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Learning about cognitive science at the NoVA UX meetup

For our February NoVA UX meetup, John Whalen (PhD Cognitive Science Johns Hopkins and Founder, Brilliant Experience consultancy) shared his insights and experience about cognitive science with the group. Using videos and interactive examples, he shared learnings about how we perceive, remember, and make decisions, and how those concepts can be applied to user experience design.

NOVA UX Meetup, AddThis (Feb. 2013)

He began by talking about memory, perception, and the systems of our brain that control them. Since our attention is easily distracted and much of what we think we see is actually constructed by our brains, as designers we can use techniques such as visual cues and story-telling to guide viewers through interfaces more effectively.

Next, John walked through how we make decisions based on what we perceive and remember – and how easily those memories can be lost. He gave an example of a checkout process that offered a discount code at the beginning, which was forgotten and inaccessible by the end when payment was expected – not a good experience indeed. He then walked through strategies that designers can use to enhance interfaces that help the viewer make decisions such as registrations or purchases, such as:

  • asking for smaller commitments to build up to bigger ones
  • providing social proof – others who bought this bought that too
  • giving perceived control to the viewer – “build” your dream car

For more details, check out John’s slides and join us for upcoming meetups about designing for behavioral change, e-commerce, and usability testing.


  • Thanks for sharing this very interesting info. I wonder if there is a link that I can subscribe to John? So I’ll always be updated with his latest news and meetups?

  • Guadalupe, you can find out more about John and his work at Cheers!

  • Amazing post! I am only starting out in community management/marketing media and trying to find out methods to get it done well – sources such as this content are usually useful. Because our firm is located in the usa, it is all a bit not used to us.

  • I agree with John walked and greatly appreciate his statement.
    can not deny asking for a smaller commitment to build the bigger it is in need to build better lives.

    Thanks for the information, I am sure this article interesting you may develop tential be better.

  • I’ve never heard of Brilliant Experience consultancy. It appears that their methods are really on the verge of something unique.

  • I really love your site.. Very nice colors & theme.
    Did you develop this amazing site yourself?

    Please reply back as I’m attempting to create my own personal site and would like to find out where you got this from or exactly what the theme is named. Kudos!

  • Thanks, that’s very nice of you! The AddThis design team does indeed design this blog and the AddThis site. Our blog is built on WordPress using custom HTML and CSS.

  • You can reach John at his website,

  • Nice site.. Thanks a lot

  • Thanks for sharing this info about Brilliant Experience consultancy, need to see it closer.

  • I totally agree with John Whalen. I am a software interface designer. I learnt this when I was undergoing training about interface design. All waht John has said is very important to any form of designing if it is going to be successful