Cognitive Neuroscience: A Doorway to Better UX Design ?



Around 2500 years ago, Aristotle believed that the heart was the center of sensation and movement, and other organs such as the brain and lungs existed to cool the heart! However, the revival of human anatomy made it possible for physicians to clarify basic structure & functions of the organs. We came a long way from Aristotle believing brain to be a mere cooling agent to knowing that the brain is the most complex (and important) organ in the human body.

Fascinated by the human brain, lately, I have been learning quite a lot about Cognitive psychology and Neurosciences, primarily about how our brain works. Traditionally, Neuroscience has been a branch of biology. Over the years, Neuroscience has evolved into a branch of science by itself.

Essentially, I am trying to understand the functions of the brain with my brains! As an Interaction Designer, I enjoy connecting the dots between design principles and every other subject that I start reading about. I have my own Aah and Eureka moments, throughout my research journey. I have been doing the same with Neuroscience, trying to see how I can apply my research at work, to design better! Imagining how we designers can use some of the discoveries of Neuroscience is amazing, in fact is breathtaking ! I believe, with help of Neuroscience findings, our designs can be made more user-centred.

Especially, with the advent of brain activity monitoring devices, Neuroscientists are unravelling the mysteries related to the human brain at an unprecedented rate. I believe that very soon, we will be applying these new discoveries about human cognition, in our design approach & processes. Undoubtedly, I think that UX design, research & usability testing will benefit enormously from neurosciences, we will infer a lot more from the users, during our interactions -during user interviews & usability testing. Thinking about it, wouldn’t it be amazing to know the user’s pain points scientifically, and design solutions for them.

In continuation, the latest research shows that fMRI(A Brain imaging technique) can understand a person’s neural activities by measuring the change in cerebral blood flow. In other words, it can tell us what specific parts of our brain are active. Sounds interesting, right ? I was reading about how Neuromarketers and Lawyers are using brain scan findings to analyse their audience reactions and defend sociopaths in court of law. But how do we, as designers, go about it ? Does it mean that you put your users under an fMRI machine, that resembles a large tunnel, to discover how they think! Definitely not, maybe in some years, the large tunnel can become a room simulator, where the users can sit on a couch and take user interviews or tests!

Or maybe the current solution could be fNIR, which looks like a simple headband. In fact, the design world is gradual including fNIR to study user behaviour in Human Computer Interaction(HCI).

Do these advancements in Neuroscience mean dramatic effect on user experience design? Can we finally have a scientific answer to why an experience is fundamentally good or bad? And mainly, as a designer, I wonder if it can help me optimize my design decisions and avert a possible design disaster.

Too many questions in my head, I am confused and excited, wish I could exactly figure out my feelings!

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