The Smarter Screen | Shlomo Benartzi

Summary of: The Smarter Screen: Surprising Ways to Influence and Improve Online Behavior
By: Shlomo Benartzi


In an age of digital abundance, attention is a scarce commodity. ‘The Smarter Screen: Surprising Ways to Influence and Improve Online Behavior’ by Shlomo Benartzi sheds light on how to build engaging and persuasive platforms that capture the attention of users. The book summary takes you through the human mind’s limitations while consuming information and how companies can benefit from these cognitive limitations. It also delves into the power of visuals, the ‘middle bias’ phenomenon, balancing ease of use with customer decision-making, providing effective feedback, and successful real-life examples of personalization.

Information Overload and Attention

In the digital age, the abundance of information available has led to attention span issues for users. The brain’s cognitive capacity is limited, and when presented with an overload of information, people begin to miss out. Despite this, companies have been able to fill the gap between presented and noticed information for a profit. For instance, sites like and use a simplified platform to offer a wealth of accommodations, charging hotel owners up to a 30 percent commission.

Engaging Websites: The Secret to Triggering the Subconscious

Tinder’s split-second decision-making process is an example of how our subconscious influences our choices. To engage users with your website, visual appeal is essential. Bank of America’s website is an example of what not to do. Building an engaging website involves a balance of color and detail to trigger the subconscious. The halo effect, where one prominent feature influences a person’s judgment, applies to website design.

Master the Art of Persuasion

Learn how to influence people’s choices by using middle bias and strategic information organization.

As consumers, we often find ourselves drawn to certain products that are centrally located on the shelves. This is because of the middle bias, a phenomenon that affects how we perceive our surroundings and make decisions. Our eyes tend to jump around in a predictable pattern, always ending up fixated on the center. This bias is so powerful that even our favorite candy, placed far off to the side, may go unnoticed.

Marketers and advertisers have capitalized on this middle bias to influence our decisions. Placing links or products in the center of the screen or shelf increases the chances of people clicking or buying them. But it’s not just the center that matters; highlighting specific options also helps them stand out and boosts their chances of being selected.

However, to fully utilize this bias, it’s essential to consider how we organize information. For instance, when Dell Computers listed its computer models in columns and other information, such as prices, in horizontal rows, customers focused more on the cheapest computer. But when the information was switched, customers spent more time looking at the products and less time focusing on price.

Understanding how middle bias affects decision-making and utilizing strategic information organization can be harnessed to influence others effectively. These techniques are especially useful when people are multitasking or not looking for something specific. By mastering the art of persuasion, you can influence the choices of others in a way that is beneficial to both you and them.

The Paradox of Ease

Making online services too easy may not always be to the benefit of users. Studies show that by introducing elements of disfluency into a task, we can improve people’s attention and long-term memory. Uber’s surge pricing serves as an example of how a simple interface can create issues. Rather than making things easy all the time, making a task slightly harder can activate deliberate thinking. Encouraging users to manually enter information or using an unfamiliar font or unusual layout are some of the ways to introduce disfluency. The paradox of ease lies in ensuring that the customer can get something done quickly, while also carefully considering certain information.

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