How does Behavioral Science integrate with UX Research?

What is Behavioral Science? #

Behavioral science is the study of human behavior through online or offline experiments and observations. You study when and why your users engage in specific behaviors by experimentally investigating the impact of factors such as conscious thoughts, motivation, social influences, contextual effects, habits, etc. As a behavioral scientist, you run randomized control experiments which allow you to make causal inferences to understand the user’s actions by interpreting why they do things, not just observing what they did.

Mainly, you study the way that emotions, the environment, and social factors influence your user’s decisions. Companies are particularly interested in how heuristics, biases, and framing can lead to understanding how their users really make decisions in the real world, so they can become loyal customers. 

Why is applying Behavioral Science to UX Design important? #

Add the ‘science’ of psychology to the ‘art’ of design by integrating behavioral science into your user-center design process you help your users to make better decisions. As humans, we often can and do make “irrational” decisions which can be hard for us researchers to precise. However, there are “predictable” patterns in irrational human actions, once you understand these patterns of behavior, you can use the real insights (not assumptions) to design products and environments that help people make better decisions.

Our decision-making process often runs on autopilot and behavioral scientists have found that humans make 95% of their decisions using mental shortcuts or rules of thumb. Every time your team is designing a product or space where your users must make a choice, whether it be an app feature or a restaurant, you are creating what is called the “choice architecture.” No matter how you design your choice architecture, you will be influencing users’ decision-making, intentionally or not.

How can Behavioral Science support UX Design? #

Behavioral science can be used…

  1. to streamline your operational processes to improve your user compliance and enable more efficient service delivery.
  2. to activate your users to make them more conscious during their decision-making process. 
  3. to accelerate adoption by understanding patterns on how to use mobile banking, use self-service checkouts and adapt to new procedures during safety checks at airports.

If your users are influenced at the right time and at the right touch-point, it can drastically change your business outcomes, with only a few small behavioral science tweaks.

How to implement Behavioral Science in your product development and design process? #

Step 1: Conduct a Behavioral Diagnosis
The first step to driving product change and design improvements is mastering your user’s current behavior by conducting a behavioral diagnosis. You do this by:
– collecting all relevant data about the desired problem, preferably triangulation method
– choosing one key behavior (the most important step that needs to be connected to your hypothesis)
– designing a behavioral map that in detail outlines each and every step a user has to complete.

Step 2: Identify Psychological Biases
The second is to identify and label psychological biases your user encounters as he or she proceeds along with the behavioral map.
Examples of biases that influence human decision-making: 
– present bias
– loss aversion
– optimism bias
– social norms at play

List the specific biases that your users experience at each step in the behavioral flow:

  1. Identify a key Behavior
  2. Reduce Barriers (the friction involved in completing a behavior)
  3. Amplify Benefits (the motivation to complete the behavior)

Step 3: Experiment 
The third step is to design a solution that increases the key behavior you picked in Step 1. To do this, pick a barrier you want to remove or a benefit you want to add to the system. To understand the effectiveness of your solution, design a controlled experiment and see if you have changed the likelihood that someone will complete your key behavior.

A method by Irrational Labs 

Behavioural Designers
Image from Hyperisland