Part [11/12] Review of CXL’s Digital Psychology and Persuasion

Aaron Baker
5 min readOct 4, 2020
Photo by LinkedIn Sales Navigator on Unsplash

During the 11th week of lectures in CXL’s Digital Psychology and Persuasion Mini-degree, we continue learning about Brian Cugleman’s behavioural design training model.

The Digital Psychology & Behavioral Design Training,

The Digital Psychology & Behavioral Design Training, taught by Brain Cugleaman. Brian’s goal is to teach his framework for designing online experiences that under-promise and over-delivers on clients expectations. Brian does mention that this framework is not suitable for more in-depth applications that require advanced behavioural science approaches.

The method was designed for industrial applications with the fewest, high impact principals.

Features of the system

  • Based on industry applications
  • Uses industry terms, rather than behavioural science jargon
  • Based on principals that are easy to identify and apply
  • Tied to common UI, Typically used in conversion rate optimization
  • Easy to learn and apply
  • A decent blend of theory and practice

Brian is quick to mention that the strongest strategies are based on concepts from psychology.

These concepts will take broad academic strategies and translate them into insights that are more than arbitrary stories about a page. We will be looking at the different ways people think and how different design elements make them feel. These insights will give us as marketers, a frame of reference that we can use to apply to our designs in order to gain more in-depth insight and bring judgement that we wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Brian says that we can look at a page from a number of perspectives — and these are the ones that we will be focusing on in the course


  • Feeling confident
  • Boosting Self-efficacy
  • Anticipation reward


  • No fight-or-flight
  • Triggering the reward system
  • Releasing an endorphin response

Industry Lingo

  • Value Prop
  • Trust Bling
  • Benefits and features


Psychology is not straight forward. In-fact in academia, there are a lot of overlapping and competing theories. The best theories are based on empirical science because they’ve been measured over and over again in multiple populations. The real benefit of psychology is that you can take what you learn and apply it to different applications.

Neural Science

An area of science that looks at the actual mechanisms that drive behaviour. We could also say that we’re looking at how our emotions operate. Neuroscience gives us descriptive insights into human behaviour from a mechanistic point of view. Brain says that from his experience it is much more accurate than relying on psychology or behavioural science. The only con here is that neuroscientific methods can be so extreme that it’s sometimes difficult to translate the ideas into reality.

Industry Lingo

This is when practitioners know that their tactics work, but they aren’t sure why. They are typically formed from trial and error.

Digital Locator and Facilitators

Now that we’ve discussed metaphorically thinking as a physical place, we can move onto to the UI (user interface) elements that we use that are important for getting people to complete processes.

There are elements called locators and movement facilitators. Many of the things that we do online are only there so we can move through different processes. Such as menus or navigational structures, albeit simple, they are powerful because they help users complete tasks. If you were to widdle them down to their core purpose. UI elements exist in order to help people interact with these virtual spaces, and so tools like wizards, and pagination, and obviously process buttons, and the CTA, serve that function, in that they help people go from one part of a process to the next part to the next part, and the next part.

The downside of the virtual vs physical space comparison is that the two environments don’t operate with the same rules. In the digital space, the UI elements are not only direct you where to go next, but they are also the mechanism through which you move at the same time


Behaviourism is the area of research that observes how people interact with different elements and hypothesises what we can do to reinforce or “train” a particular behaviour. Using behaviourism, we can condition users to act based on positive or negative reinforcement. This can actually be used to condition ‘behaviours’ long after a specific action was taken.

Good Book Vs Book

Here is an example of a positive reinforcer vs a bad reinforcer.

Let’s say there is a freemium and a paid version of an app and the call to action is to sign up for the free version. There are two potential scenarios here.

One, the app turns out to be really well designed, it functions perfectly and it provides a ton of value to the user. The best part is that it serves a reoccurring need. Here, the quality of the app serves as a reinforcer. For our purposes, a reinforcer is anything that increases the odds that the person will act again. So for our app, if users like the free version they may LOVE the paid version with even more high-value features. Now because users trust the company to provide high-quality service if the company offers a free trial to the paid version, they’ll now be more motivated to take action, and if you keep providing them with value than users are more likely to continue opting in and engaging.

The other scenario here is if the free version was so limited that it barely even functioned and it turned out to be a massive waste of time. The next time that this company presents them with an offer they are going to be wary of them. Users will lose trust and any further CTA’s will be perceived as non-motivating.

A great CTA must lead to a reward if it doesn’t then it’s not a motivating form of user interface design.

Our goal is to delight our users and the best way to do this is by under-promising and over-delivering. On the contrary, if our CTA leads to a scenario where we over-promise and under-deliver, then we’ve now damaged the prospects of having a long-term relationship with the audience.

Final Thoughts.

This has been a wonderful experience so far. My rating for this weeks course is 5/5!

See you next week.