How people’s schema, dual process model and socio-background shape their experience

In UX, we commonly user interview to gather qualitative data . Through user interview, we seek to understand the ‘Why’s and ‘How’s behind human behaviour objectively. Yet because user interview also heavily rely on human’s response, data gathered can be subjected to heuristic and biasness.

This article seek to explore some social cognition concepts that explain why people commit such heuristic and implication that these heuristic have on user interview.

First, what is the relationship between  — in particular, Social Cognition — and User Interview?

Psychology is the scientific study of mind and behaviour. It has a sub field, Social Psychology, that study how people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of others. Social Cognition, a sub-topic of Social Psychology, focus on how individuals process, store, and apply information — cognition processes — about other people and social situations. This then shapes their worldview and belief system.

In user , we discussion guide with questions or topics to discuss with users so to gain an in-depth understanding of users’ values, perceptions, and experiences. Scrutinising the nature of user interview, it is essentially a social interaction between two people.

Thus, the way interviewer crafts the topic guide and users give their responses are subjected to each parties’ worldview and belief system.

#1. You might not know what your user know or don’t know

How does people understand the world?

Schema. Image Credit: and


Schema is a pre-existing mental that helps us to organize and interpret information. It allows us to understand situations so we can make decision accordingly.

We posses a lot of schemas. To name a few, we have how-to-go-to-work, complete-work-task schema. Which set of these schema gets activated depend on:

  • Availability – whether you have that particular knowledge stored in you memory in the first place
  • Accessibility – how likely will you activate those stored knowledge
  • Applicability- is the contextually appropriate to activate that stored knowledge

Implication of Schema on User Interview

There will be times when we have to interview user who comes from background different from ours. With a different set of schema, they might share a different set of worldview from us.

Thus we have to be prepared and equipped to abandon our prepared topic guide when we conduct interview when exploring our users’ schemas.

#2. Your user may not know what they know and don’t know in a CONSCIOUS manner

How does people activate their schemas when making decision?

Dual Process Model — System 1 and 2. Image Credit:

Dual Process Model

This model is based on the principle that there are two distinctively separate cognitive systems — System 1 and System 2 — underlying our thinking and reasoning.

In System 1 (or Intuitive System), thinking is carried out quickly, unconsciously and automatically. When it is activated automatically, people:

  • are unaware of the decision made because they are unaware of the stimulus’s presence,
  • are unaware of how they classify and interprete the stimuli
  • misattribute the effect that the stimulus has on their judgments or actions.

On the other hand, system 2 (or Rational System), thinking is carried out slowly, consciously and in an effortful manner because it’s primary objective is to make an informed decision from a complex situation.

Paradoxical nature of System 1

We make decision everyday and thinking tap on our cognitive resources. With so many decisions to make, we can’t afford to have every decision-making becoming a major research project. Thus we are incentivised to reserve these resources by employing mental strategies and shortcuts that help us make decision easily (System 1).

However, system 1 is prone to biasness. The 2 most most likely committed heuristic during user interview are:

  • Availability Heuristic— making judgment about the likelihood of an event based on how easily an example, instance, or case comes to mind
  • Representativeness Heuristic (AKA Stereotyping) — estimating the likelihood of an event by comparing it to our existing schema

Implication of Dual Process Model on User Interview

Depending on how you structure your interview questions and how you ask those question, our user might activate his/her schema through system 1. Since system 1 is so prone to biases, it may not be an accurate reflection of their mental processes and behaviour.

How we structure our interview questions matters. When we craft the questions, we should anticipate the kind of responses and emotions that we want or might elicit from our user.

#3. You are also subjected to the same set of biases faced by your users

Like our users, we also have our sets of schema that get the chance to be activated through System 1 thinking.

Representative Heuristic in action

Supposed you want to find out how much are people willing to spend on home renovation. Based on your renovating experience and personality as a thrifty consumer, you think that market rate offered by renovator will primarily influence people’s budget for renovation. With all these in mind, you ask your user,

“How much are you willing to spend on renovation?”

Your user is from the low-income group. However, unknowing to you, she had a bad experience of poor workmanship from her previous renovator. She thus prioritise quality work over price. She answered,

“$50,000 for a 2-bedroom apartment.”

In Singapore context, $50K for a 2 bedroom apartment is considered above market price.

If you do not think further or question your user’s response, you may dismiss her response and regard it as nonsensical!

Implication of BOTH interviewer and interviewee exercising System 1 thinking in the interview process

Just like the duck and chicken in the illustration above, both interview and interviewee will be stuck in their perspective.

This creates miscommunication and hence misleading results from the interview.

As UX researcher, how can we better prepare and conduct our interview?

Here are some tips:

  1. Read widely to expand your knowledge
  2. Stay curious about people’s behaviour. Talk to and observe people from various backgrounds
  3. Engage in System 2 thinking by being conscious on why and how you craft and administer interview questions when doing user research

In essence, update our Schema frequently and practice asking lots of “Why”s to sharpen our reasoning and logic skills.

Source link—-819cc2aaeee0—4


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here