Video: 5 Psychological Principles of Persuasive Product Design by Nathalie Nahai

BY MARTIN ERIKSSON ON OCTOBER 10 2015

You have to understand the psychological triggers, biases & motivations that drive your customers, and in this exceptional talk from Mind the Product 2015 Nathalie Nahai, the Web Psychologist, uncovers five of the most important psychological principles that underly persuasive product design online.

1. Endowed Progress

We’re naturally motivated to complete tasks we’ve started & want to remain consistent with previous intentions.This means that the closer we are to completing a goal the more likely we are to increase our efforts to close the last little gap.

2. Sunk-cost Fallacy

A sunk cost is a cost that has already been incurred and cannot be recovered. Most of us have an aversion to wasting resources and so the sunk cost fallacy means that we tend to keep investing in something we have already invested in (whether it’s time, attention or money) without taking into account the overall investment.

3. Appointment dynamic

Both of the above give rise to a third principle, the appointment dynamic. This is the principle that once you are engaged with a product you have to come back and engage again to get a positive reward, which is what keeps us coming back for more, again and again.

4. Opportunity cost

As product managers we all understand opportunity cost – it’s the alternative we’re giving up by making a particular choice – but this applies to our users too. We all value our attention, time and money and carefully weigh up the cost – and opportunity cost – of any choice we make. Every time your user engages with your product they’re making this choice, so you have to understand the value of the benefits they’re forgoing to do so – and make sure your product provides more value than the alternative.

5. Hedonic adaptation

This is the principle that people become accustomed to a positive or negative stimulus, and that the emotional effects of that stimulus are attenuated over time. In other words, over time we become de-sensitised or bored of the same thing, whether they are features, concepts, or rewards.

Intent

These 5 principles are most powerful when used together in a loop of habitual behaviour. But they are powerful tools and triggers, and Nathalie exhorts us not just to understand them but also to use them for good.

The difference between persuasion and manipulation is intent.
– Robin Dreeke, Head of the Behavioural Analysis Unit, FBI

Watch the full gripping talk to see Nathalie explain the scientific basis behind these five principles and illustrate their application with numerous case studies, as well as give practical tips on how you can implement these principles in your own products.

Martin Eriksson

About MARTIN ERIKSSON

Martin Eriksson has 20 years experience building world-class online products in both corporate and start-up environments for global brands such as Monster, Financial Times, Huddle, and Covestor. He is the Founder of ProductTank, the Co-Founder and Curator of Mind the Product and currently a Product Manager at large, advising and mentoring startups while writing Product Leadership, How Top Product Leaders Launch Great Products and Build Successful Teams (O'Reilly, 2017).

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