An examination of the connections between multiple brain models, decision-making, and user experience
Brain & Survival instinct
“The human brain, in all its staggering complexity, is the product of millions of years of evolution.”
Humans have grown physically and psychologically throughout millennia, and they have had to adapt to their environment in order to live. This explains why they outlived the majority of species. As our brains have developed, we have passed on particular behavioural tendencies from one generation to the next. Our primitive brain (the reptile brain), according to MacLan’s triune brain model, is in charge of our innate survival mechanism. For generations, this brain structure has assisted humans in identifying dangers as well as strategizing and solving issues.
Brain and wiring
The human brain is around four times the size of a chimp’s and about 15 times the size of a mouse’s. As a result, we may safely infer that our brains are more complex and intelligent than those of most other animals. Different functions and structures have evolved in different areas of the brain. The cerebral neocortex, limbic system, and reptile brain are the three basic systems (as mentioned earlier). Complex motions and actions, logical reasoning, communication, visual and auditory processing are all controlled by the cerebral cortex. The reptile realm is in charge of the body’s regulatory processes, such as body temperature and everything else essential for survival, while the limbic system is in charge of emotional decision-making.
When the brain gets information from the five senses, it processes, stores, analyzes, and validates existing knowledge and learned systems that have been passed down for years, and it connects the dots through patterns to help interpret and make sense of the data. Deeper belief systems are formed by the user’s pre-existing knowledge and emotions, which determine how he or she feels, thinks, and behaves, even if these reactions are not always sensible.
Brain and biases
‘’If you want to regulate a system, there needs to be a prototype of the system.‘’
Your brain’s most essential task is not thinking, eating…it is controlling the body, making sure that you are alive and healthy to transfer your genes onto the next generation,” Lisa Fieldman Barret says in a behavioural design podcast.
Through the prediction-correction loop, humans begin to learn, and this process helps to minimize uncertainty. Our brain only receives the result of a change after a quick movement; it must infer the reason in order to react appropriately. Lisa Fieldman Barret used the idea of rustling leaves in the forest as an illustration. We instantly believe it’s the wind or an animal slithering through the forest when we hear rustling leaves in the forest. This assumption may or may not be founded on prior personal experience with a comparable circumstance, but it might be the consequence of prior reading about similar situations.This is when Predictions come into play: the brain is anticipating the future step based on either their own prior experience or what they’ve learned from other people’s experiences. While our ‘predictive brain’ aids us in swiftly rationalizing an occurrence, we frequently fall prey to confirmation bias when we begin to make conventional associations. This idea is similar to that of psychologist Daniel Kanheman, whose research focuses on decision-making and behavioural economics. He discusses the concepts of system 1 and system 2 thinking in his book “Thinking Fast and Slow.” According to the theory, our cognitive processes are divided into two categories: System 1 (the ‘quick’ process) and System 2 (the’slow’ process). System 2 thinking, on the other hand, involves some effort to get the mental functions going, whereas System 1 thinking is more natural and automatic.
Imagine these two thought processes as best friends with polar different personalities: one who prefers to ‘live in the moment,’ and the other who can’t help but overthink everything and is hyper-aware of the smallest things.
System 1 thinking, on the other hand, is more susceptible to cognitive biases, such as stereotype formation based on prior experiences. This way of thinking is linked to the ‘fight or flight’ mode of thought, which is triggered by our primordial impulses and emotional reactions.
It is critical to recognize that most of our decision-making activities rely on biased System 1 thinking rather than the time-consuming System 2 thinking.
Brain and Design
So, why is it so important to comprehend the human brain? Why can’t we generalize human behavior and expect others to act the way we want them to?
It is vital to highlight that if there is a contradiction between what we experience (sensory input) and our prior understanding of the world, our capacity to recognize and understand new information is harmed.
While we are characterized as ‘rational creatures,’ we frequently break from the norm, and our judgments and decision-making abilities are often illogical. We search for mental shortcuts to help us digest information more quickly. We are still in a state of unconsciousness and fail to recognize it since it happens so swiftly and effortlessly.
So, how does this information assist us as designers?
We need to tap into these psychological systems and foresee these irrationalities and decision-making patterns as designers if we want to build intuitive but meaningful experiences (without being coloured by our own biases). To make better decisions as we create experiences and products for our target audience, we need to understand how the brain works and processes information.
When creating experiences, we must also consider the development of the brain. Our primitive brain, for example, which has the capacity to identify and respond to possible threats, would prefer to stay in a’safe area,’ and hence turn to familiarity.As designers, we may use the concept of ‘familiarity’ to elicit favorable feelings about the experience.
Brain and choice architecture
People nowadays are confronted with an expanding number of options in almost every aspect of their lives, resulting in cognitive overload, particularly in the digital realm. Users may feel restricted if their options are limited.
To summarize, as designers, we may 1) provide options in a way that requires little cognitive work, hence reducing cognitive load, 2) cater to users’ wants and prejudices (conscious and subconscious), 3) drive action, and 4) appeal to the user’s emotion. We may utilize little but powerful nudges and triggers that are subtle but noticeable to ensure that the user is on a “happy path.”