New technologies are constantly being released in the market with new, exciting functions and reshaping the way we live our lives as human beings. Psychological research studies may be helpful in understanding how people engage with technology and how they manage the risks and dangers relevant to information and data storage.
Williams (2002) looked at the government’s efforts to educate the public in security risks that threaten public health, security, environmental climate change and other well being factors.
Williams suggested a framework for understanding how humans process information from a focuses on brain science and the human species’ ability to perceive risk.
Central to Williams’ theoretical framework is what he calls “brain lag,” or the notion that the human brain has not evolved as rapidly as the pace of modernisation and, therefore, is incapable of perceiving many risks and threats in a modern world.
As a result, these shortcomings in perception and intellect leave humans ill-equipped to comprehend certain technology related risks and they lack an innate “common sense” response to many modern threats (p. 227).
Williams (2002) makes the point that the trait of adaptation also brings with it an element of denial within behaviour because humans begin to accept false normalities in an urbanised world (e.g., living in cities with polluted air or adapting to the noise of a nearby airport). If denial by adaptation occurs, Williams (2002) maintains that humans will rely on sensory information to determine risk; however, many modern hazards tend to be unnoticeable to the human senses.
Conveying risk in IT is a complicated task.
Furthermore, he characterised conveying the hazards and risks of information security as a highly complex task for governments as there is little sensory information available for humans to assess information risk properly and to characterise such risk as threatening.
Elaborating on his theoretical framework and relying on evolutionary brain science, Williams puts forth the core concept of “enhanced difference” and outlines rules for creating communication materials on modern risks (p.244).
His “enhanced difference” concept relies on the basic evolutionary skills humans have to experience fear or disgust, estimate size and impact through number-scale perception, and to determine reliable entities through a trust versus cheating assessment.
Ultimately, Williams’ “enhanced difference” guidelines aim to make any unseen or unobserved risks of the modern world more visible to humans by appealing to those fundamental, perceptive skills.
Williams, C. (2002). ‘New security’ risks and public educating: the significance of recent evolutionary brain science. Journal of Risk Research, 5 (3), 225 – 248.
Andrea Lewis is a psychologist and Managing Director of Ad Hoc Global Ltd. With a foundation in equity research, she has been leading product development in technology and digital media for over 12 years and leads UX due diligence assessments, research, and strategy.