The Science of User Experience
How to use cognitive science in modern software development.
Table of contents:
Introduction. What this article is about
Aims and Disclaimers
Part 1. A Good Product
Part 2. What is User Experience (UX)?
Part 3. Choice Architecture
Part 4. Choice Architect
Part 5. Cognitive Biases and UX
Link to the full, interactive version of UX CORE (105 examples of using cognitive biases in team and product management): https://keepsimple.io/en/uxcore.html
Part 6. Our Days
Part 7. Not Only Biases
Part 8. Epilogue
Part 9. Complementary Material
Introduction. What this article is about
This paper will discuss cognitive psychology, behavioral economics, and the human brain biases. Mainly it will focus on how understanding brain errors and human behavior patterns can help to provide high-quality user experience (UX) in software production both for mobile and desktop. However, if the reader is alert, this information can be used beyond these platforms and outside of software in general.
For the past ten years, my constant interest has been exploring people’s decision-making. It led me to study a broad spectrum of cognitive sciences, particularly cognitive psychology and neuroscience.
At some point in my life, I became a product manager, after being an IT technician for 6 years (LAN/WAN/DevOps/InfoSec). As a product manager, I started thoroughly studying users, their expectations, and decision-making to create a more usable and desirable product. It took me about five years to test and assess the practical value of the information given in this paper, while working in several companies, on multiple projects with varying levels of complexity (such as business card websites, the development of the world’s first levitating camera, an ecosystem for eSports, eSports betting platform, civil aviation software, one of the largest digital publishing platform, and more).
Working with more than a hundred various specialists with different professional levels, I gained immense benefits such as several confirmed and refuted concepts. Only a useful part of which will be given here.
Aims and Disclaimers
This paper will be best understood by experienced IT professionals who develop and design software on a regular basis. However, it will also be useful for any kind of specialist in any domain.
The following are the objectives of the study:
- to show the importance of in-depth knowledge in psychology for product managers;
- to define User Experience in terms of psychology and provide knowledge to create high-quality UX in the products of any kind;
- to show the overall framework for evaluation and assessment to determine product managers’ qualities;
- to induce potential investors to invest more in products based on the principles of cognitive psychology and behavioral economics;
- to justify product managers’ ideas, even though they are being refuted by IT technicians despite being true;
- to show another side of the “boring” researches gathering dust in libraries, pointing out the importance they have on the future of software development;
- to encourage psychologists and economists who give thought to changing their career to consider product management as an option. The IT world needs such specialists much more than armchair analysts and MBA/PMP graduate pseudo-managers.
Business issues such as product creating feasibility, market analysis, competitor analysis, and others were purposely omitted since they have little to do with UX. The product can be high-quality, regardless of the feasibility of placing a product on the market and competitors’ advantages.
I have great respect for everyone mentioned here. I am blessed to have an opportunity to familiarize myself with their works and ideas.
This article became broader then I expected it to be, yet I assure you that you will be able to see the knowledge of hundreds of researches on neuroscience and cognitive sciences done in the past 70 years. In case if you would want to get such a summary manually, you would have to spend at least two years of constant study of these articles and their results to be able to use them and apply them in real life.
Part 1. A Good Product
I will not expand the article with abstract arguments about the product, neither its usefulness, the market, or end-users. However, many people will nor agree that a quality product can fail and still not be defined as bad or low-quality, so I will elaborate further on this topic.
I have omitted the market, competitors, and feasibility issues because it’s assumed that a quality product is mainly a product without internal contradictions.
Such product is closely linked to both its ideological (i.e., the creation history, its mission, all images, text and printed materials used for its development and promotion and so on) and technical components (i.e., backend, UI, elements of interaction and design, business colors, customer support services, tone of voice of a company, and much more).
Still, with all the latter mentioned, a high-quality product could enter the market, be useless and forgotten, but remain a high-quality product. Failure can have many causes, such as:
- poor timing (market conjecture changes; people have not grasped the gravity of the problem the product is to solve);
- human factor (internal leaks within the company; or silly technical issues such as spilled water on the servers by the cleaner on the day of the product release);
- poor management skills (the founders came to an agreement on profit sharing too late which caused a rift; mass layoffs caused by excessive pressure on the development team which disrupted negotiations about investments);
- bad luck! The importance of bad luck is entirely ignored by both amateurs and experts («The Black Swans» of Nassim Taleb);
In order not to complicate this article with boring philosophical ideas on business issues, we will sometimes touch these issues mentioned above. Still, we will not focus too much on them.
Part 2. What is User Experience (UX)?
Since UX nowadays is more often associated with UI design, my “opponent” in discussing this certain topic will be Joe Natoli. Joe Natoli is the 30-year UX and design veteran, one of the most popular UXD experts (User Experience Design), author, and speaker. He also has launched the most successful online courses on Udemy on topics of User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI). He has spent more than three decades consulting on UXD for the Fortune 100, 500, and Governmental organizations. He names himself «User Experience Evangelist,» hence I can refer to his concepts made publicly in his books and video tutorials.
In one of his lectures, Mr. Natoli referred to Piter Merholz to explain what User Experience is. He said: «Peter Merholz, a business partner of Jesse James Garrett, who coined the term “User Experience” and the author of “The Elements of User Experience -The UX Bible of All Times”),” says that User Interface is part of User Experience, but there is much more that is relevant to cognitive science. It has to do with people, their wishes and needs, what they want to use, and why they respond to things the way they do.
Bill DeRouchey- another UXD expert (Senior Sales Manager/Workflow Experience Lead at Zendesk) says the following at UXD issue: “For UXD… You don’t even need a screen. UXD is any interaction with any product, any element, and any system.”
Having researched all the available materials of several UXD specialists, I noticed one important pattern — they continuously use scientific evidence of cognitive psychologists, neuroscientists, and behavioral economists. Almost the whole ideological part, the complete “back end” of their speeches is based on cognitive science, but this is rarely emphasized. Most often, they do not want to “complicate” the material for the audience, so they use phrases like “we use the things we understand,” which limits many important factors to be taken into account.
For instance, even if we have access to the application, we will rarely, if ever use it, if the actions expected of us are contrary to the values of the socio-cultural environment with which we identify ourselves. Another UXD specialist can stress it out, saying, “For it to be acceptable, the visual design must be consistent with socio-cultural values.” This sounds beautiful; however, it does not paint the whole picture that needs to be considered to make a coherent decision about product making.
I am not by any means, saying that books and video lessons are useless. One still needs to study a broad spectrum of scattered materials in books and video lessons to understand UX. In this article, I want to give the scientific sources based on which all these books and lessons are created.
So, practically all UXD experts agree that UX is a concept that goes broadly beyond interfaces. Their consensus is that UX is the user’s actual experience when they interact with the product/company.
Since experience is the result of the interpretation of feelings arising from interaction with a product/company, creating a user experience is a psychological game to push the user to a certain thought, emotion, action, or choice. And here, we come close to the concept of “choice architecture.”
Part 3. Choice Architecture
The term “choice architecture” was popularized in a book Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, by two American scientists: Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein. Their collaborative work made many different specialists responsible for creating consumer choice to look at their work from a new perspective. I will briefly describe these figures to clarify their significance for the reader.
Cass Sunstein is a co-author of the Nudge Theory. After a publication, president Obama offered Sunstein to work in the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). It gave the researcher extensive opportunities to incorporate the ideas of psychology and behavioral economics into the work of government agencies. On September 10, 2009, Sunstein was appointed to the head of OIRA, which is part of the Office of Management and Budget- the largest component of the Executive Office of the President.
The post of head of the OIRA is considered to be one of the most influential ones, considering its ability to influence the rules of the enactments. The media informally calls this post regulatory czar. OIRA Sunstein led until August 21, 2012.
Sunstein joined the NSA Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology in August 2013. There are two other former White House workers alongside Richard Alan Clark, an authority in counterterrorism and cyber warfare, and former CIA director deputy.
Richard Thaler is the author of “Nudge Theory,” and Nobel Memorial Prize winner in Economic Sciences for his contributions to behavioral economics in 2017.
Thaler was also involved in the Behavioural Insights Team’s establishment, which was originally part of the British Government’s Cabinet Office. The Behavioural Insights Team (BIT), also known unofficially as the “Nudge Unit,” generates and applies behavioral insights to inform policy and improve public services.
So, these gentlemen have worked for many years on a theory that describes how to influence the people to make a certain choice using cognitive biases (will discuss this further later on). The idea and the described methods were so liked by the leaders of different countries (not only the USA and England) that special state units were created with the aim of editing bills to nudge citizens to a healthier lifestyle, healthier food, without limiting citizens’ choice.
Even now, many governments have thousands of scientists working daily, studying the human brain’s work and its errors to optimize our choice and give us the opportunity to make choices that are in our best interest in such ways that do not limit our choice.
The choice architecture is a description of mind and cognitive biases to which the target audience is exposed to and decisions on how to display the order of the elements involved in the choice that should be made by that audience.
With a competent understanding of both parts of this equation, a choice architect can «nudge» the user/consumer in the direction the company needs.
Part 4. Choice Architect
The Choice Architect term was coined by Sunstein and Thaler, describing it as: “A choice architect has the responsibility for organizing the context in which people make decisions.”
Thaler and Sunstein endorsed the effectiveness of the “nudge” theory on the example of decision-making in drafting bills. In this context, the choice architect’s work is extremely complex, as it is subject to enormous legal and moral restrictions. We are interested in the IT-sphere, specifically in the development of various applications. There are also certain restrictions in this sphere, but there are much fewer restrictions that allow the choice architect to realize his full scientific potential.
In an IT company, it is easy to understand who the choice architect is. This person is engaged in “organizing the context in which the user makes decisions in the application” — for short, a Product Manager.
Organizing the context in which users make decisions is the key responsibility of a Product Manager. A Product Manager must know the patterns of human behavior and, most importantly, the deviations in that behavior to create better conditions for selecting and pushing users to make choices that will benefit the business.
Such systematic deviations of perception, thinking, and behavior of a human is what we call “cognitive biases.” They can be considered “bugs” since most of these biases describe the information processing and analysis failures.
Part 5. Cognitive Biases & UX
This is the main body of the article.
I will further post a number of scientifically deduced and documented cognitive biases. I posted an online tool I call “UX CORE” in a separate link, containing 105 cognitive biases with examples of the use in team management and software application development.
To put the information in a comprehensible order, I used the “Cognitive Bias Codex” categorized and structured by Buster Benson in 2016 ( reference above John Manoogian III ‘s design). In addition to the new form of the biases presentation, I added samples of usability in software development, and in some cases, in company/team management. I took into account state-of-the-art teams and company management practices (PMP, PMI ACP) as well as product development.
Many of the examples I have described below are radical. This was done intentionally, as according to the Contrast effect, such examples are remembered better. The primary purpose of the examples is to give food for thought. I did not seek to achieve their absolute accuracy, as such examples require a thorough description of the working conditions and the tasks assigned, which would take dozens of pages. I am deeply convinced that this work will help to discover new information and draw certain conclusions.
Clicks on the names of biases open pop-ups. All links in pop-ups open in new browser tabs so you can surf the content without worrying to close it accidentally.
As Buster Benson noted, the essence of the stated cognitive biases is to help us solve 4 problems:
- Working with large volumes of data. When it’s too much information to process;
- Vagueness, insufficiency of data. A lack of meaning;
- Not enough time. When we need to act fast;
- Different priorities of information. When we memorize and recall.
Each cognitive bias exists for a certain reason — mainly for the brain to conserve energy and spend less time thinking.
When the biases are observed from the perspective of how they help to solve problems, it becomes easier to understand why they exist, why they are useful, and what compromises need to be made.
#1 Availability heuristics [P]
The tendency to overestimate the likelihood of events with greater “availability” in memory, which can be influenced by how recent the memories are or how unusual or emotionally charged they may be.
In application development, understanding this bias is necessary for consistent interface design, content design, and user communication. If the action we need the user to do is associated with something negative (especially if it’s been covered in the media not so long ago), the likelihood that an action will be taken is greatly reduced. Understanding this allows us to design content (text, images, etc.) so that it is associated only with what we need. This bias allows us to reflect on the current world and market conjuncture to choose a better “tone” of our messages.
Another example: Bitcoins and various kinds of ICOs. The topic of cryptocurrencies was so often negatively boosted in the media that, at some point, investors simply decided to avoid everything connected with it without going into detail. Common users realized that the blindness by the increased volatility of this market did not end well. The hype on this topic eventually fizzled out. Many high-quality blockchain projects have faced severe difficulties in development, due to the highly distorted reputation of everything associated with blockchain, Bitcoin, and crypto in general.
The last example is that I chose the topic of software design and blockchain technologies to describe Availability heuristics. The first topic is obvious to me due to my profession (product manager); the second one simply came to mind with ease when I asked myself, “What stream in IT was full of hype and then quickly died out?.”
#4 Mere-exposure effect [P]
The psychological phenomenon by which people tend to develop a preference for things merely because they are familiar with them. The more often one sees someone, the more pleasant and attractive this person seems to become.
It is important to emphasize that it is not only about people but about objects in general. Let us assume we have a successful app we want to promote in Spain. If we use the colors of the Spanish flag on the background of the description of our application and our digital promotional materials (tastefully and not overdoing it, of course), Hispanic readers will subconsciously sense it familiar.
Another example is that we place a faded, monochrome image of “Sagrada Familia” on the background of a white page that describes the benefits of our app in Spanish. If the text is written with grand and pompous words along with adding the background image, it will easily give the effect of “familiarity” and increase the probability of converting potential users into actual ones.
Another example would be to use standard buttons in our application, standard colors, and sizes, making our entire interface “universal.” When we need to notify our users of new app features, we can do it unobtrusively by using a standard pop-up with the same familiar buttons used in the other parts of the app. If we need to focus the user’s attention so that we can create a feeling of novelty — we move away from our standard system and use a slightly different window color and a slightly different button size in the pop-up. Seeing the new window, the first association that the user will have is the feeling of “novelty,” the intensity of which will be proportional to how long the user has been using our application.
#6 Cue-dependent forgetting [P]
Cue-dependent forgetting, or retrieval failure, is the failure to recall information without memory cues. It is an inability to recall memory due to the lack of stimuli or signals that were present during memory coding.
In the context of the application, we can use this bias to “remind” the user what they can do with the system.
I will give a simple example on the online sweepstake where many users make bets. Obviously, the “average” user wins and loses, and in the interests of business, it will be good to “support” such a user at that difficult moment when he has lost everything. Since in the mind of a player who has experienced a series of “defeats,” there are only defeats the system can remind him of several wins on a certain pattern, bringing back all that series of good memories he experienced. This can be done indirectly, with a message like “Dear % username %, we just wanted to remind you of your incredible winning streak that has lasted three days in a row at % game _ names % .” This approach is possibly too direct, so we can change the message to “Due to your winning streak in % game_ name%, you are now in the 20% of our top players in %sport_name%” This kind of approach is less aggressive and just shows statistics. Doing this is not morally right, of course. Therefore, betting offices and casinos operating under the licenses of the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA), Curaçao, and others, agree in advance that they will not push players into acute gambling. In any case, this example clearly illustrates how businesses can benefit by knowing such a simple error of our brain.
#11 Base rate fallacy [P]
The tendency to ignore general information and focus on only the specific case, even when the general information is more accurate.
For instance, people instantly believe the test results of a rare disease, not taking into account that the disease is a rare one. Another example is the fear of terrorists and flying on a plane. The bottom line is that our brain tends to exaggerate a particular case over statistics.
By understanding this bias, we look closer at developing text content for applications. Thus a message describing a potentially negative outcome in case of any action will be perceived differently by users: “You are about to start the disk defragmentation process. With a 99% probability, the operation will be successful.” And another one saying, “You are about to start the disk defragmentation process. There is a 1% chance that the hard drive will be destroyed, and your data will be permanently lost. “
By the way, this is the reason why it is very important to provide quality technical support. A disappointed user who did not find a reasonable explanation for the program error can leave negative feedback about the application. This will harm the product more than it may seem.
When people see 50 extremely negative reviews mixed with 15,800 good ones, they tend to consider the product way less valuable, even if the negative reviews are less than 0.1%.
#13 Humor effect [P]
Humorous items are more easily remembered than non-humorous ones, which might be explained by the increased cognitive processing time to understand the humor or the emotional arousal caused by the humor.
The best example of using humor is memes. Plenty of big IT companies use memes to promote their products, and the “Humor effect” is exactly what they bet on.
It is very important to understand that this bias is about remembering humorous things, but not about a positive attitude towards them. If the user working on an important action (form filling, data saving), and suddenly gets to the error page 500 (Internal server error), 502 (Bad gateway), 503 (Service unavailable), 504 (Gateway timeout)), then humor like “Ho ho! Our pirates are working on it, and soon everything will be work again! “ will not be appropriate. In this scenario, humor will be noticed, remembered, and most likely will cause anger, and this incident will be remembered better. If such an event occurs several times in a month, according to the Availability heuristics, the user is likely to give a negative rating the next time he thinks about the quality of our product, even if in 99% of cases the application was running smoothly (Base rate fallacy).
In this case, good user experience is when the company takes the blame, explains the core of the error, and notifies that everything will be restored soon, and the page will be refreshed.
#21 Distinction bias [P]
The tendency to view two options as more dissimilar when evaluating them simultaneously than when evaluating them separately.
Understanding this bias allows us to take different approaches to develop the information structure of our application.
For example, if we want the user to clearly see the difference between two service plans, we can put the service plans in a row indicating the characteristics and prices of each (you have seen such on many websites in the “Price” section).
But if we need the user to consider our service plans to be “almost the same” (no matter why), we can place them vertically instead of placing them horizontally. Thus he will have to scroll the page, which will not allow him to evaluate differences in the service plans; hence we will be more likely to achieve our goal.
This bias is also one of the reasons why online sweepstakes and various kinds of casinos do not show “Deposit Amount,” “Winnings,” and “Losses” on the same page. This may be user-friendly, but does not meet the project’s business targets, as the user will give more importance to the difference between winning and losing. It does not even matter what he will give more importance to. The fact that the user will have feelings and thoughts beyond control poses risks for the business.
#36 Neglect of probability [P]
It is the tendency to disregard probability when making a decision under uncertainty and in which people regularly violate the normative rules for decision making. Small risks are typically either neglected entirely or hugely overrated. The continuum between the extremes is ignored. As Rolf Dobelli explains, “We have no intuitive grasp of risk and thus distinguish poorly among different threats. The more serious the threat and the more emotional the topic (such as radioactivity), the less reassuring a reduction in risk seems to us.”
Using this bias daily brings hundreds of millions of dollars to various casinos and betting companies worldwide. It is also the reason why we tend to click on “I accept the terms of the license agreement” without even reading it. Understanding this bias allows companies to provide important information to users in a way that they are likely to ignore the risk. Or, on the contrary, we can push the users to the actions we need, using a specific language.
For example, knowing that our users ignore the probability of complete data loss, we can push them to create backups with a message like “Dear %user_name%, the last time you backed up your data is 571 days ago. We strongly recommend creating a backup to avoid the risk of a permanent data loss.” The likelihood of loss could constantly be 0.1%. Still, by provoking emotions (“permanent data loss”) and converting the conditional 19 months into 571 days, we are more likely to achieve user action (system backup).
Link to the full, interactive version of UX CORE (105 examples of using cognitive biases in team and product management): https://keepsimple.io/en/uxcore.html
As I mentioned, everything written here are examples only. In each situation, a comprehensive approach will be necessary to identify the best solution. Moreover, to solve any kind of problem, a wide range of biases should be considered, not just one specific one.
Also, another important variable in the process of creating a choice architecture is business goals. And these business goals, along with legal and moral limitations, should be taken into account when designing solutions.
In conclusion, I would like to talk about G.I. JOE fallacy coined by professor Laurie Santos et al. just a few years ago. This fallacy concerns the widespread belief that “knowing is half the battle,” which is a false statement and has no scientific basis. Nearly knowing something is not enough to change your behavior. Real change is impossible without deliberate action. You can learn by heart all cognitive biases and understand how they work, but if you do not change your behavior based on the gained knowledge — your “knowledge” loses much of its value.
Moreover, such “knowledge” will not be persistent, you will have to regularly return to the table and repeat what is written so as not to forget. If you not only understand but also take certain actions to digest and learn the material, change your way of thinking, your life, then the best decisions on the product, surprisingly, will become extremely obvious to you.
Part 6. Our Days
Unfortunately, the lack of good product managers is the main obstacle to creating quality products. Most companies do not yet deeply understand the difference between a product manager and a product owner, which makes the situation worse. Sometimes these positions are even put through “/” in vacancy announcements.
At the moment, the requirements for product managers of the “best companies” are designed in a way so everyone who has passed the PMI-ACP can apply. The vague understanding of a product manager’s role leads to the fact that they carry the responsibilities of project managers, scrum masters, and others.
I’m talking primarily about the CIS countries. Although the European market is also unclear about how to find a product manager, how to interview, and what to expect from them.
I believe that things are better in the US since the development of product management comes from there.
Another challenge to creating quality products is, of course, the general manager’s ego, under whom product managers work. The overgrown ego is especially common among technical specialists who are co-owners of the product. Such “managers” usually assume that their coding skills are what allows them to write the functional part of the product, and that is what seems to be proof that they are good product managers. Such management is more likely to be affected by the Dunning-Kruger Effect and the Bias Blind Spot. Working with such management by default increases the work complexity of product managers. Now when a product manager needs to develop a solution in order to complete the task, in addition to doing the actual work, he also has to “reinvent the wheel” and “sauce” under which the whole thing needs to be submitted to the management so that their fragile egos can agree with the proposed solution.
I would also like to highlight the other side of cognitive biases, precisely their enormous, undervalued potential for HR specialists. Unfortunately, I didn’t have an opportunity to work with competent HR specialists, but I am sure that they exist. Studying biases will allow them to create new procedures for better staff selection. I suppose that it will be difficult for the most bureaucratic organizations to realize how cognitive biases can be integrated into the employee search process. However, for more “liberal” companies willing to experiment, I would recommend using knowledge of biases to identify the candidates’ “weak points”. This knowledge also will help to determine the “flexibility” of the candidates. In certain cases, even “fragility of the ego” can be analyzed by testing their tendency to the Bias blind spot.
In general, such biases as the Overconfidence effect, Escalation of commitment, and Backfire effect can be “tested” quite easily. In case of the candidate’s appropriate response, with a high probability, HR specialists can save a lot of man-hours of searching for “the right people.” It is sad to see all these opportunities and realize that they are ignored due to human laziness. And still, I am sure that there will be people, public authorities who can encourage our IT community to develop in the right direction, away from bureaucracy and closer to science.
Part 7. Not only biases
I would also like to address product managers’ knowledge of certain fields that have received little attention in this article, but that are no less important to understand than biases.
In-depth knowledge of cognitive biases plays a significant role in product development and management. However, it will be naive to say that this knowledge is enough for the product to succeed.
The manager should not forget about the importance of the business and pursued benefits. At the heart of any business-product is the desire to increase profits or reduce costs.
And understanding how exactly the company wants to achieve this is very important for the product manager when designing any solution. To do this, the product manager should monitor the decisions of both partner companies and competitors, study their working ethics, how they communicate with users, and how users perceive this communication. If the product is profit-oriented, it is essential to understand pricing mechanics, existing business models, benefits, and weaknesses.
Besides knowledge about business and how the company functions, understanding the legal sphere is also necessary. The product manager is required to know the law and current restrictions imposed on IT products enough to contact lawyers to check minor details, not a general idea, on which he has already spent plenty of time.
A separate section is an awareness about the most common social cultures and sub-cultures, religions, different continents’ lifestyle, international holidays, memorable dates, and a thousand other things that make up the global world environment conjuncture at the time of product development.
In certain cases, the manager may even need to be aware of existing armed and/or ideological conflicts in the regions.
Moreover, the product manager should be more than an advanced user of modern websites and mobile applications, have a good understanding and experience with Agile principles and practices, as well as understanding the technical component of the project. Technical knowledge, such as the basics of front-end and back-end programming and database systems, is also very important. Because solutions based on the technical details save dozens, in some cases hundreds of man-hours.
All this and more are the very details that are important to consider from the very beginning and the absence of which is often discovered too late and at a high cost.
It is impossible to achieve high quality with no attention to detail.
In our time, the importance of the details and the ability to work with them are far more critical than general ideas.
Part 8. Epilogue
To conclude, I would like to explain why I have highlighted psychology, especially the critical importance for a product manager to understand the cognitive biases.
Of all the knowledge mentioned above that a product manager should have, the psychological component is not something that can be easily “understood,” “accepted,” and “improved.” A wide range of people knowledgable of cognitive biases will have internal contradictions and a struggle with their previous “programmed mind systems” when applying the biases to their regular work. In other words, the human ego will not allow one to accept easy and obvious correct answers since to adapt to the new norms, one has to change the established thinking and behavior model, leaving the familiar psychological comfort zone.
In fact, one can acquire enough knowledge in three months to understand the technical side of the field, which will be more than enough for a novice product manager. To understand the trends, one can download the latest applications, go through the list of the most popular online platforms, register on producthunt, betalist, techcrunch, and always be in the know. The information gap is easy to fill by regularly reading Google News and hackernoon.
However, as we add the psychological aspect to work, the situation changes drastically. Decisions on the developed features of the product are made primarily based on the understanding of our users, their expectations, and their concerns. Here psychology plays a vital role, so an “abstract” understanding of the issue (as in the case of a technical side) will not work. To apply cognitive biases, it is not enough to read this article or go through the biases in the UX CORE. Even reading a few books or watching a couple of video courses is not enough.
To apply this knowledge and create the best solution that will take into account the errors of our brain, it is necessary not only to remember these biases but also to involve them in one’s life. And such involvement will undoubtedly change the behavior, ideology, and worldview.
Those who considered this article just “cool” will be better off living as they did before, and those who agreed with the material and saw it as logical and obvious may think about building their career in product management. Those are the ones who, at some point, will help to change the crude software world that the market is filled with and will lead us all to a new world, where the design of any product begins with feelings of empathy and compassion for users. Those are the ones who can create revolutionary products, methodologies, and practices for the development of high-quality software.
I would like to summarize with a provocative general wondering.
What if studying cognitive biases at an early age (in an undergraduate program, for example) is a direct way to make our society more conscious, sensual, and empathetic?
What if the study of biases and user experience is the key to ensuring the rationality (the absence of contradictions, according to D. Kahneman) of an individual?
As D. Kahneman says, “Whatever else it produces, an organization is a factory that manufactures judgments and decisions.” Sooner or later, due to the need to improve the quality of these judgments and decisions, the approach to product development and management of the company will be based on empathy and compassion, and raw data analysis methods will be used much less often.
Human is not inferior to any company in the world in terms of the number of judgments and decisions made (leave the consciousness issue out of bounds). We don’t have to wait for large companies to give the “official O.K.” to use cognitive biases as the basis for developing different solutions. We can use this knowledge to change our lives now.
In any case, for these ideas to become popular, they must be often discussed by recognized authorities. There will be no harm from this, but it is impossible to overestimate the potential benefits.
Thank you very much for your interest!
I sincerely hope that this article has given you food for thought.
It would be nice to meet people with similar interests, so if you study cognitive sciences and/or its application in product development, let’s make friends on LinkedIn or Facebook.
I am also always open to discussing new ideas — the more ambitious, the better.
I will be happy to help you to the best of my abilities.
Part 9. Complementary material
Daniel Kahneman — “Thinking Fast and Slow”
Nicholas Taleb — “The Black Swan”
Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein — “Nudge”
Richard J. Davidson — “The Emotional Life of Your Brain”
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi — “Flow”
Jim Collins — “Good to Great”
Jesse James Garrett — The Elements of User Experience (2nd Edition);
William Lidwell — Universal Principles of Design;
James Clear — Atomic Habits;
Erin Meyer — The Culture Map;
Joe Natoli — UX Design Fundamentals Udemy Video;
Joe Natoli — UX & Web Design Master Course: Strategy, Design, Development Udemy Video;
This article was written during the COVID-19 lockdown in Armenia, Yerevan.
I am very happy the article was useful to many people who managed to get acquainted with different parts of it during my work.
Original post: https://keepsimple.io/en/uxscience.html
Russian version: https://keepsimple.io/ru/uxscience.html