Culture

The Irony of Neuroscience & Behaviour Change

by Andy Polaine on December 7, 2011

in General

I have been enjoying the Brain Culture: Neuroscience & Society series via BBC Radio 4’s podcasts recently. In the series Matthew Taylor looks at how developments in neuroscience are changing the way we think about everything from law and punishment to education and marketing. As a fan of Raymond Tallis’s writing, who is somewhat of a neuroscience sceptic, I found Taylor’s account pretty balanced, but not without asking some provocative questions.

The last episode looked at the use of neuroscience with regards to behaviour change, perhaps most famous through the Nudge concept favoured by the previous and present UK governments. Its also something that has gained some attention in service design and public policy/social design fields as a potential tool for designing for behavioural change.

The theory is essentially that by bypassing our brains’ rational level, we can be nudged into changing our behaviour on the semi-unconscious level, because our brains frequently make decisions before we are rationally conscious of them. This is put into practice in political environments, such as election campaigns, policy and public service systems (as in the case of using it for preventing no-shows to doctor’s appointments) or in the slightly scary sounding field of neuromarketing. On the one hand the practice appears extremely devious and devalues our sense of self and of being rational beings because it denies us the possibility of changing out nature (Tallis’s argument). On the other hand, neuromarketers claim that these techniques are no different from anyone who has baked bread or made fresh coffee in order to sell their house during viewings.

Science was built on the foundation of rational thought. Until recently economics and business thinking was also based on this rationale, much of it still is. The irony of the new discoveries in neuroscience, it seems to me, is that rational science is essentially getting excited about something designers and many others have know all along. People aren’t rational and make decisions – from financial investments to buying a car to getting married – based on their gut feelings, which they mostly post-rationalise afterwards. It’s also why we are so naturally rubbish at understanding statistics and probabilities. Science has taken several decades to rationally prove that we are irrational.

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Tim Brown on Serious Play

by Andy Polaine on November 9, 2008

in General

I would have loved to have gone to the Serious Play conference, but seem to remember it cost serious money too. This talk from Tim Brown of IDEO sums up a great deal of my own thinking and research, although he got there first of course!

It’s much, much harder to put into practice than people think. Undoing the sense of embarrassment adults feel and the guilt that we’re “not working” is surprisingly difficult, even in design studios.

(Thanks to Karin for finding this for me).

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The Network Generation is in The White House

November 7, 2008

Photo: barackobamadotcom on Flickr It is hard to overstate just how different these US elections were and what a shift in thinking Obama and his campaign signify. Is this the dawn of a fourth republic, whose cycles are “linked indirectly to stages of technological and economic development,” as Michael Lind argues? Or is this the […]

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Core77 Broadcast interview with Troika

May 6, 2008

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of interviewing Sebastien and Eva from Troika, the studio behind the Cloud and All The Time In The World installations at new Terminal 5 at Heathrow. So, if you were one of the hundreds stuck at Terminal 5 when it opened, at least you had something decent […]

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Photojojo’s Time Capsule

May 1, 2008
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Sweet English Suburbia in Hamburg

April 24, 2008

I quite often teach COFA Online’s course, Graphics and Contemporary Society, which I find more interesting now that I’m here in Germany. A lot of the discussion amongst the students, who are in Australia, is about the differences between Asian and Western cultures (though those are sweeping terms in themselves), because there’s a large Asian […]

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Collabor8 – Creative Waves 2008

April 23, 2008

The Omnium Project will be running another global online creative collaboration project under the Creative Waves banner from 28th April – 20 June, this time convened by Ian McArthur and Rick Bennett. This time the project, called Collabor8, will see design students and lecturers from Australia and China join forces for eight weeks, with project […]

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I Want You To Want Me by Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar

April 18, 2008

Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar, who created one of my all time favourite interactive pieces, We Feel Fine, have a new piece called I Want You To Want Me commissioned for MoMA’s Design and The Elastic Mind show. I Want You To Want Me explores the world of online dating, scraping data from thousands of […]

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Podcast interview with Jason Bruges

April 17, 2008

My latest Core77 Broadcast interview with Jason Bruges from Jason Bruges Studio is now online. In a slightly echoing room in Jason’s studio, accompanied by the usual sirens and car alarms of London’s Shoreditch, he talks about his roots in architecture, the journey to interactive surfaces, sustainability and his thoughts about giving this emerging area […]

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Game Controller Family Tree

March 29, 2008

From the old, beloved Atari 2600 joystick to the Wiimote, how did we get from there to here? The “Sock Master’s” family tree of controllers has the goods. There are some classics and some real stinkers like the The Nintendo Virtual Boy Controller. What were they thinking? [tags]controllers, games, videogames, hardware[/tags]

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