damaging patterns

Exploration of recurring patterns in digital interfaces that exploit psychological vulnerabilities and capture attention, often leading the user to lose track of their goals, lose their sense of time and control, and later feel regret.

Categorizing Damaging Design Patterns


Techniques used to exploit users’ psychological vulnerabilities


Effects that ACDPs may have on users’ digital wellbeing

Seductive Design

User interface crafted to trick users into doing things

Deceptive Design

User interface that tempts the user with short-term satisfaction

Types of Damaging Design Patterns

Infinite Scroll

As the user scrolls down a page, more content automatically and continuously loads at the bottom

Casino Pull-to-Refresh

When the user swipes down on their smartphone, there is an animated reload of the page that may or may not reveal new appealing content

Never-Ending Autoplay

A new video is automatically played when the current one finishes, and the option to turn off autoplay is hidden or non-existent

Disguised Ads & Recommendations

Advertisements and recommendations are disguised as normal content into social networks’ newsfeeds

Time Fog

Users’ awareness of time spent on a particular task or device is reduced

Fake Social Notifications

Platforms send messages pretending to be another user or push notifications about some content the user has never interacted with

Attentional Roach Motel

Registering to and accessing attention-capture digital services is easy, while operations like logout or canceling an account are painfully difficult

Guilty Pleasure Recommendations

Personalized suggestions target user’s guilty pleasures and increase use time


Users are forced to repeat the same process several times to unlock an achievement

Playing by Appointment

Users are forced to use a digital service at specific times, otherwise the user may loose points or achievements

Recapture Notifications

Notifications are deliberately sent to recapture users’ attention and have them start a new usage session