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The key to figuring out what isn't working in your life is understanding some basic psychological facts about yourself — like why we can't resist paying attention to sex and danger, or that people see what they want to see.

We've published 100 Mind-Blowing Psychological Facts You Should Know About Yourself, courtesy of Dr. Now we're highlighting our favorites from the list.

Have you ever wondered why traffic always slows when people are driving by an accident?

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The “new brain” is the conscious, reasoning, logical brain that you think you know best; the mid brain” is the part of the brain that processes emotions, and the “old brain” is the part of the brain that is most interested in your survival. As animals evolved they developed other capacities (emotions, logical thought), but they retained a part of their brain to always be scanning what is going on for these three critical questions.

From reptiles to people — If you look at brains from an evolutionary perspective, the “old brain” developed first (hence the name “old brain”! In fact, that part of our brain is very similar to the brain of a reptile, which is why some people call it the “reptilian” brain. You can't resist — What this means is that you just can’t resist noticing food, sex, or danger.

It doesn’t matter how hard you try to not notice these 3 things in your surroundings, you will always notice them. You don’t necessarily have to do anything once you notice, for example, you don’t have to eat the chocolate cake when you see it, you don’t have to flirt with the attractive person who walked into the room, and you don’t have to run away from the large scary guy that walked in the room with the good looking woman.

But you WILL notice all of those things whether you want to or not. I am pointing out that if you want to get someone’s attention at a website, then any images or headlines that include or imply food, sex, or danger will definitely get attention. Have you seen any good examples of websites that use these ideas effectively (besides just sex sites — don’t send me URLs for those)?

Cake, pretty woman, and a crash on the home page — I get emails from people who have read about the old brain in my book. I am about to head to Portugal for a week, and I was interested in exploring different possible destinations in Portugal.

They will write to me wanting advice about how they should fit a picture of cake, a woman in a bikini, and an industrial accident all at the home page of their corporate website. I may not have much time for touring (I’m going to speak at the UXLX conference there), but if I did have time, where should I go?

I have to admit to pretty much total ignorance about Portugal, the different regions, landscapes, and parts of the country, so I went to the official tourism web site for the country.

Well, it’s not really your fault, you (and everybody else) can’t resist looking at scenes of danger.

It’s your “old brain” telling you to PAY ATTENTION.


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