The way we interact and respond to information depends on many things: our goals about what we want to do with that information, the nature of the information, the context we find ourselves engaging with it, etc. Throughout these interactions is a continual dance between the rational and emotional, says information architect John Schneider.

“Our rational selves ask questions like, “What does this do?”, “What are the features?”, or “Can I download it?” This is our practical side that wants to get things done and accomplish tasks. It is the side we seem to focus on, which makes sense since people do, in fact, need to get things done and we can help them do just that. Plus, we can measure it via usability testing.

But what about when there’s not a strong motivation to get things done, or someone needs convincing? Or maybe they do need to get something done but they’re put off or just not encouraged by the presentation of the information? That’s when we need to speak to the emotions.

Our emotional selves don’t ask questions, but instead filter actions through an emotional lens. Our emotions provide the impetus for our action or inaction. We first react, then act, formulating ad hoc rationales for either engaging in or avoiding something. It’s our job to anticipate and help guide the emotional engines of our users and direct them accordingly to either things they need or things we would like them to do or at least consider.”

A first post explores how people respond to information and discussed the need for a good understanding of human psychology and behavior if we want our designs to be more effective, while a second one takes a look at some of those underlying principles and provides a framework that can help guide design decisions.