Web meets brain

Written on 4 March 2013, 03:29pm

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In the recent period I read some materials regarding the human brain: how it works, what is it good at, its limitations and its bugs. I am listing here the links to the articles/books, along with a short description.

1. Brain Bugs

Brain Bugs: How the Brain’s Flaws Shape Our Lives, By Dean Buonomano (I also recommend the iTunes audiobook).

The human brain is more beautiful and complex than anything we could ever build but it’s far from perfect. Our memory is unreliable; we can’t multiply large sums in our heads; advertising manipulates our judgment; we tend to distrust people who are different from us; supernatural beliefs are hard to shake and we prefer instant gratification to long-term gain. Dean Buonomano illuminates the causes and consequences of these “bugs” in terms of the brain’s innermost workings and their evolutionary purposes.

2. Hacking the brain

Hacking the brain, Richard Shepherd, .Net magazine

“If you make chairs, you’ll want to understand how people sit. If you make user interfaces, then you should understand how people perceive and think.”
With a little borrowing from disciplines such as cognitive psychology and behavioural economics we become able to ‘hack the brain’.
The field of UX is both broad and deep; here are five techniques to get you started.

3. How does the brain keep track of time

How does the brain keep track of time – by Joshua Bixby in Web Performance Today

Luke Jones of the University of Manchester talks about the fact that we’re uncannily good at telling the difference between durations of sound, down to one-tenths of a second, yet we’re terrible at predicting how long it’s going to take us to do something, especially if it’s something you’ve done before. (Apparently, we always underestimate.)

4. Designing for emotion

Designing for emotion by Aaron Walter, A book apart
I read this book more than a year ago, here are my notes about it. The conclusion was:

When you start your next design project, keep this principle in mind: people will forgive shortcomings, follow your lead, and sing your praises if you reward them with positive emotion.

designing for emotion NET234.f_hacking brain bugs

Do the things you believe in!

Written on 26 February 2013, 02:33pm

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A very inspiring TED Talk about how great leaders inspire action. It explains, among others, why people wait in queue for hours or days to get their hands on the new iPhone 🙂

[…] I call it the golden circle.

Why? How? What? This little idea explains why some organizations and some leaders are able to inspire where others aren’t. Let me define the terms really quickly.
Every single person, every single organization on the planet knows what they do, 100 percent.
Some know how they do it, whether you call it your differentiated value proposition or your proprietary process or your USP.
But very, very few people or organizations know why they do what they do. And by “why” I don’t mean “to make a profit.” That’s a result. It’s always a result. By “why,” I mean: What’s your purpose? What’s your cause? What’s your belief?

Later edit: interesting to observe how this different TED Talk leads, somehow, to the same idea. Dan Pink speaks about the The puzzle of motivation. It explains, among others, why the Wikipedia business model worked and Microsoft’s Encarta didn’t.

There is a mismatch between what science knows and what business does. And here is what science knows.
One: Those 20th century rewards, those motivators we think are a natural part of business, do work, but only in a surprisingly narrow band of circumstances.
Two: Those if-then rewards often destroy creativity.
Three: The secret to high performance isn’t rewards and punishments, but that unseen intrinsic drive — the drive to do things for their own sake. The drive to do things cause they matter.