Part [1/12] In-Depth Review of CXL’s Digital Psycology and Persuasion Minidegree Program

Aaron Baker
10 min readJul 27, 2020

Have you ever wanted to understand how to change customer behaviour online?

Well in order to change behaviour you first have to understand why we do the things we do.

Que Conversion XL’s Digital Psychology and Persuasion mini degree program.

Over the next twelve weeks, I will be going through the course work to provide a complete overview of what you can expect to learn from this mini-degree program. You’ll get my take on the content and the practical skills that can be derived. At the end of each week, I will also give a rating of the units I’ve completed and the pros and cons for anyone interested in signing up.

What did I learn this week?

This week I learned about Psychology Foundations. Specifically, we covered how to get customers attention, how we make decisions, and how we are persuaded.

What is Digital Psycology?

And no it’s not an online professor that runs operant conditioning experiments on your dog to see which bone picture cues him to salivate. It’s actually more of a team of people running experiments on you to see what makes you salivate.

Let me explain.

As digital marketing continues to progress we are seeing the dramatic advancement of the techniques used to earn our attention. Now I say earn because gone are the days where you could just write a blog, post it online and then expect everyone doing this new thing called “googling” to find it.

Today, there are literally millions of (M)Ad M̶e̶n̶People vying for your attention. And once you get it, you have to keep it, and that is where Digital Psychology and Neuromarketing comes into play.

How much is that Attention In the window?

I chose this photo since I didn’t think anyone would get the reference

I live in Hamilton, Ontario (#GoTicats🐆). And in Hamilton, there are a lot of 2-way stops. Specifically, there was one on my usual drive to work. Every day I would stop at my stop sign and let the other hurried drivers go through the intersection. Then one day someone was just sitting there, not moving. Now, I’m a pretty relaxed guy so I let this go on for a couple of seconds before I grew impatient. Arms flailing in the air the other driver eventually just went through the intersection. “Finally”. Exasperated, I finished my left turn, only to notice that there was a brand new stop sign, changing my former 2-way stop into a 4-way.

Canadian Rudeness

Now usually there is a neon green sign that would say “NEW!” notifying drivers of any changes to traffic signs. Not this time. So without that neon interruption to my normal pattern of driving to work, I never noticed the change.

The exact same goes for your marketing. If you can’t pattern interrupt your target audience’s normal behaviour online, then your message will go unheard. Wasting time and money in the process.

So unknowingly, you could have a great product or message that you’re offering but if you don’t shock and awe during that first impression than that potential customer wouldn’t even know that you exist.

During the course, Instructor Roger Dooley discusses the many ways that we as marketers can interrupt normal behaviour and garner the attention of our customers.

Here’s the one big idea from the unit on attention 🛑.

There are 4 Factors that influence first impressions on a website

  1. The Visual design: British Researches conducted a study, discovering that the feedback from 94% of the test participants was in regards to the visual design leaving the other 6% to be attributed to the actual content.
  2. Your Value Proposition: As stated above, we aren’t actually reading much on your website. So if you can’t tell me exactly what you do and why I should care in a sentence or two, then you better hope you have a high ad retargeting budget. Otherwise, I’m gone forever. Here’s a resource to learn more about the good UVP’s.
  3. Compelling Imagery and Graphics: Look at these two homepages below. Which are you more likely to purchase from? Why?
Credit: CXL Institute

4. A personal “touch” that exudes trustworthiness: People prefer people like themselves.

  • Use simple, common language
  • Avoid cheesy stock photos
  • Use photos of realistic-looking people
Not Cheesy Stock Photo

In this unit, you can also dive into the different ways that attention can be gained, the way your site’s content should be laid out to optimize for scanning and learn more about the real-world effects through the experiments that CXL ran for some of their clients.

Here are some additional resources you can check out from the CXL blog.

8 Ways to Grab Attention (and Hold onto It)

Heat Maps: What Are They Good For (Besides Looking Cool)?

10 Recent Neuromarketing Studies and Their Real-World Takeaways

You could get with this (decision) or you can get with that (decision)

Who’s the black sheep, what’s the black sheep?

I like this because…

I bought this because…

I married this person because…

According to Neuroscience whatever you’re about to say next has been tightly wrapped and post rationalized. Nearly every decision you make, at least at first, has been based on emotion and then rationalized.

Back in the day (aka at the dawn of mankind) only the strong and fast survived. Which is why if you scare your girlfriend by hiding in the basement she’ll jump before realizing what is going on. We do this because if we didn’t react this quickly then we would have become prey.

Today, with our much more developed brain we have the ability to realize what’s going on and determine if we’re in real danger or not. In this cause, my girlfriend was able to post-rationalize consider leaving me but rationally chose not to and is also now planning (another function of our more advanced brain) her revenge against me. I have not been home in 3 months.

The Brian, Out with the New, In with the Old

Did you know that we actually have 3 brains? Yes, not just one, who woulda thunk it? As a student of behavioural economics, I did have a surface level understanding of this concept after learning about the great work that Daniel Kahnemann and Amos Traverskis did in regards to their studies on how people think, which has been summarized in the best selling book Thinking Fast and Slow.

But how does this affect our online decision making?

Well as briefly touched on above, our initial reactions are made using our old brian, also loosely referred to as system 1 thinking because these decisions are made automatically and subconsciously.


So no matter the product, we should default by appealing to system 1.

We can appeal to System 1 by adhering to its 5 Drivers

  1. Pain: Simply put, we no like pain. So if you help customers see that your offer will take away their pain. Then it should be a no-brainer.
  2. Fear: System 1 is selfish and is only concerned with its own survival. If you threaten it by taking something away, (also known as scarcity) you can trigger it to act.
  3. Emotion: System 1 operates on emotion instead of rationality. So try to get people to think about one of the 3 F’s (Food, Fight & Flight, Fornication). Here is a company that does this really well.
  4. Ego: Again, System 1 is self-centred. “How does this affect me?” Using ad copy and images to hypothetically insert your audience into different situations can help them better connect to your message.
  5. Contrast: When we’re presented with clear contrast it allows system 1 to skip the rationalization stage, which makes decisions very easy for us. This is why Before and Afters work so well. Infomercials are the champions of contrast.
Wet then dry. Pow! Contrast illustrated.

A lot of great information in this section. I was most impressed by all the additional resources they provide, like books, presentations and scientific articles. It really gives you everything you need to make the most of your studies. I’d compare it to a university-level lecture.

Here are some additional resources you can check out from the CXL blog.

Neuromarketing Ethics: How Far Is Too Far?

6 Neuromarketing Stimuli That Speak to the Old Brain

Beyond Reason: 8 Subconscious Marketing Techniques to Boost Sales and UX

How to Persuade Us: Sell Me This Pen…

Thought you were gonna get a Wolf of Wall street gif eh?

So you’ve done it.

You managed to stop us in our tracks and get our attention.

Then you were able to appeal to our lizard brain and get us to consider your offer.

Now it’s time for the last step in the proverbial marketing gauntlet, persuade me.

Before we start talking about tonality, spin selling and used cars. I’d liked to STOP and say that I enjoyed this lesson the most. If you have a sales and marketing background, like me. The content in this unit will really speak to you. It’s going to give you all the actionable tools along with the theory to take these psychological persuasions techniques and apply it to your professional life. Now, I can’t give you everything here so if you wanna learn more I urge you to head to and sign up for this mini degree. You won’t be disappointed.

See ^Sales. How many persuasion techniques did you notice in the paragraph above? But actually it’s a really good program.

When you’re persuading people online you have to consider the buying journey online. People are seeking information. This is why if you adhere to the principles of neuromarketing and reduce the cognitive load it takes for people to make a decision when you hit them with the right offer at the right time the decision becomes very easy.

Although there were a lot of familiar topics in this section such as Robert Cialdini’s 7 Principals of Persuasion and Cognitive biases, the biggest takeaway from this section was learning about the Fogg Behavior Model.

Dr. BJ Fogg founded the Persuasive Technology Lab at Standford University. During his research on credibility and behavioural design, he was able to discover that in order for a particular behaviour to occur you must have the motivation, the ability and the trigger. If you are lacking any one of these triggers, you won’t complete the behaviour.

It can be summarized using the formula

Behavior = motivation x ability x trigger

Motivation: It’s difficult to manufacturer motivation, the user must already possess it your job is to help people do what they already want to do. There are 3 types of motivators.

  1. Pleasure / Pain: These are primitive responses related to self-preservation. Think System 1. Often this is the first thing to think of when trying to increase levels of motivation.
  2. Hope / Fear: This motivator relies on your anticipation of an outcome, whether that be good or bad.
  3. Social Acceptance / Rejection: People are motivated to things that win them social acceptance and status.

Ability: When it comes to getting people to complete a behaviour online, the ability is more important than motivation. This is because, if they’re motivated but lack the ability, there is no way for them to complete the task.

Trigger: A trigger is what prompts you to take action. In the digital marketing space, this is usually referred to as the “Call To Action”. There are 2 types of triggers. Hot and Cold

  • Hot Triggers are actions that you can take right now
  • Cold Triggers are actions that cannot be acted on right now (think billboards you see while driving)

After learning the Behaviour model, it helped bring together the learnings from the other units. I suggest using the Fogg Behaviour model as a framework, you can better plan your campaign top to bottom.

Here are some additional resources you can check out from the CXL blog.

How to Use Behavioral Design for Boosting Conversions (Using The Fogg Behavior Model)

The Experiment Canvas: A Better Way to Plan Tests

Website Credibility: A 39-Point Checklist

Conclusion: Thoughts on The first 3 Courses

Having completed the first three courses in this mini-degree program I have a good idea of what to expect. The program has been thoughtfully laid out so that it first presents the concepts behind Neuromarketing and Digital Psychology. Once you have an understanding it then gives you the tools and tactics to take forward into the practical application. My only criticism so far is that it does get repetitive on certain topics. However, I think that it really speaks to the importance of these concepts in the Neuromarketing space. With that said, for me, the repetition on the concepts of eye-gaze patterns and cognitive biases really helped hammer it down into my memory. Perhaps that was by design since these will be covered further during the remainder of the program.

Over the next few weeks, I will be diving into the 2 remaining tracks, the first titled Neuromarketing and persuasion models go more in-depth of Neuromarketing theory and its practical application. After that, I’ll be getting hands-on with Applied Behavioural Psychology and learning how and when to apply it in the digital space.

The instructors are truly world-class and their expertise has been tested and proven in their respective areas of specialization.

Overall I give these first 3 courses a 4.5/5. Although high, I think that really represents the quality and uniqueness of the content. I’m looking forward to the remainder of the program!