Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Improving Our Ethical Choices: Managing the Imp of the Perverse

Philosophy behind design decisions ...

“Induction, a posteriori, would have brought phrenology to admit, as an innate and primitive principle of human action, a paradoxical something, which we may call perverseness…. Through its promptings we act without comprehensible object; or, if this shall be understood as a contradiction in terms, we may so far modify the proposition as to say, that through its promptings we act, for the reason that we should not.”—Edgar Allan Poe, “The Imp of the Perverse”

“I beg of you to take note that the spirit of mystification, which in some men ensues neither from an effort nor from scheming, but from an accidental inspiration, is akin, if only through the intensity of desire, to that humor …which drives us toward a multitude of dangerous or improper actions.—Charles Baudelaire, “The Mauvais Vitrier (The Bad Glazier)”

The powerful mix of ethical fading, cognitive distortions, and perceptual biases I explored in “Designing Ethical Experiences: Juicy Rationalizations” shows we all carry a bit of the Imp of the Perverse. What can designers do to balance the many factors that lead us to make unethical choices—and see no evil when we do?

Poe says the Imp of the Perverse is “...a radical, a primitive impulse—elementary” and warns, “With certain minds, under certain conditions, it becomes absolutely irresistible.” [1] Psychologists and ethics researchers, however, say we can take simple steps to align our Want and Should Selves over the three phases of decision making and help keep the Imp of the Perverse in check. They offer four primary recommendations, which I’ll consider from a design perspective: [2]

1. Recognize our multiple Selves.
2. Listen to the Want Self during prediction.
3. Increase the influence of the Should Self during action.
4. Decrease the influence of the Want Self during action."    (Continued via UXmatters, Joe Lamantia)    [Usability Resources]

Recommendations for aligning our multiple Selves - Usability, User Interface Design

Recommendations for aligning our multiple Selves


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