the role of mirror neurons in web design
“Neurons that fire together, wire together”
Donald O. Hebb
Want to influence your site visitors? Want to increase your conversion rates?
Then mirror neurons are a great place to start.
The answer is found in the observations of a monkey by researchers in a lab in Parma, Italy. The team of scientists in Parma had implanted electrodes in the brain of a monkey so that they could map the neurons that were controlling the monkey’s movements. Pretty cool, huh?
Well, things went a bit haywire as one of the researchers, a grad student, entered the lab with an ice-cream cone. When the monkey watched him bring the cone to his mouth, there was a spike in the monkey’s neural activity. In and of itself, that’s not too astonishing nor noteworthy. However, what makes the event truly remarkable is that the neurons that were set off were the very same ones used to move the monkey’s own body. In other words, the monkey itself seemed to be having the experience of eating ice-cream merely by watching someone else do it.
The Magic of Mirror Neurons
This is what scientists call “mirror neurons,” a set of cells that helps you to experience what you see and hear. For example, your neurons fire in the same way when you smell chocolate or when you merely hear the word “chocolate.”
Think of seeing Marcia Brady of the Brady Bunch getting hit in the nose with the football (If you have no clue what we’re talking about here, YouTube it!). You cannot help but cringe and feel her pain as the ball hits her face. It’s just as if Peter Brady threw the ball at your own face. Ouch!
Looking at our brains, here’s what’s taking place behind the scenes… The premotor cortex is in the front area of the brain. This is the part of the brain where your body triggers its movements. The neurons fired from the premotor cortex provide instructions to the primary motor cortex, which sends out the signals that actually make you move.
It’s theorized that these mirror neurons are also the way we empathize with others. We experience what others are experiencing through these mirror neurons, and that enables each of us to understand how others actually feel.
All told, these mirror neurons are crazy powerful!
Implications for Your Website
What this means for your marketing is that you should develop an experiential map for your brand, and execute your website design in a way that elicits an emotional response:
- What emotions do you want your target audience to feel?
- How do you want your audience to react?
- What do you want them to experience?
Stories are an effective means for achieving this impact on your audience. The more you can paint a vivid picture with your stories, the better. Make it visceral. This is especially useful with case studies. The effect will be that your site visitors will not only read or hear your story, they’ll live it and experience it themselves through the power of their mirror neurons.
Yet stories are not the only tool you can use. Visual input, such as from videos, is another effective tool. The idea here is that you should “show” (not “tell”) your audience what you want them to know. For example, don’t just list a number of bland product benefits. SHOW THEM the benefits in action. Show them how they will feel when they use your products.
You could also try interactive tools. Or emotion-evoking photos. Or even text that’s effectively crafted to evoke an emotive response. Whatever it takes to get them to experience your products and services merely by being on your website.
So if you want your site visitors to smell chocolate when visiting your site, you now have the power to do it. Better yet, get them excited about the feelings that your products or services engender.