Where does technology exploit our minds weaknesses?
May 20, 2016 11:32 AM   Subscribe

How Technology Hijacks People’s Minds — from a Magician and Google’s Design Ethicist (Medium, 12min) I learned to think this way when I was a magician. 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. Once you know how to push people’s buttons, you can play them like a piano.

Hijack #1: If You Control the Menu, You Control the Choices
Hijack #2: Put a Slot Machine In a Billion Pockets
Hijack #3: Fear of Missing Something Important (FOMSI)
Hijack #4: Social Approval
Hijack #5: Social Reciprocity (Tit-for-tat)
Hijack #6: Bottomless bowls, Infinite Feeds, and Autoplay
Hijack #7: Instant Interruption vs. “Respectful” Delivery
Hijack #8: Bundling Your Reasons with Their Reasons
Hijack #9: Inconvenient Choices
Hijack #10: Forecasting Errors, “Foot in the Door” strategies

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posted by CrystalDave (33 comments total) 85 users marked this as a favorite
 
That's cool that someone is working on this front. Thanks for posting!
posted by Annika Cicada at 11:39 AM on May 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


The average person checks their phone 150 times a day.

If you are awake for 16 hours that is every six minutes and 24 seconds on average.
posted by bukvich at 11:57 AM on May 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


The average person checks their phone 150 times a day? Really? Do you all do that? Really? How do you do anything else?

This is making my life choices about avoiding most social media look better and better.

Actually, the class I run kind of drives me crazy because about half the attendees are always poking at their phones. And yet it's a voluntary class that everyone alleges is really fun and rewarding, so I don't think it's that everyone secretly hates it and wants to leave.
posted by Frowner at 11:58 AM on May 20, 2016 [8 favorites]


This is a good read and worth the time.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 12:08 PM on May 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


The average person checks their phone 150 times a day? Really? Do you all do that? Really? How do you do anything else?

I have no idea how often I "check my phone," but I use my phone as a watch and music player, so I access it pretty often while commuting (to see the time and skip/select songs), so I would be surprised if it's 150 times a day, but not at all for hours at a time.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:19 PM on May 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


the class I run kind of drives me crazy because about half the attendees are always poking at their phones.

We need a class in "Show technology who's boss!"
posted by sneebler at 12:21 PM on May 20, 2016


For example, NYTimes.com lets you “make a free choice” to cancel your digital subscription. But instead of just doing it when you hit “Cancel Subscription,” they send you an email with information on how to cancel your account by calling a phone number that’s only open at certain times.

In case you needed another reason not to subscribe to NYTimes.com.
posted by straight at 12:22 PM on May 20, 2016 [12 favorites]


For example, Facebook automatically tells the sender when you “saw” their message, instead of letting you avoid disclosing whether you read it

Jesus christ, Facebook sounds like a huge piece of shit. What a horrific system.
posted by Greg Nog at 12:26 PM on May 20, 2016 [12 favorites]


So glad I refreshed MetaFilter right when this article was posted!

(seriously, great post)
posted by rouftop at 12:53 PM on May 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


I have termed this social media phenomenon "mental cigarettes", and I have noticed that media which are more like mental cigarettes tends to crowd out media which relies on less-cigarette-like tricks.
posted by vibrotronica at 1:18 PM on May 20, 2016 [18 favorites]


The average person checks their phone 150 times a day?

For some value of "average," perhaps. I probably look at mine a dozen times or more a working day, depending on how busy or bored I am. Half of those glances are probably to check the time or weather. But I know people who are glued to their phones. I've watched an acquaintance interact with Facebook while driving.

OTOH, fewer people in the US are killing time with cigarettes, so we've got that going for us.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:23 PM on May 20, 2016


I like this. Thanks for posting it.
posted by odinsdream at 1:28 PM on May 20, 2016


Gmail has helped the checking quite a bit by it's categorization, vastly fewer notifications. Better control of notifications for all apps would be an improvement, an easy to classify whitelist so minimal buzzes and the very few are actually important will hopefully grow. There should be a very small category of notification buzzes that repeat until acknowledged to avoid those "darn, forgot to pick up the child" moments.

Just wait, cell phones per se are going away just as soon as the embedded twitter device is released from beta.
posted by sammyo at 1:41 PM on May 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


I have almost all notifications on my phone tuned off. Only time my phone buzzes is an actual phone call (rare), a text, or a DM via a messaging app. The fact that somebody liked my photo will wait until the next time I'm on Facebook.
posted by COD at 2:03 PM on May 20, 2016


they send you an email with information on how to cancel your account by calling a phone number that’s only open at certain times.

That's a REALLY fast way to get me to call my credit card company and say that their charge is fraudulent because they ignored a cancellation attempt.

Even a large organization like the NYT doesn't like the hassle card companies start making companies go through when they get a critical mass of chargebacks and fraud reports.
posted by chimaera at 2:30 PM on May 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


I do not carry my phone on my person. It stays on my desk or, if I am out of the shop, in the car. I check it for messages maybe four times a day. Half my coworkers are convinced I am really some kind of weird alien life form because I can do this.
posted by Bringer Tom at 3:02 PM on May 20, 2016


This actually applies to literal menus, restaurant menus, especially for big chains. Just try to get a simple hamburger at a Mcdonald's. Sure you figure it out eventually, but jeez.
posted by Rich Smorgasbord at 3:38 PM on May 20, 2016


This is a perfect example of a technology article where I think "yeah, but I don't interact with technology like that at all!" - and then realize that it's probably because I grew up without most of this technology, so for me it's just one tool in my personal toolbox instead of being my only tool. I have other options, other ways of thinking, other experiences and skills to help keep me from being limited by my smartphone or even my computer. I'm not a Luddite, and I wouldn't tell anyone to "step away from the technology" as it were. But I sure am glad I have that prior experience.

So then, how can we as a society teach that sort of flexibility and those alternative skills, so that we don't have to rely on "design ethicists" (and their company's willingness to abide by such ethics) to avoid being hijacked, how to give people tools to attain that "free mind" mentioned in the article?

...Which leads me into my favorite rant, that schools should be teaching children HOW to think, not just WHAT to think. But I'll leave that for another time.
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:57 PM on May 20, 2016 [4 favorites]


I don't have a smart phone, I check my email about once per day... and now I'm happy to learn I'm leading edge. 8)

This was a seriously cool article, thanks for posting it.

I wonder if it's possible to go back to the world of Blogs and RSS, as a way to combat this type of evil?
posted by MikeWarot at 5:47 PM on May 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


I wonder if it's possible to go back to the world of Blogs and RSS

Google used to have this great website called Reader.
posted by bukvich at 6:11 PM on May 20, 2016 [11 favorites]


I'm convinced killing Google Reader killed "the web" as a focal point, and opened the door for FaceBook's dominance. Yeah, they did it to try and flush people into plus, but that mostly didn't happen.

I have turned off most notifications on my phone for the reasons mentioned in the article. And yet I'm still too easily distracted when I voluntarily go into social media apps. It's shameful.

And Facebook messenger's inability to turn off read receipts is truly evil. I actually have notifications on for that, so I can have a preview of what they say without clicking. Though I am getting better at not caring if someone sees that I read their message.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 6:21 PM on May 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


I collect a lot of my Internet on InoReader. That's where I see MeFi. RSS is still alive for me.

Twitter is a bottomless bowl for me, though. I'll start with the most recent post and go back sometimes as much as eight hours. Then start over. And my feed isn't all that damn interesting.
posted by bryon at 1:04 AM on May 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


Not a twitter-follower yet, but this is my newest mini time-sink:

#artvsartist
posted by sebastienbailard at 2:32 AM on May 21, 2016


Just makes me so glad I switched my old smart phone for a nokia brick. The ratio of useful:time wasting apps is so weighted towards the latter. The single thing I could actually do with is google maps for when I'm lost on the move and even then asking people for directions is generally pretty reliable. I think if people were to make the switch that I did for a short while they would be shocked at their dependence. I notice it so much more now when I'm socialising or eating out with friends and I don't have someone's full attention. It's somewhat of a cliche but I feel we've become slaves to the things that were supposed to serve us.
posted by Shikantaza at 4:18 AM on May 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeah, they did it to try and flush people into plus, but that mostly didn't happen.

That can't possibly be true. Google+ has nothing to do with what Reader did. How would you even begin to use it to keep up with anything at all?
posted by odinsdream at 6:05 AM on May 21, 2016


I still use RSS every day - installed my own RSS server when Google killed off Reader. It's how I consume Mefi- then I click through on those FPPs that I want to read the comments on.
posted by COD at 6:12 AM on May 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


Of course these are just symptoms of a predatory based economic system.
posted by Obscure Reference at 7:04 AM on May 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


This piece is on a platform (medium.com) that presents eight out of ten of these hijacks on the same page as the article.
posted by Monkey0nCrack at 7:49 AM on May 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


I agree with this article overall (and smartphone addiction is very very real- I teach high school math to "phone first" innercity kids) but some of the examples in the early part of the article are whack...the kind of serrendipitous discovery the author adocates above say Yelp searches, actually requires a lot of planning by SOMEONE. If you're not in an area where city event organizers are putting in the work Yelp is a perfectly good way to find new things you haven't tried yet.

A better example might be indie shows or hotels... there are lots of good local options that won't show up on the megaportal sites because they're not run by folks who are focused on getting customers that way.

I really wanna know how to train kids to think in a more open-ended way and spend more time on problems before they get frustrated and demand to be given the answer, if anyone has tips please send them to me.
posted by subdee at 10:20 AM on May 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


I use NewsBlur for RSS since Reader died. I can't conceive of how people follow multiple sites without RSS. Manually click open a list of browser bookmarks every couple days? Man I have more than a hundred sites that I want to know when they update, so no way.
posted by rifflesby at 10:29 PM on May 21, 2016


I realized about half-way in that the article basically articulated why I like some websites more than others. I could never explain why Facebook always felt a little off somehow and why I gravitate towards things with simple interfaces and easy to understand organization of content.
posted by VTX at 5:08 PM on May 23, 2016


Yeah, they did it to try and flush people into plus, but that mostly didn't happen.

That can't possibly be true. Google+ has nothing to do with what Reader did. How would you even begin to use it to keep up with anything at all?


Oops, didn't see this until days later, but odinsdream, it sadly is. They wanted a slice of that sweet Facebook pie and thought they'd be able to push people into plus by changing our browsing habits. And they did, for the worse, including handing all that traffic to Facebook because Plus was never going to catch on.

I know it differs for everyone, but that was the day Google became evil for me.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 8:49 PM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


IIRC, the deal was that everyone with a google account just got signed up for google+ whether they wanted it or not. It was a seriously dick move but it appears to have been relatively isolated.
posted by VTX at 5:58 AM on May 26, 2016


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