Daily UX Crash Course — User Psychology: 22 of 31

The experiences you remember are not complete, accurate, honest, and sometimes they aren’t even real. That means it is possible to “design” what people remember. So today we will learn a bit about:



(Just starting the User Psych Crash Course? Start here.)


Memory is really cool. This lesson barely scratches the surface.

You might base a lot of decisions on your memories, but our long term memories are a lot like breasts in Hollywood: not as real as they might seem.

Our brains don’t record memories like a video.

Memories are reconstructed, from associations, each time you think about them.

But associations change over time. You might become an expert in physics, or grow out of your go-to-school-dressed-like-a-vampire phase.

That means it will become impossible for you to remember physics like a beginner, or to think about fake fangs as a cool accessory anymore.

Each time you remember something, you change that memory forever.


All memories are not created equal.

Your brain puts more emphasis on the experiences that have stronger feelings, and more “novelty” (they grab your attention). 

Your brain is also good at remembering patterns and things you do over and over. We call that practice, or a habit, or muscle memory.

As a UX Designer: You should read those last few sentences as tools that you can use in your designs.

Part of that is done by using all the skills we have learned so far. Part of that is done after the experience is over.


Emphasize with Bias

Here are a few tips:

1) Remind them of the good parts. If you buy a Macbook from Apple, the next email you get will be full of feature highlights. I’ll bet you a back rub that it changes the way you remember your reasons for buying.

2) Create Habits. It is useful to build patterns of clicks/touches that people can learn and repeat quickly. It might be new at the beginning, but once they can do it easily, they will remember it as being obvious the whole time. (Photoshop, anyone?)

3) Personalize. Many websites use your choices to improve your next visit. My Pinterest feed is about 80% things I like now, but my first experience was only about 10% things I liked. Same with Reddit. However, I just know that. I don’t remember it.


Research & Memory

Nothing a user says in an interview or on a survey should be considered a fact. It is merely an impression.

I once saw a survey where users were asked “what website did you visit before this one?”

We had Google Analytics data showing that over 30% of people were wrong. And that was a memory from 5 minutes earlier. 

Your memory is the same.

You should record interviews or take notes that are good enough for someone else to use, and document your research (with sources!).


Beware of False Memory

Believe it or not, some things we remember are completely false. They never happened, and they are not a version of a real event.

Don’t believe me? Watch this.

Still want to do everything users say?


Tomorrow we will learn about one more Cognitive Bias that makes us terrible with money, planning, and is the reason usability matters: Hyperbolic Discounting