What is the connection between User Experience and Cognitive Psychology?
Each day our brain manufactures millions of electric signals between neurons, formed by outside stimulation inputs, creating new neuron connections between brain cells, refreshing our knowledge, memory, thoughts and most importantly decorating our behavior. If I’ll try to simplify, these cell bonds can be translated into learning processes. As UX designers, we must try and understand what is the best design that will lead our users to form those bonds as easily as possible.
Cognitive psychology is a scientific research field, involving human’s mind research, decisions making processes and neuropsychology, which is trying to investigate how our minds works in order to explain and predict our past or future behavior. These are the main guide lines a UX designer should consider while designing or improving his products.
Let’s get to the bottom of this; how can we predict our user’s future actions?
Decision making, which is a cognitive process made mainly in our Cortex (the last layer of the human brain, that differs us from other animals), has been studied through the last decades and has involved some changes along the years.
“I am thinking, therefore I exist” (Rene Descartes). Descartes claimed we couldn’t be wrong with our own thoughts, created by observing into our soul and mind (introspection). That’s not the case when it comes to other people. While trying to realize the other’s mind, we generally assume the cognitive mechanism leading others in their decision making procces operates the same way it does in our minds. Is this the right way?
We do not have any proof regarding how others think, since we’re simply not robots, designed to act at certain form. When placing our own cognition as a mirror into someone else’s mind in order to predict his future actions, we cannot assume we’ll be always right. How can we provide proof to someone else’s thoughts or feelings? How can we predict his future actions? By examining one’s behavior.
Human research can be done in several ways, according to our research goals. We can ask a subject to report his behavior, write down his feelings regarding an action or an idea we want to test, observe and analyze his actions, or by analyzing previous behavior. People tend to behave differently than their subjective reports; therefore we cannot always believe these reports. It’s always better to test their behavior on our own, by conducting a qualitative research.
Qualitative research is a research method taken from social sciences and is often used in order for market research purposes, as a way to examine decisions making processes. Its goal is to understand why and how people make decisions, beyond what their decisions are eventually. As product developers or managers we must try to understand these processes throughout different types of users, in order to design or re-design products respectively. Our technology, as modern as it may be, must be intuitive, reactive and easy to understand.
Our main goal as UX designers is to recognize our users’ patterns, whether formed as a task completion need or as part of a fun game or app, causing us pleasure. Each of those can trigger addictive mechanisms and is designed to make the user act in a certain way. Our targets should be clear from our first designing steps.
Though we may consider different types of users, our product can only be designed in one way, forcing us to recognize patterns of decision making and behavior concerning each type of user. Therefore, while customizing the product accordingly, we should “plan” our users’ mistakes. The better we do that, the more likely our users will learn and reuse our products. Patterns and common mistakes can also be easily predicted by observing different types of users. The research doesn’t have to be completed before the product’s market outgoing. The right way to learn users’ patterns is to work through iterations; receiving feedbacks regarding the design, and changing accordingly.