What incentivises us to behave in a certain way and what acts as a deterrent?
Through a myriad of experiments in his 1930s Harvard Laboratory, B.F Skinner centred his research on tackling this very question. By way of artful manipulations of the environment, Skinner observed and recorded his theory of Behaviourism - documenting how different variables impact behaviour formation and extinction. The stage in which the experiment took place - famously coined the Skinner box - told the worldfirst story of a rat psychologically hooked on food pellets.
Fast forward nearly a century later, and the protagonist amidst a tale of behavioural experimentation is no longer a mere rodent. Carrying Skinner-esque devices in our pockets, the everyday user has become victim to all sorts of covert behavioural manipulation they are not privy to. Despite being heralded as tools with emancipatory potential, software products have graduated with the times - now augmenting old tricks to design new behaviours.
As the custodians of a product’s experience, our remit goes beyond merely alleviating user pain points and creating ‘delightful’ experiences. We design behaviours. And with this, comes a newfound responsibility.
In this talk, we will explore how products leverage tricks from behavioural psychology to keep users ‘hooked’, and how we can use this knowledge to avoid designing with dark patterns and ultimately become better practitioners.