3 principles of behavioral economics for designers

3 principles of behavioral economics for designers
23 January 2022     2416

3 principles of behavioral economics for designers

For a very long time, economic education was based on such abstract principles as to speculate on separate models. The Austrian School of Economics, which is no longer taken seriously by economists today, was a direct result of this approach.

Despite such a trend, this field still developed and uses much more developed methods today; Although the "tough economy" (Austerity) of the Austrian economy has plunged virtually every country that has applied its principles and at the same time completed the most rapid economic progress in US history.

Behavioral economics is becoming more and more popular today, aiming to create todays economic models by combining analysis of peoples behavior.

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For the past 30 years, psychologists and behavioral economists have been studying exactly this: how our minds work - not only theoretically but also practically.

The basic principles of behavioral economics depend on the notion of rationality. In economics, this does not mean the same thing as in psychological / philosophical theories or in everyday use. Rationality refers to the idea that each person is trying to do exactly what is good enough for him or her (Bounded rationality). Or according to traditional theories what is the best version for him, based on the information he has.

Both approaches are accompanied by their critique, though their philosophical defense is not so difficult either. Accordingly, that bounded rationality remains the cornerstone of behavioral economics.

For graphic designers, this type of research has the plus of helping them understand how products affect their audience.

While there are many such interesting principles, Brock Ray offers three ways to make your business more efficient:

The heuristics of representativeness

The basic idea of ​​the heuristic of representativeness is that people define how much this or that variable belongs to one category, depending on how similar that variable is to the latter. Behavioral economists consider this idea in cases where it misleads people. An interesting example of this is the players mistake - to believe that because the coin fell on one side in 10/9 cases it will fall on the exact same side next.

According to research by Frank Kardes, Steven Posavac, and Maria Cronley, designing a type of kit that looks like a national brand seems to be of higher quality to the consumer.

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Another example is the attempt by Michael Hallsworth (Hallsworth) to increase the number of registrations from businesses owned by minorities. He tried this by creating a more attractive design than the standard state version. The result, however, was the opposite. Registrations, on the contrary - decreased.

Creating something that does not fit into the standard categories is relatively risky in this area; The risks associated with this step should be considered in advance.


Psychologists work on defining several types of priming. Here, however, Ray refers to two types: conceptual priming and perceptual.

Conceptual priming is the idea that people interacting with a concept makes the concepts associated with it more important and sometimes even influences their behavior. The most famous example is age. In this experiment, psychologists experimented with people using different similar words on obsolescence. After priming, subjects walked more slowly than members of the control group.

Perceptual priming, yes, is directly related to the stimulus form approximately the response. It is this concept that helps us explain why strong, consistent visual branding is such a powerful tool.

Priority settings

This idea is quite simple to understand. When you offer customers an option and show one of them as a priority, they will most likely choose it. Purposeful consumption of priority items has a fairly strong predictive power.

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Simple examples of this are organ donation and pension funds. When we offer people donation of organs and opening a pension deposit as a priority choice, they no longer change their decision.

Note on ethics

Most behavioral economists and psychologists are poorly educated in ethics. Their activities describe how people behave and not how they should behave. We have already discussed ethical principles in several blogs, the Facebook and ethics case, the role of designers in society, and so on.


Of course, in addition, there are many similar principles in behavioral economics, and if you are interested in this blog, I recommend that you explore additionally individually to your liking.

Social psychology is not taught in conjunction with design, the same goes for economic principles. However it is becoming more and more obvious that, at least elementary, understanding is needed. A better understanding of how design aesthetic choices affect peoples actions is a pretty good prerequisite for this.