July 18, 2023

10 Cognitive biases every designer must know

Cognitve bias have been a huge topic during thoses last years. I would like to present you some of them, because I believe that it might help you to take the rational decisions, specially when you’re a UX Designer and you conduct user interviews.

As an introduction, I would like to share with you some of the common cognitive biases that affect us in everyday life. I’m Hannah Sellam, co-founder of Frictionless, a digital agency and host of Hemisphere Droit a french Product Design Podcast.

As a UX Designer I’m fond of every psychological topics because that can help me to create meaningful user experience that works.

But first, what is a cognitive bias?

What is a cognitive bias?

“A cognitive bias is a systematic pattern of deviation from norm or rationality in judgment. Individuals create their own subjective reality from their perception of the input.”

The notion of cognitive bias was introduced by Amos Tversky and Daniel Kanheman in 1972 and grew out of their experience of people inability to reason intuitively with the greater order of magnitude.

The Spotlight Effect

The spotlight effect is the phenomenon in which people tend they are being noticed more than they are in reality. The reason of the spotlight effect is the innate tendency to forget that although one is the center one’s world, one’s the center of everyone’s else.

Fundamental Attribution error

Also called “attribution effect” is the tendency for people to under-emphasize situational explanations for an individual’s observed behavior while over-emphasizing dispositional and personality-based explanations for their behavior. It has been described as “what people do reflects who they are”. This effect overattribute their behavior and underattribute them to the situation or context.

Barnum Effect

Individuals give high accuracy ratings to descriptions of their personality that supposedly are tailored specifically to them : Someone tell you that he recognized some personality trait : you like sport and you are introvert, moreover you like innovation. You think he’s right because you are passionate about sport.

The Halo Effect

This effect takes hold of our decision-making, it can hinder our ability to think critically about other people traits. As a result, we may mistakenly judge others unfairly and miss out on opportunities.

The perception of people influence the value of the product, for example, attractive visual design can drive more visitors to your website, in the same veine, good user experience create confidence and will help you to convert more customers.

Belief perserverance

Maintening a belief despite new information that firmly contradicts it. Examples of belief perserverance :

  • Self-impression : An individual may be thin and attractive but may believe that they are overweight and ugly despite ample evidence of the contrary
  • Social impression : involve beliefs about other specific people
  • Social theories : involve believes about the way the world works, how people think, interact and behave. This type of belief is responsible about political and social issues

The cheerleader effect

People are more attractive when they belong to a crew. In digital marketing it could be more efficient to present your product in groups to rise the general appeal that your customers give them.

In the TV shows “How I met your mother”, Barney Stinson points out to his friends a group of women that initially seem attractive, but who are all unattractive when examined individually. This point is made again by two other characters : Ted and Robin later in the episode who note that some of Barney’s friends also seem attractive in a group.

The Mere Exposure Effect

You have probably had the experience of hearing a new song and not caring for it much at first, but after hearing it a number of times, you find that you really do enjoy the song and catch yourself humming it when you least expect to, that’s the mere exposure effect ! The more you see or hear something, the more you probably like it (familiar effect).

Social Desirabilty

Most of people behave in order to match with social expectations, for example, nobody wants to be seen as a stingy. Social desirability prevents people from giving truerly answers to your UX surveys. You must keep the topic very vague because respondents might give you answers that are socially accepted : imagine you conduct a survey about social waste, if your core target know it, they might say that they sort the waste (whereas it’s absolutely not the case) to be seen as the good student.

The self serving bias

The common habit of a person is taking credit for positive events or outcomes, but blaming outside factors for negative events. For example, a student get a good grade on a test and tells himself that he studied hard or he’s good at this discipline. But if he get a bad grade on another test, thus he will say that the teacher doesn’t like him.

Just-world hypothesis

A person’s action are inherently inclined to bring morally fair and fitting consequences to that person : you deserve what you got or you got what you deserve.

Key Takeways

As you might understand, cognitive biais are everywhere and the more you are aware about it, the more you will avoid it and take a step forward to analyse a situation.

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