Cognitive strain occurs when our brain is making multiple mental calculations, reading instructions in a poor or faint font, decoding complicated language or when we are in a bad mood (or even just frowning). For conversion this matters because cognitive strain directly influences behaviour in a number of crucial ways.
- We are more careful and suspicious about an activity (too good to be true?)
- Take greater care and scrutinize the content more than usual.
- Are less comfortable and certain about the nature of the content.
- Make fewer errors as we rely on our intuition less.
- Are less creative and so not as responsive to creative content.
The risk is that cognitive strain creates sufficient uncertainty and negative feelings about a site (i.e. friction) that visitors don’t feel comfortable enough to sign up or make a transaction. It is human nature to avoid uncertainty because it makes us feel uncomfortable. This is partly why site security and trust is so important to website visitors.
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