looks for five key things:

  1. Status — our importance relative to others
  2. Certainty —the ability to predict the future
  3. Autonomy — having a sense of control over events
  4. Relatedness — feeling a sense of being safe with others
  5. Fairness — the perception of fair exchanges between people

These five domains activate either the ‘primary reward’ or ‘primary threat’ circuitry of the brain. For example, a perceived threat to one’s status activates similar brain networks to a threat to one’s life. In the same way, a perceived increase in fairness activates the same reward circuitry as receiving a monetary reward.

When products or services fulfill these five basic needs, the audience has a great experience & so designers need to be considering these needs at the planning stage of designing the product. When they do, they have an opportunity to better connect with the audience.

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Design & The Brain

I’ve been reading a lot from a new neuro-hero of mine recently, a chap called Read Montague who is an American neuroscientist and popular science author. He is the director of the Human Neuroimaging Lab and Computational Psychiatry Unit at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute and a professor in the department of physics at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. So he’s really really clever. His work focuses on computational neuroscience – the connection between the physical mechanisms present in real neural tissue and the computational functions that these mechanisms embody.

In short – he’s way smarter than me and a great guy to learn from… He also fights against this idea that we can use neuroscience to learn about our products & about customer behaviour.

I don’t necessarily disagree with him on things, but as designers learn more about how the human brain works we get closer to solving real problems… So we should be looking at it. We have too.

Here’s the vision for my company Nexus;

It’s 2017 and Nexus designers and engineers have hooked up a volunteer to a small, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine, which measures brain activity and blood flow over time in response to stimuli. The subject swipes through a new smartphone app that has been designed to make banking easier than it’s predecessors, it’s got new messaging and blunter mechanisms for paying people. They’re watching a real time simulation of the brain responses through Oculus Rift, seeking clues to what might excite the customer and therefore start to learn why they might be prepared to choose our app over the next best alternative.

It’s all voodoo and brain witchcraft people shout at me. The brain is too complicated, we’re too homogenous and our individuality gets in the way. It’s all totally true – And even if brain research on a handful of test subjects could tell you something about the design of a product, it doesn’t mean that a particular product will have mass appeal.

We might be able to tell you how the brain works, but we can’t really tell you if an individual or a global population will buy something. But here’s the kicker – this type of microcosmic approach to validating stuff is no different to traditional market testing and design ethnography, which focuses on small samples of people. So why not do something different and see things from a slightly different points of view, even one acknowledged to be complex to the point of flaw.

Neuroscience offers us some tantalizing hints about how the brain functions and reacts and how we behave.

  • In the 1960s and ’70s, electroencephalography, or EEG, was used to detect electric fields in the brain, but had no spatial precision.
  • In the ’80s, magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, could take anatomical snapshots of the head.
  • It was the arrival of the fMRI in the mid-1990s that has been the game changer, because this tool is like a “microscopic blood movie”.

An fMRI measures hundreds of thousands of tiny sites in the brain and records microscopic blood flow that is tightly correlated with neural activity. fMRI is like watching a computer program at work or “safely eavesdropping on brain activity,” it’s so powerful, it’s scary. This hasn’t gone unnoticed by companies, marketers, and advertisers either. Sports car manufacturers, for instance, have tried to pinpoint design features that trigger testosterone.

The nascent field known as “neuromarketing” measures brain waves in response to products, ads and packaging to figure out what compels consumers’ subconscious. Some believe this kind of controversial brain digging has the potential to enhance what we can discover through traditional market research (and design research) because it delves so much deeper than asking questions or observing activity and behavior.

The Challenges of Brain-Based Design Research

Why you prefer Coke or Pepsi, sports cars, iPhones, or any product, is driven not just by responses from the reward processing part of your brain, but also from many stimuli like memory or some factor in the external culture. Maybe you like Coke not because of the taste, but because you remember the Coke polar bear ads at Christmas? In that sense, you could put a gadget like a slimmer, sleeker iPhone in front of people and see if the brain sends any signals that can be detected by researchers. But such signals do not necessarily indicate that the iPhone designers got the product right. There are too many other factors in play. Think of the memories associated with madeleines in The Remembrance of Things Past—life imitates art in this sense. But hey, that’s the same in any research… We still have to make professional judgement.

New Discoveries, New Directions

Clearly, we know more about the brain and how it works than ever before. We know about the motor system and how your brain makes a decision to execute a physical movement before you even know you have made the decision. We know how people respond to certain colors, how we perceive depth and how the brain processes visual scenes. Yet there’s still a lot we don’t know. And as we continue the search for answers we can only speculate and theorize why one product makes it and another flops. The outsized success of Apple products might have more to do with primate status behavior—the alpha male is cool and has something cool, so we want the cool thing too—than with streamlined features, great performance, and pleasant experience of the Genius Bar at Apple stores.

For the moment we don’t know for sure how our heads are aligned with our hearts, in terms of product love. “Our knowledge of the brain just isn’t there yet,” Montague says. But as researchers continue to use everything from fMRI scans to eye-tracking devices, the mysterious and complex brain will yield more secrets, and when cross-pollinated with traditional market research and ethnography, will expand the power of design – So I end by saying this; “So what if it’s not 100% accurate yet… neither is traditional market research and usability testing. What we need to do is get it into the wild as a concept and start playing with it to see if it does have a use and utility“.

Original Article.

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#UCD14 – Neurological Recipes

Less than my best presenting effort, but a real joy to be on a stage at #UCD14 in London on the 24th October. It’s quickly becoming the best conference for UX in London due to its original line-up, twisted thinkers and meticulous planning schedule – So it was a huge privilege to be there and to present.

Here’s my slides;

If you’re in the market for a really great, bijou conference next year to stop and make you think outside of the lines, then this is the one for you.

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