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Cognitive Strain


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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