Google's former "design ethicist" on "How Technology Hijacks People’s Minds"

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Tristan Harris was Google's "Design Ethicist" where he studied how design choices directly affect people's behavior in conscious and unconscious ways. He's also a practicing magician! As he says, "Magicians start by looking for blind spots, edges, vulnerabilities and limits of people’s perception, so they can influence what people do without them even realizing it." Over at Medium, Harris wrote a fascinating post about persuasive technology and how design can "exploit our minds’ weaknesses." From Medium:

Western Culture is built around ideals of individual choice and freedom. Millions of us fiercely defend our right to make “free” choices, while we ignore how those choices are manipulated upstream by menus we didn’t question in the first place.

This is exactly what magicians do. They give people the illusion of free choice while architecting the menu so that they win, no matter what you choose. I can’t emphasize enough how deep this insight is.

When people are given a menu of choices, they rarely ask:

• “what’s not on the menu?”

• “why am I being given these options and not others?”

• “do I know the menu provider’s goals?”

• “is this menu empowering for my original need, or are the choices actually a distraction?” (e.g. an overwhelmingly array of toothpastes)

"How Technology Hijacks People’s Minds — from a Magician and Google’s Design Ethicist" (Medium)

Harris's piece supports the essay that my Institute for the Future colleagues Marina Gorbis and Devin Fidler recently posted about the incredibly high stakes of on-demand platform design: "Design It Like Our Livelihoods Depend on It" (WTF?) Read the rest

British intelligence's use of persuasion psychology

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The documents leaked by Edward Snowden revealed a division of British intelligence focused on the use of psychological science to influence, deceive, and infiltrate suspected terrorist cells, hostile states, criminal gangs, and activist groups. Vaughan "Mind Hacks" Bell investigates, and notes that some of their techniques draw heavily from the work of Robert Cialdini, author of Influence, an absolute must-read classic book about techniques of persuasion. Read the rest

Self-help meets real science

Richard Wiseman is the professor of Public Understanding of Psychology at the UK's University of Hertfordshire. He's the author of several books, including Paranormality: Why We See What Isn't There, was about the psychology of so-called supernatural experiences. His previous book, 59 Seconds: Change Your Life In Under A Minute, draws from the psychology of persuasion to present a series of (oft-counterintuitive) techniques and life hacks to improve memory, negotiate better, reduce stress, etc. It's a self-help book based on entertaining and fascinating scientific research. Above is one of many videos from Wiseman's fun "In 59 Seconds" YouTube channel.

59 Seconds: Change Your Life In Under A Minute (Amazon) Read the rest