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Design should mitigate, not exploit, cognitive biases

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Illustration of glasses that allow to see things clearly and as they are, and not blurred and presented in good light.

Cognitive biases have recently gained traction in the design field. That is good, as being aware of them is fundamental to teamwork, self awareness and research and design practice, but I see more examples of exploiting cognitive biases.

Now, if there is a word exploit in a sentence that you write to convince someone about doing something—well you are already doing bad things and manipulating people.

A screenshot from LinkedIn post by Adam Dannaway, Product Designer at Digital Transformation Agency: "84 cognitive biases you should exploit to design better products." Underneeth there are two versions of an interface with purchase button—the interface on left has Save Money and strikethrough price, the right one in addition contains text prompting users to make decision fast.
I had recently found such a post shared on LinkedIn, linking to an article about cognitive biases.

The example is just tricking people. the The good design should help to make informed decision by supporting users in mitigating the effect of cognitive biases.

It is the same as writing “when you know someone’s weakness turn it against them and do it for your own advantage no matter the damage you cause to another person.” This is wrong. As designers, and as humans, we must object such an approach.

Framing the existence of cognitive biases as something to be exploited, even if many of the examples in the article are presented neutrally or with a positive impact for people, is irresponsible. It is a clickbait strategy. And we should know by now how damaging it can be.

This approach sells, as pointed many times, as all dark patterns, but is it a better product? A better UX? No, it is just better revenue, at least in the short term.


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