Part [10/12] Review of CXL’s Digital Psychology and Persuasion

Aaron Baker
5 min readSep 28, 2020

During this week’s (week 10) lectures of CXL’s Digital Psychology and Persuasion Mini-degree, we continue learning about creating influential design and Brian Cugleman’s behavioural design training model.

Educating Customers

Customers need to understand our offering, and in order to do so in a digital environment, it’s as simple as to just explain the features of a product. The goal, when educating customers is to simulate the experience of the product as closely as possible for your target audience. To do this you have to explain the benefits of the product in a way that helps the users feel like they too can experience the benefits.

Now Brain is quick to mention that features should not be omitted from the page. He says that for the majority of products and buyers, all you need to do is get them to understand the basic facts of what you’re selling and explaining the benefits will get them to make a purchase.

Evoking Emotion

When designing anything, Brian suggests that your first goal should be to evoke emotion. The reason is that you want to be able to earn their attention right off the bat, and the quickest way to do that is through emotion.

A great way to evoke emotion is through a promise or a value proposition. The value proposition says: “If you do X then you will get Y”. If you do the thing that we’re asking you to do, you’re going to get the benefit that you want. Brain Mentions that there are many scientific models out there that attempt to explain human motivation, personally he has the most faith in models based on evolutionary psychology and research on the neurochemistry of motivation.

Here is a model that resembles Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

The model aims to explain 2 types of motivation. Loss aversion on the left and incentives on the right. Loss aversion are things that we’re trying to avoid and Incentives are things that we’re trying to move towards.

At the bottom of the model, we have immediate physiological needs, this has to do with staying healthy and alive. The motivation at this level is heavily skewed towards loss aversion. The chemical that is associated here is Cortisol or our stress hormone. Products that fall under this category have to do with health, insurance and community safety.

The next level is self-protection. Here individuals are looking to feel safe and secure. Products that fall under this category have to do with IT security, antivirus programs, disability insurance, etc.

Affiliation is our need to make that ‘Human Connection’. The chemical associated with this level is Oxytocin, which is believed to create that human-to-human bond. Brian does mention that it’s not just positive emotions at this level. Affiliation can also be negative, where a lack of association can lead to territorial behaviour or jealousy.

At the status/esteem level, humans are driven by comparisons of themselves to others. This creates a social pecking order. Products that play to this need are anything that the individual believes will elevate any perceived social standing. Think Gucci, Mercedes, McMansions. The neurochemical that is believed to create this status-seeking behaviour is Seratonin.

The next 3 levels are straight forward; Mate Acquisition — The human motivation for sex, Mate retention The desire for love, and parenting the desire to reproduce, which is seen as the end goal of evolutionary psychology.

Brain says that the strongest motivators lie in status and affiliation. When designing products and campaigns, this should always come to mind first.

Decision Making, Influence and interactive design.

If someone understands what we’re doing, we want to make it easy for them to act. When trying to influence or educate or target audience we want to avoid analysis paralysis.

We can trigger this paralysis by giving them too many or too little options.

Decision types can be broken down into two categories. Rational decisions and Irrational decisions. With rational decisions, people are more likely to make a choice when the benefits outweigh the costs. With Irrational decisions, people act on emotional impulse which they rationalize afterwards.

Categories of human decisions fall under the mental models of;

  • Emotional decisions
  • Cognitive Biases
  • Logical Fallacies
  • Heuristic decision making
  • Thinking fast (not slow )
  • Behavioural economics

Brian goes on to mention that you cannot manufacture motivation and that only 20–30% of what drives a final sale is based on persuasion alone. The core offering is what makes up the majority of a purchase decision. That being said, if you’re able to execute on that 20–30% than you’ll push the odds in your favour.

Trust and Credibility

Trust usually only comes out at the last second before the buying decision. And that is when it’s in its’ most potent form. If a customer doesn’t trust you, they typically won’t make a purchase. With any transaction, the ‘seller’ is in the power position. It’s their responsibility to convince the buyer that they are trustworthy.

To establish trustworthiness sellers need to show customers that they are credible and honest. Credibility can be established by showing buyers that you are an expert in your field and that when they go with your option it will meet their expected needs. Honesty is established when you show customers that you have integrity. So when you say you’ll do something, or commit to anything — you do it and get it done.

Creating your path

The path refers to the actual buying/conversion path for your users/buyers. This involves everything, from where they discover the product all the way until they convert. The goal should be to make the customers path to conversion as smooth and simple as possible. When the required energy to purchase is lower than the motivation to purchase is high. This includes having smooth back-office processes, simple buying mechanisms and excellent user experience.

Final Thoughts

There was more information covered this week than I was able to surmise for this update. Again, thanks to the thoughtful layout of the material, it has really contributed to my understanding of the content. I rate this week's lessons a 4/5. Reason being that I thought the materials and concepts weren’t as practical as they’ve been in previous weeks.

See you next week!