The Process of Processing

I apologize ahead of time if this post is pretty bland. I find it interesting how our brains are able to subconsciously make judgements and assessments but we must ultimately make the conscious decision to act on those judgements and assessments. So for that reason, I am going to focus this post on Don Norman’s Three Levels of Processing from his book, The Design of Everyday Things.Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 6.34.08 PMThe Visceral level is first. In general, humans have the ability to assess the environment that they are in and the situations they encounter. These assessments can be made without information outside of the present situation. For example, if you’ve ever walked into a party and just feel uncomfortable, as if the atmosphere is unsafe or awkward, that is using your visceral processing. What this allows us to do as humans is understand a situation without complicating it with previous knowledge of the participants or type of situation that it is as well as preventing us from getting our emotions too involved.

The second level is the Behavioral level. The actions from the behavioral level are just that. Behavioral. This means that they are learned skills from our past experiences that are triggered when we experience similar things. These actions can range from simply knowing that you eat when a plate of food is set in front of you all the way to the complex way one might need to handle an awkward situation between opposing parties at a business meeting.

Both the Visceral and Behavioral levels are subconscious. The actions that occur from these are not a result of us making the conscious effort to figure out what is going on around us in a particular situation nor are they the result of us analyzing all components of a situation so that we can figure out what to do. These levels are the basis of the most basic emotions that we are able to understand and act on due to the situation at hand.

The final level of Norman’s Three Levels of Processing is the Reflective level. This is the level where we make our decisions. The combination of the Visceral and Behavioral levels provide enough information for us to then be able to create a deeper understanding of those situations. This is where emotions and decision making processes combine. The two together allow us to have the appropriate responses to various situations.

So what does all of this mean? By dividing out processing up into three different levels, we are able to see what happens in each level and how it affects the end product. While it is extremely important to have the Reflective level present in order to reach the goal, the two more basic levels, Behavioral and Visceral, are equally as important although not as obvious.


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