NEXT PRACTICE INSTITUTE
How Technology Meets Our Psychological Needs (and what this means for designing digital experiences) by Mobius Senior Expert, Srini Pillay, M.D.
n increasing amount of our everyday consumer experiences – whether as customers or employees – are going digital. This puts special pressure on artists and scientists to work together. It’s frequently overlooked that technology represents the collaboration of these two disciplines – ones we have traditionally segregated. For example, people often think that aesthetics are restricted to works of art and that mathematical formulae carry only logical and specific meaning. However, a recent study1 demonstrated that when people experience a mathematical formula as beautiful, it activates brain regions that overlap with activations found when experiencing sublime music. “Artistic” and “technical” people – often treated as fundamentally different inside organizations – may share more in common than is often assumed. What is clear is that our demand for digital is surging and this calls for a tighter partnership between designers (those involved in the artistic dimensions of programs, apps, and games) and technical talent (those who conceptualize the algorithm design and programming). To date, there are no identifiable models that help to foster this collaboration. As a result, many firms have to deal with incongruent efficiencies in one or the other of these teams. To help bridge this divide between technology and art, I propose a new model derived from insights related to human psychology and brain science. With this model, learning professionals and others involved in human capital development can guide the collaboration between art and science. First, though, we must examine the needs that technology fulfills. These
needs offer us a template for how we design things and, therefore, how the collaboration behind design might unfold. PSYCHOLOGICAL NEEDS THAT TECHNOLOGY FULFILLS As a result of adopting and immersing ourselves in technology, we offload the work that our brains’ internal electrical circuits previously performed. We continue to adopt technology, in part, because these external electrical circuits often perceive, remember and process information in ways that are far superior to how our brains work. In addition to these cognitive benefits, there are other psychological needs that technology fulfills: · Need for self-control: We have a basic need for control2 over our lives, whether that involves controlling ourselves or other people. Often referred to as “personal freedom,” this need for control is a high priority. Technology allows us to experience control by providing choices. By pressing a few buttons, you can learn what’s happening in the world. By swiping your finger across a screen, you can find the to-do list you need. By clicking a number, you can see and talk to someone in another country. When we have choices and exercise our control, this activates brain regions that increase feelings of reward3 and self-preference.4 When choices are taken away, this throws our brains into conflict5 where brain activations give rise to negative feelings6 such as anxiety and uncertainty.
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