With the amount of information our brains process, it’s no surprise we implement shortcuts. One such shortcut is known as the primacy effect, in which we place more importance on the first item in a list. Researchers decided to look at this impact on a group we’d traditionally think of as more thorough and attuned to such trends: economists subscribing to the National Bureau of Economic Research. This organization’s email publication is sent weekly to 23,000 people, including academic economists, students, and government policy makers. It includes a randomly assorted list of the top research that’s been completed recently in the field of economics.
The study revealed slightly alarming figures. The research articles linked at the top of the list were clicked on and downloaded much more. Those same articles were also cited more frequently in subsequent research articles—27% more frequently, to be exact.
This caused our Researcher & Usability Strategist Victor Yocco to think about the research we do here.
“How are we ordering our options?
How do interactions unfold?
Are we frontloading the critical information and thinking that by the end someone will very likely not be paying attention to the information they receive?”
These are the types of questions we seek answers to while conducting research. Whether to inform our design or to alter our approach to a concept, we want reality as opposed to ideals. Sure, in a perfect world, economists (and everyone else, for that matter) would sift through data to find the most relevant content—not simply the most convenient content. But clearly, that’s not the case. So we must ask ourselves these research questions to ensure that the end goal—optimal user experience—is met.
In the meantime, Victor is considering a name change to Aardvark AbbaYocco. Just to make sure he’ll at least be at the top of any alphabetized list.