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  • Writer's picturekristensunny

Book List: Behavioral Psychology for Persuasive Design

Books that give you an insider's look into how humans think, make choices, and feel about the products we use daily.

As designers, we must take into account the needs, goals, and perceptions of our users while also meeting business needs. Through persuasive design, we can influence users to make choices that positively affect business goals, but we also have an obligation to influence users in an ethical way. By learning how humans think we can learn why we make the decisions we do and help our users take actions that benefit the business but that also fulfill their needs ad prevent harm.

The following books break down research within the behavioral psychology field into easy-to-understand language that can be applied to design practice.

Thinking, Fast and Slow

by Daniel Kahneman


Kahneman takes us on a groundbreaking tour of the mind and explains the two systems that drive the way we think. System 1 is fast, intuitive, and emotional; System 2 is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. Kahneman exposes the extraordinary capabilities—and also the faults and biases—of fast thinking, and reveals the pervasive influence of intuitive impressions on our thoughts and behavior. The impact of loss aversion and overconfidence on corporate strategies, the difficulties of predicting what will make us happy in the future, the challenges of properly framing risks at work and at home, the profound effect of cognitive biases on everything from playing the stock market to planning the next vacation—each of these can be understood only by knowing how the two systems work together to shape our judgments and decisions.


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"If you care about being thought credible and intelligent, do not use complex language where simpler language will do." - Daniel Kahneman

Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things

by Don Norman


Did you ever wonder why cheap wine tastes better in fancy glasses? Why sales of Macintosh computers soared when Apple introduced the colorful iMac? New research on emotion and cognition has shown that attractive things really do work better, as Donald Norman amply demonstrates in this fascinating book, which has garnered acclaim everywhere from Scientific American to The New Yorker. Emotional Design articulates the profound influence of the feelings that objects evoke, from our willingness to spend thousands of dollars on Gucci bags and Rolex watches, to the impact of emotion on the everyday objects of tomorrow. Norman draws on a wealth of examples and the latest scientific insights to present a bold exploration of the objects in our everyday world. Emotional Design will appeal not only to designers and manufacturers but also to managers, psychologists, and general readers who love to think about their stuff.


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"It is only at the reflective level that consciousness and the highest levels of feeling, emotions, and cognition reside. It is only here that the full impact of both thought and emotions are experienced. At the lower visceral and behavioral levels, there is only affect, but without interpretation or consciousness. Interpretation, understanding, and reasoning come from the reflective level." - Don Norman

The Art of Choosing

by Sheena Iyengar


We may think we know our own minds, but the forces that influence our choices are many, varied, and often surprising. Most of those forces affect us without our knowledge, and they do not necessarily operate in our best interests. How can we minimize the influence of such powerful factors, including bias and culture? Is it possible to re-train our intuition? How do we balance the competing forces of gut and reason to make better decisions? The Art of Choosing answers these questions and raises many more.


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"Your enjoyment of the chosen options will be diminished by your regret over what you had to give up. In fact, the sum total of the regret over all the “lost” options may end up being greater than your joy over your chosen options, leaving you less satisfied than you would have been if you had had less choice to begin with." - Sheena Iyengar

The Law of Simplicity: Design, Technology, Business, Life

by John Maeda


Finally, we are learning that simplicity equals sanity. We're rebelling against technology that's too complicated, DVD players with too many menus, and software accompanied by 75-megabyte "read me" manuals. The iPod's clean gadgetry has made simplicity hip. But sometimes we find ourselves caught up in the simplicity paradox: we want something that's simple and easy to use, but also does all the complex things we might ever want it to do. In The Laws of Simplicity, John Maeda offers ten laws for balancing simplicity and complexity in business, technology, and design—guidelines for needing less and actually getting more.

Maeda—a professor in MIT's Media Lab and a world-renowned graphic designer—explores the question of how we can redefine the notion of "improved" so that it doesn't always mean something more, something added on.


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"Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful. While great art makes you wonder, great design makes things clear." - John Maeda

100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People

by Susan Weinschenk


Dr. Susan Weinschenk shows design and web professionals how to apply the latest research in cognitive, perceptual, and social psychology to create more effective web sites and apps. Dr. Weinschenk offers concise, plain-English insights and practical examples for designing sites and apps that are more intuitive and engaging, because they match the way humans think, work, and play. Weinschenk will help readers improve the many design choices they make every single day – from choosing fonts and chunking information to motivating people and guiding them towards purchase.


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"People are very willing to click multiple times. In fact, they won’t even notice they’re clicking if they’re getting the right amount of information at each click to keep them going down the path. Think progressive disclosure; don’t count clicks." - Susan Weinschenk

Final Thoughts

What are some of the behavioral psychology books you've read that have helped you create more persuasive designs?


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