On the train from London to Brussels, the passenger sitting next to me suddenly gets agitated. I look at him puzzled, as this is a wagon entirely populated by people traveling for business and sudden noises or exuberant behaviour are noticeable like being dressed in a pink suit. My travel companion apologises and adds:”Damn, I forgot my phone in the station lounge. It’s a tragedy, it contains all the reminders for my pills”. After such statement, I can only be sympathetic.
Lately, I have been working a great deal with computer scientists and when I end up chatting about behavioural research and nudges, they usually look unimpressed. They often reply that they have been nudging for a long time in the design of user interfaces. Of course, it is not as simple as that, but I have been amazed by how much of the scientific literature on usability and human machine interaction contains overlaps with decision making research, in particular about the use of nudges.
As the online world becomes the most common and frequent context of information choice architecture in developed countries, the concepts and experience developed in decades of research related to improve usability of interfaces are a rich resource. In a way, traditional usability research used crude models of human decision making processes, but at the same time made large use of small scale empirical tests that informed them about valid solutions without the need of a sophisticated theory of human decision making.