No-Code and the Human Brain

no-code and the brain

Is it possible our brains are naturally predisposed to learning no-code over other application development methods? Let’s dig into the science. Unqork's Amar Vedula dives in.

We often talk about the fact that no-code is more accessible than traditional coding languages and empowers all users (or “Creators” as we refer to them at Unqork) to participate in the app-building process without specialized computer science skill sets. What we haven’t yet explored, however, is the neuroscience and psychology that comes into play when building in a completely visual medium

Building with code requires humans to translate processes into languages that machines can understand. Most people would consider this a slow and tedious way to work—it certainly is as compared to the visual-based UI that no-code provides. What if no-code is a faster way to develop applications not only because of its use of reusable visual components, but also because it taps into a more natural way of engaging your brain?    

An Extremely Brief History of How We Think

Researchers and neuroscientists have been trying to answer the enormous question of how humans think for decades. An influential breakthrough occurred in 1967, when neuropsychologist Roger Sperry and his colleague Michael Gazzaniga conducted a series of experiments to understand the differences between the two hemispheres of the brain. By studying the hemispheres of the brain independently, their split-brain research was able to conclude that the left hemisphere of the brain is dominant for verbal thought, linear thinking, and mathematics. The right hemisphere, on the other hand, is superior in spatial and visual-motor tasks, holistic thinking, and nonverbal cues.

Watch our webinar, "Low-Code vs No-Code: A Practitioner's View" to see visual programming in action.

On the surface, it seems like an argument could be made that no-code and its visual application development is a natural fit for people with so-called “dominant right brains.” However, contemporary research has shown that even though the two hemispheres of the brain are fundamentally different, the two hemispheres are always collaborating. As science writer Carl Zimmer says, “No matter how lateralized the brain can get, the two sides still work together.” The idea that someone can be either a right-brained or a left-brained thinker is more pop psychology than scientific fact. So what does this mean, and how does this relate to the way we learn?

Engaging the Entire Brain

Given that people don’t have a dominant hemisphere of the brain, is there another way to look at visual application-building to understand how to best engage humans in the process? A 2017 study helps us answer this question.

Elinor Amit, an affiliate of Harvard’s Psychology Department, and Evelina Fedorenko of Harvard Medical School wanted to research what it looks like when humans engage in visual vs. verbal thought. Their study found that even when people were prompted to use verbal thinking skills, they simultaneously created visual images to accompany their inner speech. However, when people were prompted to use their visual thinking skills, verbal thinking tended not to intrude in the same way—suggesting that visual thinking is deeply ingrained in the human brain at a fundamental level. 

Amit’s research backs up the idea that while language is a relatively recent evolutionary development, visual thinking is fundamental to our nature. In a slightly different key, scientists Woolfolk and Paivio (1993) looked to understand how visual and verbal thinking translates into memory. They hypothesized that information can be stored in long-term memory as a visual image, a verbal unit, or a combination of both—but their findings suggested that information stored both visually and verbally is the easiest to remember.

The Unqork platform allows you to think in the way that comes naturally to you, and then quickly bring those concepts to life without worrying about how your ideas will translate into a codebase. 

There are many fascinating implications here, but a couple of key lessons stand out when it comes to thinking about no-code and the brain. Contemporary research suggests that: 1) Visual thinking comes naturally to humans, and 2) Using a hybrid learning approach that appeals to all types of brain function will improve retention. Therefore, no-code, which relies on mostly visual workflows supplemented by verbal cues, could be the ideal way for humans to engage their brains as they learn how to build the software they need.

Application Development for Humans

Now, we’re not neuroscientists or psychologists—we’re app-builders—so we can only base our assertions on existing research. Still, as people who have built a platform that turns an entirely verbal process into a largely visual one, we have a vested interest in understanding how humans learn.

We can’t say definitively whether no-code is more human because it relies more on hardwired learning processes and visual elements, or because it’s simply a more accessible, collaborative way to build. What we do know is that no-code strips away the enterprise issues related to code at scale, and it caters more to humans than computers. The Unqork platform allows you to think in the way that comes naturally to you, and then quickly bring those concepts to life without worrying about how your ideas will translate into a codebase. 

Want to learn more about how no-code can be used in your organization? Schedule a personalized demonstration with one of our in-house experts or subscribe to the Unqork newsletter to keep up with the latest news in the world of no-code.

About the Author

Amar Vedula

Amar Vedula is an Account Development Representative with Unqork who helps agencies discover ways to use no-code to benefit residents and taxpayers. Want to learn more? Follow him on <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/amarvedula/" target="_blank">LinkedIn</a> or <a href="mailto:amar.vedula@unqork.com">shoot him an email</a>.

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