Brain Drain, Debilitating Effects from a Lack of Neuro-Design

It’s critically important for designers to understand mental fatigue, and how many of their best practices, accessibility included, actively contribute to cognitively impairing users. Mental fatigue is a pervasive problem in the 21st century. It causes cognitive impairment and this has been one of the most significant causes of accidents in modern society.

Research demonstrates that mental fatigue induces decline in executive functions such as executive attention, sustained attention, goal-directed attention, alternating attention, divided attention, response inhibition, planning, and novelty processing. In particular, conflict-controlling selective attention (response inhibition) is highly vulnerable to mental fatigue. It also blocks the brains ability to produce cells necessary for learning and remembering.

The impact of interaction between technology and your digital design on users can severely debilitate their well-being. It can be especially devastating on users with disabilities.

Consider this, for instance, a 2003 study of YAHOO’s home page determined that while it was keyboard accessible, navigating the home page could require 270 tabs to access a particular link and it would take 6 min to reach a link at the bottom of the page.

The interaction of assistive devices for users with disabilities has a high propensity of creating mental fatigue through complex maneuvers and cognitive processing load. For instance, accessible design might include rollover menus that reduce visual clutter and are conducive to mouse manipulation. However, but they often require additional manual dexterity and may create excessive loads on the cognitive resources available to users with disabilities.

Mental fatigue can be very damaging. It causes people to feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and make their responsibilities and problems seem impossible to overcome.

Mental exhaustion causes physical as well as emotional symptoms. It can also impact your behavior, which others may notice even before you do. Mental exhaustion can cause you to feel as though you’re in a dark hole and can’t see your way out.

Some emotional effects include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Cynicism or Pessimism
  • Apathy (feeling of not caring)
  • Detachment
  • Anger
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Feelings of dread
  • Lack of motivation
  • Decline in productivity
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Physical signs

Physical signs of mental exhaustion may include:

  • Headaches
  • Upset stomach
  • Body aches
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Changes in appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Increased illness, such as colds and flu
  • Behavioral signs

Mental exhaustion can cause you to behave in ways that are out of character for you.

Behavioral signs may include:

  • Poor performance at work
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Inability to keep personal or work commitments
  • Calling in sick to work or school more often

Given the extraordinary amount of time human beings spend interacting with the web, and ICT, in this day and age, your design is having major, potentially catastrophic, consequences on the well-being of society. How is your user experience research, testing, and development, addressing this? This is why we, at Helix Opportunity, focus on neuro-design.


Keywords: Neuroplasticity neuro-design user experience ux design thinking user experience userexperiencedesign

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