3 Reasons We Are Wired to Turn Knobs

3 Reasons

We Are Wired to

Turn Knobs


Picture this, you’re in an exhibition and you see a knob with a “Turn It” sign on top. Are you intrigued to do so? When you do turn it, a colorful circular object starts rotating. The more you turn, the faster it rotates and the colors all blur together. Satisfying, right? Our claim is that any person that comes across that knob would attempt to turn it, to figure out what’s going to happen.

Knobs are timeless; we know how they work and expect them to act in a certain way. But what is it about them that we love? We dug into it to come up with an answer, and came up with three reasons why knobs will always be cool.





Let’s talk psychology. In Freud’s psychoanalytic theory of personality, the pleasure principle drives us to seek immediate gratification of all our needs, wants, and urges. In other words, we’re wired to gain pleasure from things that give us immediate satisfaction, so we actively seek them. That’s why most of us love a good old-fashioned control knob. You turn to the right and instantly the light becomes brighter or the volume turns up, you turn to the left and the opposite happens…instantly. That’s the keyword here; we get instant results from and action we took. Which brings us to the second point.



of Control


It makes a whole world of difference between, just perceiving something and controlling the outcome. The latter is much more memorable, and gives a sense of control. Like the colors that blurred, because you made them, and that stopped when you decided it. In that instant, you became part of the exhibition. Almost as if you participated in creating it. You get a sense of belonging that comes from being in charge of a result. All the more reason to love it. But it isn’t just about the results, our final reason comes from the moment you touch a knob.




of Feel


As product designers have been saying for years; the feel is as important as the functionality. We don’t only enjoy the way a knob acts, but also the feel of it. Because holding something physical in a world of digital interactions still has its perks. One can’t deny, that the way something feels in your hands brings in an element of reality to the entire interaction. This tactile experience that comes from interacting with something physical is what makes using a knob ‘feel’ familiar and appealing to use.

We have been using knobs for so long; turning up volumes, changing lights, setting time. There’ll always be this feel-good emotional connection we get from turning a knob. Unfortunately, one of the frustrating examples of knobs not responding the same we expect them to is when sometimes inside a store or in its window we see a design of something that resembles a knob or a wheel, and we’re so tempted to turn it, but as part of a static design nothing happens. That’s why it’s better to add a touch of interactivity to your displays, to standout and create emotions within your audience. You can check how we used Knob in Creative Industry Summit, and how people enjoyed interacting with it.