How Technology Hijacks People’s Minds — from a Magician and Google’s Design Ethicist

This article has been making the rounds on social media, because it’s a really good read. Check out the whole thing, but here are some interesting excerpts:

I’m an expert on how technology hijacks our psychological vulnerabilities. That’s why I spent the last three years as Google’s Design Ethicist caring about how to design things in a way that defends a billion people’s minds from getting hijacked.

Hijack #1: If You Control the Menu, You Control the Choices
…The more choices technology gives us in nearly every domain of our lives (information, events, places to go, friends, dating, jobs) — the more we assume that our phone is always the most empowering and useful menu to pick from. Is it?…

Hijack #2: Put a Slot Machine In a Billion Pockets
…If you want to maximize addictiveness, all tech designers need to do is link a user’s action (like pulling a lever) with a variable reward. You pull a lever and immediately receive either an enticing reward (a match, a prize!) or nothing. Addictiveness is maximized when the rate of reward is most variable…

Hijack #3: Fear of Missing Something Important (FOMSI)
Another way apps and websites hijack people’s minds is by inducing a “1% chance you could be missing something important.”…

Hijack #4: Social Approval
Easily one of the most persuasive things a human being can receive.  We’re all vulnerable to social approval. The need to belong, to be approved or appreciated by our peers is among the highest human motivations. But now our social approval is in the hands of tech companies.

When I get tagged by my friend Marc, I imagine him making a conscious choice to tag me. But I don’t see how a company like Facebook orchestrated his doing that in the first place…

Hijack #5: Social Reciprocity (Tit-for-tat)
…We are vulnerable to needing to reciprocate others’ gestures. But as with Social Approval, tech companies now manipulate how often we experience it.  In some cases, it’s by accident. Email, texting and messaging apps are social reciprocity factories. But in other cases, companies exploit this vulnerability on purpose…

Hijack #6: Bottomless bowls, Infinite Feeds, and Autoplay
Another way to hijack people is to keep them consuming things, even when they aren’t hungry anymore. How? Easy. Take an experience that was bounded and finite, and turn it into a bottomless flow that keeps going…

and many more Hijacks, be sure to check them all out.

 

Advertisements