What Limbic Resonance Can Provide in UX Research

Limbic resonance is a theory that our brain chemistry and nervous systems are affected by other people (and other mammals, like our dogs, because they also have limbic systems). In A General Theory of Love, three psychiatrists explain the many implications of this theory.

One implication that we have seen in our own work is that we can affect our participants in a way that allows them to be more present and actually combats the observer effect. As researchers, if we are mindful, we can calm our nervous systems and steady our minds. This helps us attune to our participants on a limbic level and encourages their nervous systems to settle. This allows them to focus on the product we are testing rather than manage the stress of being in a new environment with an observer. In this way, we do not need to grab different social tricks for shy versus opinionated participants, or those who are people-pleasers as opposed to contrarians.

Then, limbic resonance deepens the research, because in addition to hearing what the participants are saying, we can feel a bit of what they are feeling. This helps us go beyond the surface level into potential subconscious needs or reactions. We then ask open-ended questions to verify the data our bodies are gathering.

By being connected on a limbic level, we can inquire while truly having the person's best interest at heart. In other words, we are ensuring that we really are getting the "user's experience" rather than tilting the research in a way that suits our ego or biases because we are in a state of connection.

We are passionate about bringing practical skills to the UX community to create these kinds of connections. Our world will be improved by skillful research that leads to excellently attuned designs. If you are interested in learning more, check out our workshops and join our Meet-up group, UX for the People. We would love to connect with you--on a limbic level!