Dissecting optional micro-decisions in online transactions: perceptions, deceptions and errors

Hogan, Mairéad
Barry, Chris
Lang, Michael
Hogan, Mairéad, Barry, Chris, & Lang, Michael. (2022). Dissecting Optional Micro-Decisions in Online Transactions: Perceptions, Deceptions and Errors. ACM Trans. Comput.-Hum. Interact. doi:10.1145/3531005
Online firms frequently increase profit by selling optional extras. However, opt-in rates tend to be low. In response, questionable design practices have emerged to nudge consumers into inadvertent choices. Many of these design constructs are presented using an opt-out design. Using eye tracking and think-aloud data techniques, this research investigates the impact of the framing and optionality of micro-decisions on user perceptions and error rates. Focusing on opt-out decisions, the study found: up to one in three users make errors in decision-making; there is a higher error rate for rejection-framed opt-out decisions; users widely misinterpret decision framing; and failure to read decision text results in rushed and unsighted decisions, even leading users to automatically construe un-ticked checkboxes as opt-in decisions. In talking afterwards about their experiences, users expressed strong negative emotions, feeling confused, manipulated and resentful. Many suggested they would, in practice, steer away from similar encounters toward more unambiguous and honest sites. These findings might alert managers and developers, tempted to use dark patterns, that such a strategy might backfire over time.
Association for Computing Machinery (ACM)
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