Institute of Art Design + Technology
Dún Laoghaire

Killian Schonfeld 

BSc [Hons] Applied Psychology

My name is Killian Schonfeld and I am a German-Irish student. I'm currently studying Applied Psychology in IADT. I hope to work as a UX researcher, applying the skills and knowledge I've learned through the course. I've recently completed my Major Research Project, "The Effect of Education About Dark Patterns on User Experience", which looks at the effect manipulative design techniques have on a user and if education can help protect them.

Project Description

The study’s sample consisted of 64 participants split in three conditions. The first condition was tasked with creating an account and selecting a service plan on the website with no dark patterns present. The second condition had the same task but dark patterns were intentionally implemented in the task and education about what dark patterns are. The third condition also had dark patterns implemented but there was no education present. User-experience of the participants was tested, including a set of qualitative questions.

Project Objectives

The study aimed to test whether dark patterns present in a website would have an impact on user experience and whether education about dark patterns present in the website would have an impact on user experience and whether users would be more aware of dark patterns when educated. Qualitative data was also used to give additional context to the results.

Project Outcomes

The results indicated that dark patterns indeed have a signigicant negative impact on user experience. However, when education was present, there was no significant effect on user experience. Education did make user more aware and increase their ability to identify dark patterns in the website. The qualitative data also suggests that educated users may be more likely to exhibit more negative emotions and more likely to blame those responsible for the website, rather than themselves, and stop using the service.

Thesis Title

From the results, we can see that education can be effective at helping users recognise dark patterns and perhaps avoid them. Educated users may also be more likely to stop using a service that uses dark patterns in their website. This project may serve as a basis for future research into educating users about dark patterns.