How UX can influence human behavior and experiences

Written by: Kate
24 March, 2017

Read in: Nederlands

We influence and improve human behavior and experiences. We do this based on data and insights that we collect. But, what scientific knowledge do we actually have about factors that determine or influence human behavior and experiences… One month ago I had the pleasure of attending a one day conference for UX designers: UX Insight. The session which stood out was presented by Bart Schutz, co-founder Online Dialogue. In this blog I share the highlights of this presentation.

The human brain: Emotional vs rational

There are two opposite systems in our brain:

  • System one is subconscious and emotional: it is fast, automated, effortless and intuitive
  • System two is conscious and rational, with rules and reasons, effortful and requires attention

Bart compares emotional system one with queen Máxima and pragmatic system two with king Willem-Alexander — that makes me smile now every time I am noticing how one of the systems takes over. Our brain constantly keeps switching between these two systems, depending on the activity we are engaged in.

How does this work in practice?

For example, choosing a hotel could be very emotional if you are looking for some cozy studio in Paris for your holidays next autumn. On the contrary, it could also be very rational if you found yourself alone in the evening in an unfamiliar city looking for a place to stay.

Projecting these situations to a website may create the following scenarios:

  • User 1 will explore Paris hotels on the desktop with a beautiful picture on the background and one search field
  • While user 2 is urgently looking for a place to stay via mobile and not caring about a full screen picture. He prefers to have filters right away, when entering the website

And while emotional system one is always there, sort of ‘in the background’ and ready to act at any time, we need to force rational system two to become active in order for it to start making decisions. Since our inner-Willem requires energy and focus much more than Máxima, he becomes tired much faster and our brain tries to shift to the Máxima system at every possible moment.

IKEA is a great example of that. You are so tired of walking through these perfect small mini-flats while choosing a couch, so your inner Máxima keeps suggesting you to buy this set of frames, cutting boards, a nice cute timer, cushions and a carpet… Willem can not always keep control of that.

User behavior is contextual

When connected via 3G, users will most probably be more careful with data usage and will be guided by the rational system. Wi-fi in the train on the way home — may be more emotional, browsing through some content to unwind after work. Maybe the sunny weather from the window will wake up inner Máxima during work? Or caffeine — inner Willem?

Reasons are often illusions, as well as our free will

Knowing which system is in control at which point in time, we can tailor our content towards specific Willem or Máxima needs. Or maybe we can even change the focus? We know that the emotional system is much more easier to persuade than the rational one. How ethical it is — that’s for everyone to decide for themselves.

How to use these insights in recruitment?

How much do we know about our candidates? Are they urgently looking for a job and it doesn’t really matter what the job would be like unless it pays and they can start immediately? Or do our potential candidates already have a job and occasionally browsing through some career websites of their favorite companies?

If we figure out which system is in control while our potential candidates are visiting the career website, we can display them the information which will be the most suitable for the needs of their inner Willem or Máxima. In one case we would emphasize more rational options, such as vacancy filter, related vacancies, salary calculator, in other case — emotional options like company values, impact on the society and fullscreen pictures of happy employees.

So how to figure out which system is in control? Observe the context, learn the theory and TEST TEST TEST! So let the user think that he is a rational being that makes logical decisions by himself, while we will talk to his royal couple.Kate is UX Designer at Endouble

About Bart Schutz: Bart is (online) consumer psychologist, behavioral economist and passionate researcher on how our brain makes (subconscious) choices.
Twitter Bart Schutz | Full presentation

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