Content and cognition: Writing for the human mind

Ever since the beginning of the technological age, sci-fi forecasts were quick to render the human mind obsolete. Psychology has since highlighted the role of emotion and cognitive biases in how people understand and consume content. Here are some strategies for how to speak to customers old and new – and to their brains.

Text by Alberto Ferreira


Content and cognition: Writing for the human mind

Image: © bimdeedee/

Writing for the average user is a tricky affair. Unlike machines, our mind can only hold a very restricted amount of information. Ask somebody to tell you ten random single-digit numbers and try to repeat them. You will soon find that the more numbers you hear, the harder it is to remember the sequence of digits. Remembering anything beyond the first seven digits will be a Herculean task. This is our working memory in action, and its middling capacity also limits the number of individual words you can remember outside the context of a sentence.

Our working memory works along with our iconic memory, which stores everything we see, albeit very briefly and often with selective attention focus. These limits impose heavy constraints on the way we do digital design.

Take passwords, for instance. According to recent research by Panda Security, up to 52 percent of users reuse their passwords ...