How Evolutionary Psychology Can Enhance the Web Experience

Posted on August 13, 2018

Evolutionary psychology is the study of how elements of human behaviour can be accounted for in terms of its importance to our survival. Certain characteristics of human behaviour came about because it aided the survival of our predecessors, whereas other traits dwindled because they were no longer needed or useful for our survival.
For example, the human body was previously capable of producing vitamin C on its own. However, because our predecessors began to incorporate vitamin C in their diets through consuming citrus fruits, we didn’t need to produce vitamin C on our own and this function was gradually lost through the generations.
In support of this idea, Charles Darwin theorized that if a particular variant of a trait can help a species adapt better to the environment, it is very likely to be retained and passed down to future generations.
Along with an inherent need for belonging and intimacy, the need for control is also a core feature of human behaviour as it directly relates to survival. This includes being able to know what to expect and how to react to the events around us. When we face a situation we are unable to control, it triggers a stress response, such as the activation of the fight-or-flight response and other physiological reactions.

In the digital age today where a lot of tasks that previously required manual effort have been automated by the development of mobile applications, it has made certain tasks a lot simpler, but it may also have led to a perception of loss of control among users.
Organizations that play a video automatically upon loading of its webpage risk losing viewership of said video. If web users are clicking on a link with the expectation of reading a news article, the slightest deviation from the expected result would result in the perception of a loss of control. Hence, the decision to stop the video when it plays automatically may not have anything to do with the actual content of the video, but rather out of a need to reassert control over the situation. In fact, an analysis of the viewership ratings shows that as much as 90 percent of web visitors elect to stop the video immediately when it plays automatically, whereas viewership ratings increase by 60 percent when the video was taken off automatic playing.
Similarly, web pages that are particularly long and require much scrolling elicit a stress response similar to the automatic video. When people lose track of what they are reading, the stress response discourages further reading and people then tend to click out of the webpage out of frustration and a need to reassert control over the situation.

Hence, websites can look at creating navigation bars and sub-headings to help web visitors keep track of where they are and provide the option for them to navigate out of the webpage at any time. Interestingly, when people are provided with a navigation bar, it encourages further scrolling, possibly because they feel they have control over the situation. Thus, providing web visitors with the perception they have control over their web experience could go a long way in retaining and encouraging web traffic.


Source material from CMS Wire

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