The lizard brain is the one which passes barely conscious judgements for our immediate actions, acts upon the muscles and awakes the rest of the brain. Concerned with survival, it has adopted a role as counselor for our social survival, letting us create our ‘comfort zone’, first impressions, and other subjective judgements (good or bad, safe or dangerous). What we like to call instinct also resides in the inferior part of our brain.
Amazingly, the lizard brain is present in everything we do. That part of the brain which controls emotional reactions will change the way we think, based on its impressions – positive and negative – and one cannot escape it.
The designer is concerned with two instances of the lizard brain – his own and his user’s. Suspending judgement is very important to get the creative work done and also to determine the user to be open minded when using a product. The lizard brain calculates risks and allows one to accept the unknown and the new, or in other words, keeps the mind opened or closed. It has to be considered when a certain response or action is expected. Handling or acting with emotion is the first step in earning trust and fondness.
A relatively new focus in design is making products easy to use and emotion has a considerable role on our experience with them. A well known figure in the research on emotion and cognition, who explains why attractive things work better is Donald A. Norman:
“Emotion is a necessary part of life, affecting how you feel, how you behave and how you think. Indeed, emotion makes you smart. Without emotions, your decision making ability would be impaired.”
One strong emotion that people usually ‘possess’ is fear. Two kinds of it are the most often: fear of speaking in public (the judgement of others) and fear of death. So how will design contribute to scatter fear? How many levels of need will be touched by the design? As most people have the physiological and safety needs covered, designers should address the higher needs. The way to reach upper levels in Maslow’s pyramid is opened by control over the lizard brain.