Socio-Emotional Design

We can create more effective content if it speaks directly to how our brains process our human experience.

Our Expectant Brian

  • The medialorbitofrontal cortex is believed to manage our expectations. Setting expectations high makes everything that follows seem better.

  • Three ways to optimize expectations are:

    • Blended experience: our expected experience will blend with our actual experience to create a perceived experience

    • Anticipation: our dopamine levels will be elevated by the anticipation of an unknown reward

    • Anticipation renewal: we will need to continue to build new and novel anticipation periodically and systematically within any one single experience to maintain the dopamine levels.

Our Logical Brain

  • Evaluation occurs in our neocortex, which evolved as we became homo sapiens. It's where rational and analytical thought occurs and language is processed.

  • Facts, figures, navigation systems, instructions, explanations and diagrams are created and processed here.

  • Value propositions are answered in our logical brains. However, the foundation of our logic is based on our tribal, primal, and knowledgable brains.

Our Knowledgeable Brain

  • Long term memories are organized in the hippocampus , but the bits are located at various places in the cortex where they are associated with sensory experiences and other tangential, previous memories that connect with and provide context.

  • Experiences that lastingly affect a person's world view, must be iconic and include an explicit or implicit call to make the knowledge actionable.

Our Tribal Brain

  • We all desire to be part of something bigger than ourselves. This feeling happens in the brain's Limbic System, which has no capacity for language. It is not particularly logical and drives both rational and irrational behaviors.

  • In your media, implicitly or explicitly ask the audience: do we share a common experience or belief ?

Our Primal Brain

  • The hindbrain and medulla is sometimes referred to as our "lizard" or "fight or flight" brains. It is our emotional selves.

  • Targeting one or more of the six basic primal emotions we all share: joy, fear, disgust, surprise, sadness, anger, will anchor an effective design strategy.


Use this Slideshow to present a summary version of the Socio-Emotional Design framework to your class or group.

3-Socio-emotional-I. S.E.E. U.

Authors: Bill Fischer & Susan Bonner