What fear does to us and how to design for fear

Fear is a very powerful emotion. Fear directly triggers the limbic system of the brain, which raises our heart rate, the level of adrenaline in the blood and depending on the situation, it causes us to freeze, fight or flight. No other emotion has that strong a connection with the body.

people standing atop of a diving tower at a pool

Fear is so powerful that it stop us from thinking clearly, it overrides our rational brain. It takes a lot of effort to overcome fear and tell ourselves that there is nothing to be afraid of. The beautiful and mesmerizing film  “Ten meter tower“, shows us how people behave when they are scared. At first they freeze. Then they evaluate the situation. Next they start to envision their options and almost talking to themselves. The rational mind is trying to override the limbic system. Would you jump?

How might fear influence the behaviour of some of your users? Does it stop them from using it, or would they back away? Does your product/ app/ building/ policy allow for people to be scared? Can people still notice and understand how it works when they can’t think rationally? Is it flexible to adapt to people who are scared and is it forgiving when people make mistakes? Read more about how to design for behaviour and see if the principles of behaviour design apply to your product. What are you afraid of?



You might also like this video of people using an escalator for the first time


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