UX Research — demystifying human behavior with phycological constructs

I study online peer-production communities like Wikipedia. I try to understand how social, technical, cultural, and political environments shape people’s decision to participate in some online communities vs others.

This blog will cover some examples of user behavior patterns that I take into account while analyzing user research data generated from qualitative and quantitative data collection methods, including but not limited to interviews, ethnographic studies, contextual inquiries, surveys.

There are various aspects of human behavior that should be taken into account while analyzing behavioral user data. Behavioral data examples: 1. user’s website navigation flow, skipped sections, attention to CTAs — tracked for optimizing website performance, 2. user’s moderation activity (on platforms like Reddit, Wikipedia), blocking/unblocking harassers — for validating moderator’s efficiency, 3. user’s opting in for sharing privacy details, device location — to evaluate transparent information flow, etc. The following are some types of behavior to consider while analyzing user behavior data.

  1. Cognition is specific to time 🕑 and situation 🏄‍♂️
  2. Conscious and subconscious behavior 🤹‍♀️
  3. Overt and covert behavior 🎭
  4. Rational and irrational behavior 🧩
  5. Voluntary and involuntary behavior ✋

Actions, Cognition, and Emotion Loop

Actions depend on the meaning people assign to experiences, and different people assign different meanings to things based on their sociolinguistics background.

And it doesn’t end at an individual level. Symbolic interactionism theory states that individuals act on the premise of a shared understanding of meaning within their social context. This theory discusses how individuals interact with one another to create symbolic worlds, and in return, how these worlds shape individual behaviors.

Few UX methods that help visualize different aspects of customer interactions and bring them into discourse are customer journey mapping, empathy mapping, experience mapping, and service blueprinting.

The following are some basic examples of how the meaning you assign to things shape psychological constructs, which in turn influences your decision making.

Example 1 — Let’s say, you are in need and someone extends assisting gesture, we suggest that your decision of accepting the help would depend on the relationship with the person and the scenario at the time t. These principles can play a role in online communication environments.

Based on time t and scenario s, same person can perceive the extended assistance differently.

Example2: A new application feature — Let’s say you introduce a new feature, we take an example from Wikipedia where any user can voluntarily participate in content creation. An ‘appreciation’ feature on Wikipedia allows content moderators to send an appreciation message to newcomers. But we suggest that this same feature can be perceived differently by different moderators, which will shape the way they use that feature.

The same feature can be perceived differently by different administrators based on their needs/roles.

I suggest thinking about interactions in a holistic manner, taking into account the psychological constructs and the context of the user interactions. This approach helps me think about user barriers early in design stages and also helps in strategizing design research.

One bonus point: Have you noticed Youtube’s dark UI pattern for increasing the number of survey respondents by randomly switching the ‘Skip Ad’ button with the ‘Submit Answer’ button?

This UI pattern results in involuntary user action (behavior) as users just want to skip to watch the videos. This UI decision also has implications on the validity of the research findings that Youtube clients generate as most users would unconsciously opt-in for the default option.

Youtube’s dark UI survey pattern

Thank you for reading!

Design Researcher | Get in touch: linkedin.com/in/sejalkhatri/