We recently explored the subject of psychology principles and their relevance in UX design in four psychology principles every UX designer should know, but for this discussion we took to the UX community to ask them how psychology and cognitive design is used in UX design, for better and for worse.

This UXChat was hosted by Martin Jancik, a product designer at Edookit. You can read more from Martin by following him on Medium and you’ll find many of Martin’s helpful comments throughout the following discussions.

I’ll also be dropping in ‘jargon busting’ explainers for people who are entirely new to the subject. i.e. me.

Are psychology principles utilised appropriately in UX design

Where’s the line between subtle nudging and outright manipulation? Many psychological principles applied to UX design are intended to be invisible to the casual observer; they are there to guide and educate. Others however are designed to trick you into taking a route you may regret.

But what do we even mean by a ‘psychology principle’?

Gestalt psychology refers to the idea that humans perceive visual elements as a cohesive whole — and that whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

So how does UX design positively or negatively use cognitive science?

Dark patterns

One of the most high-profile enemies of UX are dark patterns, these are user interfaces that are designed to trick users into doing things they may not want to, such as signing up for recurring bills or receiving endless push notifications.

Here’s a recent example from DarkPatterns.org via Will Scott:

Here the UXchat community discusses the manipulative practice further…

Other heinous practices

Boo! For shame! Take them to the stocks! Here are the UXperts’ least favourite techniques…

But how could we be using psychology principles more positively? Sweeeeeeeeeeeet emotion!

Of course, we all know the true enemy of good intention? Nope not cake. No, it’s not alcohol either. Or Mario Kart. Look it’s deadlines, okay? Deadlines.

How do you use psychology principles to connect with your users emotionally?

Here are a few resources recommended by the UXperts on connecting with users in a not-to-creepy-but-still-meaningful-and-only-cuddly-if-that’s-okay-with-you kind of way.


Gamification is the practice of using elements of gameplay and applying them to non gaming situations. Examples of this include Reddit users increasing their ‘karma’, or a craft beer company asking for reviews and giving you reward points, or me seeing how many trolling tweets it takes for me to get blocked by Innocent smoothies.

But where does the practice of gamification stand on the ethical divide?

Can you influence (or even change) human behaviour using psychology principles?

Our UX community provides a plethora of resources and reading material for further exploring and answering this very question…

Thanks so much for everyone who took part in this #UXchat. Please follow us and tune into Twitter every Thursday at 4pm for more insightful UX based discussion.

Main image courtesy of Simple Psychology