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42Works Blog

Posted on September 16, 2019

4 Ways Mobile Apps Are Designed to Hack Your Brain!

“Hack” can mean a lot of things in the modern context. Be it the breach of confidential information, or the simple life hacks that make your life better. 

Today we are going to look at a rather ominous side of the word hack. We are going to take a look at how our beloved mobile apps have been using psychological tricks to take advantage of our primal instinct.

This is done for us to be more gullible and enables mobile apps to subjugate us into using the  app’s services more. We will understand what goes into the mobile application design and development process that makes modern-day mobile apps so addictive.   

Push Notifications

They are the oldest trick in the book, so why are they still used? Because they work like a charm whenever deployed to grab the attention of the user. Ironically, push notification was first invented to limit the screen time of users using mobile phones. 

Now push notifications have mutated into the most potent weapon, social media apps have. Different social media apps use push notifications differently, but the fundamentals remain the same. They are a method to directly reach the user out of the app, and pull them back in, by promising them a reward. 

Human beings are social creatures. So, when your social media app sends you a notification informing you that your friend is online, it wants you to engage with that friend and spend more time on the platform. 

Slot Machine Effect 

On the surface, mobile apps and gambling might seem two of the most distant things. Take a deeper look, and the ominous truth reveals itself. The variable-ratio schedule or commonly known as the slot machine effect is a psychological trick integrated into the mobile application design and development phase to build systems optimized for addition. 

The core concept is simple; ‘Any action you take within the app entails a reward. This reward is given to you at various times, constantly keeping you on the edge, not knowing when the reward is coming.

This is exactly what slot machines in casinos do. Every time you pull the lever, you could win a jackpot or nothing at all. It is the thrill of not knowing that keeps you hooked on the app in hopes of something new.

FOMO 

56% of social media users suffer from FOMO or the fear of missing out. Knowing this fact, it is not surprising to see its widespread use as a psychological trick to hack your brain. The ‘FOMO-Effect’ is so impactful in shepherding the choices of individuals, that its use in the mobile app community is scary to see. 

It is the mobile game development community that has taken full advantage of FOMO. Since the start of your game adventure, these mobile games keep track of your performance. 

This information is used to bombard you with statistics about; ‘hours played, performance compared to others, in-game progress, etc.’ All of this, just to keep you on edge and anticipation, that if you stop playing you might miss out on something important.  

Game of Colors

The game of colors has been played for a very long time. They come from a time when mobile smart devices weren’t a thing, let alone mobile apps. The human sense of sight is the backbone of your experience in this world. Hence it doesn’t take a genius to understand the power color holds in the mobile application design and development process. 

Apps are constantly using different gradients, color schemes, pallets, etc. To keep you visually hooked on their platform. Human brains are hard-wired to attract warm and bright colors. Thus you find so many mobile apps notifications colored bright red, just to create a sense of urgency.    

Our Take

The people today need to understand that it is time to take back control. Overuse of modern has started to affect the pathology of the human brain, making it more susceptible to run on “auto-pilot”.

Using mobile apps is not a problem, but giving up complete control is a nightmare. The time has come to educate ourselves about the dangers of the overuse of mobile apps. It will make us live a better, healthier, happier, and longer life. 


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