Consumer’s Reader: What are Dark Patterns and Why Do We Need to Know About Them - Part 3

In the first part of this post, we demonstrated how everyone encounters dark patterns because they have become part of the normal functioning of most platforms and sites, and we have given a definition for them. In the second part, we answered the question why we should talk about them, since we are so used to their application. Now we will tell more about the harm of dark patters and their characteristics.

The harm of dark patterns

If you say to yourself now, "so what" and "come on now" we can point out at least a few types of harm.

In the first place there is economic damage - deceived by a dark pattern, you can buy something that is not as good as features or price, but at the same time to omit the option what you need and then get annoyed that you took a hasty decision. If it's a soccer ball, fine, but if it's a TV set or a vacation in a room where you hated going back to sleep in the only 7 days of rest you've allowed yourself during the year, what will be the consequences for you and your family?

At the same time, the better company, which was loyal and did not use such a model, loses your money, and you help those who have applied deceptive tricks on you. Not to mention that this could undermine the overall reputation of the industry by such players on the market, as is the case with many real estate brokers in Bulgaria, recruiting clients through fake advertisements for attractive properties that have long been out of the open market.

And the most unimaginable thing that can happen to you is to spend 2 hours imperceptibly on a monotonous electronic game, providing all your personal information that will be manipulated later, instead of talking to your child, a friend who needs you right now or read a book.

Think about whether the way you vote cannot be influenced by what social media serves you in the last month before the election. It has already been shown how the decision on Brexit was influenced via the Internet or how the US presidential election in 2016 was manipulated by Cambridge Analytica. The same dark models are used for these purposes.

It comes to the point that the very foundations of democracy can be shaken. And what about the so-called cyber war, which goes parallel with the real one in Ukraine?

Here are some characteristics of the dark patterns that scientists have found in their research:

Asymmetry. The point is that dark patterns impose an unequal weight on the possible choices presented to the consumer. The options that favor the merchant are presented prominently, while those that benefit the user are inconspicuous or even hidden behind a few clicks and rummaging through the site. This feature is very common in consent interfaces. Even veiled expressions with double negation can be used, which are more complex and require more logical thinking, effort and time to assimilate. Another way is to put guilt in one of the choices with an expression like "Are you really giving up the 20% discount that expires tomorrow?".

Covert. These models push the user to certain options and results, obscuring the mechanism of influence they apply. This is achieved by taking advantage of the cognitive errors that all people sometimes make or by influencing the user's visual perceptions. "There is only 1 room left in this hotel, hurry up with the reservation." The fact that the hotel has listed only 4 rooms in the reservation platform in order not to pay large fees does not mean that all its rooms are over.

Deceptive. If an online retailer imposes false claims on you and conveniently misses important information such as a timer that counts down to the end of the promotion, but later realizes that it is constantly renewed, this is a scam. It is even an unfair practice and the Consumer Protection Act has special provisions for such things. A study found that 40% of the timers observed in such online stores either restart at zero or simply lack compliance with the promotion period.

Information hiding. This is a delay in the presentation or obscure presentation of important information. You buy something from an online store and it turns out that you have subscribed to their newsletter. There was a check mark for consent, but it was not for consent, but for disagreement, and if you do not click there, you do not unsubscribe from the subscription.

Restriction. This type of model reduces or even eliminates options. If you do not agree, you will not use the site. For example, an ultimatum in a large window to turn off the application that blocks pop-up ads, otherwise you will not see the information from the site that interests you.

Disparate treatment. Very common in gaming. You can't progress in the game if you don't buy some boosters regularly. You sit on the same annoying level until they feel like they're losing as a player and let you progress. At the same time, those who buy something occasionally are progressing faster than you.

In the next, fourth part of the post, we will talk about why dark models are so effective and we will categorize them. Follow it in the News of


Published on 14.03.2022 Back to news