A systematic literature review was conducted to develop a definition of attention-capture damaging patterns, identify types of design patterns that met specified criteria, and obtain examples of each. The PRISMA literature review guidelines were followed to identify and select relevant papers.

Search Queries

Search Query# Results
“internet addiction” OR “smartphone addiction” OR “social media addiction” OR “technology addiction” OR “app addiction”691
“dark pattern”170
“attention economy” OR “attention-capture”159
“smartphone overload” OR “smartphone overuse” OR “phone overload” OR “phone overuse”73
“compulsive behaviour” OR “compulsive behavior”72
“digital overload” OR “digital overuse” OR “technology overload” OR “technology overuse”57
“unethical design” OR “evil design” OR “manipulative design*”35
“internet overload” OR “internet overuse”32
“digital distraction”32
“unethical interface” OR “evil interface” OR “manipulative interface”13
“social media overload” OR “social media overuse” OR “social networks overload” OR “social networks overuse”10

The search queries used to search the electronic database of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Guide to the Computing Literature all included manuscripts published from January 1, 2000, to June 13, 2022, whose “content type” was “Research Article.” Overall, the initial search identified a total of 1,334 records. The retrieved collection was first analyzed by removing 414 duplicates. Other 822 records were excluded through a screening of the titles and the abstracts.

Paper Selection

Papers were eligible for inclusion if they met all of these criteria:
(1) Paper focuses, directly or indirectly, on deceptive designs and dark patterns (user interfaces that intentionally manipulate users into performing actions that go against their best interests)
(2) Paper includes at least some considerations of people’s digital well-being, with a particular focus on the technology overuse aspect
(3) Paper discusses the relationship between specific digital services characteristics and people’s digital wellbeing

Papers were excluded if they matched one or more of these exclusion criteria:
(1) Paper contained deceptive designs that do not address the problematic exploitation of time and attention
(2) Papers described interventions that support digital well-being but do not analyze problematic design patterns in existing apps
(3) Paper focuses on users without explicitly linking problems to digital interfaces

A final set of 43 research publications were included in the systematic literature review: 30 conference papers (27 full papers and 3 extended abstracts) and 13 journal articles. All of the included publications, including extended abstracts, have been peer-reviewed.

This graph shows the number of publications that fulfills inclusion/exclusion criteria per year. It highlights that the intersection between deceptive designs and digital well-being is a relatively recent research area.