Underdog Protocol: Applying UX Methodologies to Onboarding Design; Accountability and Social Impacts of Behavioral Design

Goerg, Kurt, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Francisco, Pedro Augusto, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Vrugtman, Rosanne, EN-Comp Science Dept, University of Virginia

My capstone research paper addresses the problem of negative behavioral design, and how it is affecting us socially and societally. Behavioral design is a concept that usually involves influencing peoples' behavior through design in a positive manner, however sometimes technologies may be designed to mislead users without their knowledge or consent, for a corporation's own personal goals, and possibly impact its users negatively.

My goal for this paper was to help shed light on this issue, understand why corporations might be enforcing negative behavioral design, and find out whether it is acceptable for a technology to be designed against our primary interests.

To answer these questions, I analyzed various literature and case studies to further gain an understanding of the issue. I examined several case studies in-depth where technologies were designed to influence users against their needs, as well as technologies that were specifically designed to alter the human state of mind. I took into consideration why the technology might have been designed to alter behavior, observe both the positive and negative consequences of the technology from different social and ethical perspectives, and ultimately decide whether it was acceptable for the technology to be designed in such a way that is beneficial for society. Since behavioral design generally surrounds the topic of how caring the designer is to the user, it was ideal to frame my research problem within the Ethics of Care framework and view each case study based on how caring relationships are between the involved parties.

Throughout my research, I found that a technology or design can be labeled as 'acceptable' behavioral design if a design does not impact its users negatively, all activities have been performed consensually, the users do not feel misled, and the design gives some sort of improvement to our everyday lives. I also found that in our current society, we value our safety and well-being foremost, and if a technology has been designed to go against its users' primary interests, it would need to ensure that their mental well-being and their physical safety is being considered at hand. Since behavioral design is a relatively broad topic and can have many different cases and examples, it is important to continue research in this area, and examine a wide range of case studies in order to find out how to further address and tackle this issue.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Behavioral Design, Influential Design

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
Technical Advisor: Rosanne Vrugtman
STS Advisor: Pedro Augusto Francisco

All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: