7 Proven Cognitive Biases (And How They Impact Your Design)

A ‘cognitive bias’ is an error in human thinking which impacts on how we make decisions – a blind spot in our understanding of the world.

Though these biases can have a profoundly negative impact on our designs, they are often notoriously difficult to notice from the inside. Being aware of these biases will help you make smarter, more objective decisions when designing products.

7 Cognitive Biases

1. The IKEA Effect

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The ‘IKEA effect’ is defined as the tendency to place a disproportionately high value on items that you have assembled yourself.

Of course, this bias takes its name from IKEA’s famous business model of self-assembling furniture. Studies showed that when people were asked to put a dollar value on an IKEA chair that they’d assembled, and on the same chair pre-assembled, they always valued their manually-assembled chair MUCH more highly.

In other words, people tend to get overly emotionally invested in projects they have been part of. It may seem a natural thing to be attached to a project you were a part of – especially if you were there from the beginning. The IKEA bias is even more pronounced if you came up with the project idea.

How do you beat the IKEA Effect?

Though it’s natural to want to protect your own ideas, it can insulate from valuable feedback from a teammate that might improve – even save – the project.

Stepside your ego and allow your idea mature and grow with others.

2. Attentional Bias

Attention bias refers to the tendency to focus on recurring thoughts. We all have hobbies and interests, but sometimes they can weigh us down.

For example, if you’re a keen ‘fashionista’, you will see the world as an extended catwalk. Or perhaps you obsess over typography. Every line of text you see is a composition of leading, kerning, and weights.

There is certainly nothing wrong with having interests or being absorbed in an aspect of the work you do. However, sometimes this can lead to stagnant thinking. We might overlook a fantastic photographic solution to a design problem simply because we are so focused on type.

How do you beat Attentional Bias?

The best way to broaden your horizons is to take it upon yourself to look for information outside of your field – and brain. Reach out to people from other industries, fields or with other interest. Talk through your problem with them.

Put simply: You need input and perspective from people who think differently than you.Try using a simple user testing service like Peek to get a peek into how a real person sees and navigates your website.

3. The Bizarreness Effect

The Bizarreness Effect is a cognitive bias that you can use to your advantage. It is a tendency for odd or bizarre material to be more memorable or attention-getting to people.

Sometimes this might a simple as a single small oddity on an otherwise normal page. Or it can be a tsunami of oddness like the hugely successful Old Spice commercials. What begins as a standard cologne ad set in a bathroom, suddenly starts breaking all the rules of reality.

This can also a helpful tactic when it comes to marketing and pricing products. Most products are priced with predictable prices like $99, or $50, or $14.95. Such prices are common.

But, a product priced at $3.44, $57, or $2913 is rare. Hostinger uses the bizarreness effect in their pricing strategy by using $2.15/mo as a starting price.

Non-conventional settings and pricing can get cut-through.

The Lesson for Designers?

It’s easy to fall into ‘designing with the defaults’ without really considering their true value. To help place your product in a customer’s mind, mix in some odd and bizarre numbers. Once they catch people’s attention, they become a whole lot more memorable because of their awkward nature.

4. Choice-supportive Bias

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Choice-supportive bias is the tendency to remember making better choices than you have actually made. Have you ever asked someone how they went at the casino? “Oh, I pretty much broke even”.
Of course, the casinos nearly always win, so someone is losing.

This bias is simple to explain: no-one wants to hold on to memories of screwing up.

Unfortunately, when it comes to product design, this bias can have negative effects on your future work. That is why it is critical to rely on cold hard data more than ‘gut feelings’. Data stays the same no matter your perception of it. What that data is, is up to you.

How do you conquer Choice-supportive Bias?

Keep detailed notes on the progress of the project and your team or use something more quantitative as frequent user testing, like previously mentioned Peek.

5. The Dunning-Kruger Effect (overestimation-underestimation effect)

The Dunning-Kruger Effect occurs when an unskilled individual overestimates their skills or a skilled individual underestimates their skill. It turns out that people who are the least competent at a given task often rate their skills as most highly simply because they are too ignorant to understand what it means to have the skill.

In other words, they don’t know what they don’t know.

A classic example of Dunning-Kruger Effect occurred in 2010 when an elderly church-goer took it upon – destroying the piece.

Ecce Homo by 19th-century painter Elías García Martínez on the walls of the church of Santuario de Misericordia

Unfortunately, it is hard to avoid making decisions without self-assessment. Either way, it’s important to know where you stand on the path between being a novice and being an expert.

How do you avoid the Dunning-Kruger Effect?

Be honest with yourself. If your skills are limited, reach out for help on things you do not know or are unsure about. It is much simpler to making a wrong or poor decision. The opposite goes for someone with expert skills. At this point, you should know you have had enough experience to make a good decision without second guessing yourself.

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Source: Sitepoint