Chapter 11. Psychology versus Culture

Some parts of human behavior are predictable. Some aren’t. In this lesson, I want to introduce a two-part model that will help you know what you can control and what you can’t.


We are all born with the same brain (more or less). The details might vary a bit, but overall, it’s the same machine.

We can all feel happy and sad. We all want to be respected. We can all learn to ride a bicycle, and we all regret tequila the next day., for example, is built on the psychological principle of collecting things we like. That is common to all people.

Psychology, in this sense, is the same for all of us. Most of what we will learn in this book is about psychology. The stuff we all share. Behavior you can predict and use in your designs.

But differences are useful, too.


After we’re born, we take those brains on very different journeys. You might be an Eastern, Christian scientist who climbed Everest, or a Western, atheist artist who watches monster truck videos 24/7.

For example: all people feel the need for justice, but one person might think death row is appropriate and another person might not. Or, to continue our Pinterest example: “collecting” might be universal, but what we collect is highly personal. Pinterest does a lot of work to find topics of interest for each user, whether that is interfaces, architecture, or fluffy chickens.

Culture, in this sense, is different for each of us. People with similar experiences and personalities ...

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