Imagine you went on a beautiful hike and along the trail you encountered a rattlesnake. What do you think you will remember more vividly about the hike: the snake you encountered or the beautiful scenery along the way? Most people will remember the rattlesnake incident better, because negative experiences tend to affect them much more than positive ones. This phenomenon is an example of negativity bias.

Definition:消极偏见是倾向人类要多关注,或给予负面经历的重量over neutral or positive experiences. Even when negative experiences are inconsequential, humans tend to focus on the negative.

Many scientific studies document negativity biases. For example, in behavioral economics,people tend to avoid choosing options that might result in loss:失去20美元的糟糕的感情比找到20美元的快乐感情更强大。


Think about the many compliments you have received from friends or colleagues. You probably felt flattered at the moment, but then went on with your day. Compare that to even a single snide remark. It probably affected you more deeply, maybe consumed your thoughts, and even carried over for days — or even years. To quote Linus, the Peanuts character: “Good things last eight seconds…Bad things last three weeks.”

那么为什么人类为消极的诅咒?Bad news or negative traits signal danger. From an evolutionary perspective, learning to identify potentially hazardous situations was vital for survival in a harsh environment rich in predators. While today’s world has arguably fewer threats, humans are still wired for self-preservation.

UX Considerations

How does negativity bias manifest on the web?A single usability flaw on your site will weigh more than the many positive featuresthat you’ve struggled to implement. To leave a lasting positive impression, user interfaces must not only be good, they must be great, and you must root out every single design flaw with a vengeance.

您可能认为随着网站变得更好,人们会更有利地尊重它们。不幸的是,这种情况并非如此。我们的研究表明,网站多年来有所改善,但用户的满意度评级仍然存在相同的评价 - 有两个原因:(1)UX failures count more than UX successes; (2) people judge a site by comparing it with other sites that they’ve encountered. (Remember雅各布的法律: users spend most of their time on other sites.)

In usability studies, it is common for participants to say nothing when the UI works according to their expectations. People don’t comment or even notice a fluid experience — no matter how hard the UX team and developers worked to make this happen. But when the interaction doesn’t match their expectations, they become critical and remember the incident for a long time. I once facilitated a user test in which a participant noticed a typo early on during the session. Over an hour later she was still bothered by it and vented her disapproval.User annoyances matter

If being usable is the norm, then sites and apps must be exceptional to be memorable and noteworthy. So how can you appease vigilant users who react negatively to every single mistake? Here are a few ideas:

  • Follow设计标准: Novel interactions and design patterns require extra effort because they are unfamiliar and people can’t rely on existing knowledge. When users need to find the navigation or search on a website, they expect to find them in those standard locations where they appear on hundreds of other sites.

    Veering from standards too wildly can degrade the user experience. For example, our research shows thatmoving the company logo from the left to center让人们恢复主页,使其更加困难6倍。

    Staples homepage The homepage violates many navigation conventions, making it difficult to find essential elements such as the company logo, global navigation, and商店定位器。当然,你可以找到这些东西,但需要时间超过必要,因为它们位于意想不到的地方,看起来不同,或有非标准标签(Your storevs.Store locator)。
  • 将工作流匹配到用户期望:用户有mental models如何表现如何以及完成任务所涉及的措施。尴尬的工作流程,在错误的级别或超出序列中呈现出控的信息,并导致挫折。

    UX设计师的常见错误是优先考虑效率超过期望。Sometimes, longer user flows are optimal if they meet user expectations, whereas shorter flows, if unconventional, can make users think.

    Consider workflows from both micro and macro levels: the experience should be seamless both within a channel and acrossmultiple channels。When people engage with organizations through multiple channels, they equate the brand and the company with the total interaction, not just with the interaction within a specific channel.
  • Anticipate users’ concerns and address them:Pleasant encounters come in all forms and sizes.Microcopy,提供指示或减轻顾虑的小型副本可以显着提高积极的印象,并防止消极的副本。在立即展示的情况下,微拷贝可以产生巨大的影响,在上下文中,易于理解,并具有正确的tone of voice

    The microcopy on sets expectations in a polite and conversational manner. In most ecommerce situations, 4 weeks might be considered too long. However, this company softens the sting by emphasizing the positive aspect of the made-to-order craftsmanship. Now it’s worth the wait and high price tag! (And we avoid the build-up of negativity, as people would otherwise have wondered every day why they hadn’t received their shirt.)
  • Write good error messages: Despite your best efforts to create an enjoyable user experience, websites sometimes need错误消息to help people resolve unavoidable issues.



    ; its usage here fosters the negative bias.
  • Sprinkle delightful encounters: As insurance, counteract negative experiences with delightful ones. Don’t be afraid to make your users smile. Sometimes, serendipitous encounters can leave lasting impressions.

    提供内容formatted well for scanningand is written in the propertone of voice。It’s not what you say, but how you say it. Our studies show that tone of voice has a measurable impact on users’ perceptions of a company and people’s willingness to engage with it.


    MailChimp acknowledgment feedback
    MailChimp helps administrators celebrate their accomplishment. Anyone who has sent an email newsletter to a large group of people knows how nerve wracking it feels to press that final button. This bit of playfulness is enjoyable and shows empathy.
  • 测试,测试,然后测试:专注于设计解决用户问题的可用网站。了解您的用户及其任务,并尽可能多地向熨烫障碍(负面遭遇),以便让人们达到目标。

    可用性的核心宗旨是认识到这一点你不是你的用户。It is impossible to anticipate every user reaction or behavior. Conducting用户研究帮助您通过做出基于证据的决策来降低设计风险,而不是个人偏见。永远不要假设你的想法很棒。始终用真正的客户验证新的或创新思想,以尽量减少浪费的努力。


Functionality and usability in user interfaces are required for success and should be your priority. However, don’t stop there. Account for negativity bias by going beyond user expectations and strive for delightful experiences.

了解如何在我们的UX中应用心理原则Human Mind Course。Learn to write for the Web in ourWriting Compelling Digital Copycourse.