Why you’re only as good as your last interaction

I’m going to give you two spontaneous brunch date scenarios. In both scenarios, both you and your date only get an hour before having to clock back in to work. Time is of the essence.

Scenario one:
You remember you had the best poached eggs from that rustic bar where every other ingredient is either thyme or elderflower. It’s close, it’s atmospheric, you know the eggs are good. You decide to go there.

Scenario two:
You remember those poached eggs you had last week at that rustic bar? Well, they were overcooked. You had the same dish the month before and the eggs were perfect, but that’s irrelevant now. You walk straight past the door to the next eaterie on the list.

Sound familiar?

We are biased towards information that has been recently acquired, acting on the notion that this recent information has priority of importance and an implicit truth. The same goes for frequency. If information is repeated enough, we are lead to believe that it is representative of future events. We refer to this cognitive logic as the availability heuristic.

So how does this relate to scenario 1? You remember the most recent time you had a great brunch. Those eggs were so good they stuck in your mind and so you effectively extract that information and reapply it to the imminent brunch situation.

How does scenario 2 differ? It is in fact the same as scenario 1 except here, we have considered an additional, previous incident. The magnificient brunch in this scenario that occured previous to the more recent overcooked brunch has little bearing on the decision made, as you are more likely to remember the more recent occasion. And it wasn’t great.


When we’re talking about good eggs and bad eggs, we’re actually talking about the difference between success and failure. And clearly, we want to promote success in our online ventures. Everyone knows that perfectly poached eggs are the breakfast of champions.

In both scenarios, our diner was biased towards previously good eggs or bad eggs. Good eggs lead to more eggs. We need to demonstrate good eggs to our users. And by good eggs, we mean success.

How do we instill success into our users?

Progress

When your users make progress, even just by something as simple as signing up, acknowledging this positive development ensures we plant a ‘good egg’ firmly in their memory. Essentially, a message such as “Welcome to the RunApp! You are one run closer to your target!” represents the user’s first interaction, creating a positive bias towards future interactions with the app.

Problem-solve

As humans, most of the time we don’t actually know what we want. People know more about what they don’t want or what they have previously experienced. This is why we need to think in terms of problems, and how to counteract them. Problems are counteracted with solutions. Offering a solution is much more powerful than a factual statement. For example, “Let RunApp track your progress for you” is much more powerful than “Run more with RunApp” The customer is reassured that they no longer have to manually input their activity and they can see how they’re doing. Reiterating this point around the site works both in terms of repetition and is more likely to maintain recency.


The more we praise a progressive action or encourage the overcoming of an obstacle, the more likely the user is to attribute future events to achieving their goals. Secure future success in these ongoing meaningful interactions and you’ll grant your users an endless supply of good eggs.

#1 of Cognitive Biases in Digital

Read #2 of Cognitive Biases in DigitalAttentional Bias: Right Place Right Time Design

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