(Empathic Design) Monkeys and User Centered Design, or, On Empathy

“Monkey see, Monkey do,” goes a saying. But turns out, this old saying reveals more about our brain and how it works.

In the 90s, Italian researchers led by Dr. Giacomo Rizzolatti discovered “mirror neurons:” monkeys who watched others–monkeys and humans–eat something experienced the same activities in their brains as when they ate something themselves. Subsequent studies using more sophisticated equipment like fMRIs revealed that humans have complex systems of understanding others’ actions and experiences through these neurons, and feelings generated by them. And it is widely accepted today that empathy is “soft-wired” in our brains, a natural, innate ability in almost all of us.

“Empathy is the foundation of a human-centered design process.” d.School, Stanford University

image http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monkey