We generally believe that people will find our products usable as long as we design things in a consistent, logical manner. However, humans frequently operate in irrational ways. While we may be tempted to view such actions as user errors, we ought to follow Norman’s advice that rather than blaming the use for being irrational, we should take the initiative and design with emotion in mind.
Johnson recommends framing this problem in terms of the dual-process theory perspective of cognition that we explored last week. In dual-process theory we think of our mind as composed of two systems:
- System one is subconscious, automatic, and “emotional”.
- System two is conscious, deliberate, and “rational”.
We noted that while we are aware of system two’s processing, it is system one’s processing that dominates our lives. This is necessary because our limited attention span cannot be devoted to consciously processing all the information and tasks necessary to operate a user interface, let alone survive.
This division of labor of the mind comes at a cost, however. System one, by definition, does not operate logically. This is usually fine—logic is not necessary to inhale air—but can lead to problems when System one makes decisions that require careful reasoning. These situations manifest themselves as cognitive biases that can lead to undesired behavior. In the context of interface design, cognitive biases lead to users making the wrong decisions with an interface even though the interface is presenting “correct” information.
There are many sorts of cognitive biases, e.g., those listed on the Rational Wiki:
- List of Cognitive Biases. From rationalwiki.org.
The ones that Johnson outlines as particularly important for us to consider are:
- Loss Aversion and the Four-fold Pattern: the pain of losing things is disproportionally higher than the joy of gaining of things.
- The Framing Effect: our choices our influenced by the context in which said choices are presented.
How do we weaponing knowledge of these biases? If we think of the System one/two analogy, we ultimately want to build interfaces that:
- Help System two override System one.
- Exploit System one to support System two.
How we actually accomplish this requires care and creativity in our interfaces and systems. This article by Alicia Salvino gives some concrete suggests on moving forward.
- Alicia Salvino. The Importance of Cognitive Bias in Experience Design. UX Collective. June 7, 2017.