Another facet of cognition that medical product designers should understand has to do with motivations and desires. Though we learn to hide it well, at the most basic level we all harbor doubt, fear, insecurity and a sense of incompleteness. To counteract those feelings, we are drawn to objects that reflect our view of our ideal selves. If you see yourself as intelligent, competent and serious, you’ll be attracted to things that embody those characteristics. The design of a surgical tool is an example of where this can be put to use. With purposeful application of technique, the designer can make the tool seem sleek and precise. Those who value those characteristics will prefer that tool over others. It reflects who they are and that in turn gives them confidence, which makes them feel good about themselves.

Those with a practical, scientific mindset might deny that they are influenced by appearances. But research has shown that the decisions we make are directed to a surprising extent not by our reasoning mind, but by our unconscious. Appearance is important.