The desire to be more important or attractive than others – and in this day and age, also the desire not to look stupid. Think fear.

Think about the ability to manipulate people based on their fear of being less important, less attractive, or looking stupid. Easy.


  • Linkedin needs your data in order for the site to be useful. So they use language like “your profile is 30% complete” (oh dear!) and offer to search your contacts list for other linkedin members. If you think this is silly, explain the existance of sites such as, which provide a ranked list of the most linked-in individuals on the service.
  • Fear of looking stupid leads users to trust sites which display security certifications more than those which do not. However, Ben Edelman discovered that the sites displaying security certifications are actually significantly less trustworthy than those which forego certification. Way to go, evil sites!
  • Southwest Airlines have a boarding process which rewards early checkin and being at the gate on time – you don’t get an assigned seat, you get an assigned boarding order (and then choose your own seat). Fear of having the worst seat on the plane means that people arrive at the gate early. Southwest is the only profitable US airline at the moment.

5 thoughts on “Pride

  1. Personally as a flyer I love the Southwest experience because they’ve found a far more efficient way to board airplanes, letting me get to where I want to go on time (because my connecting flight arrives on time, and because my flight takes off on time) instead of sitting in a crowded airport being forced to listen to sensationalist cable news programs (now that’s evil).

    Southwest isn’t using fear, being evil, or manipulative in my opinion. They simply followed a basic rule of good design:
    1. understand your users and their goals (get on plane quickly, take off on time)
    2. design your product/service to better meet those goals (develop a boarding experience that doesn’t require people to waste minutes trying to find “their” seat, look for a place for their suitcase only to find every bin near their seat has been taken, walk to the back of a the plane to find an empty bin, then walk back up the aisle against traffic to try to get back to their seat, all while the attendants scold people for not getting to their seats on time.

    Oh, and it turns out that this contributes to the company being profitable.

    Happy customers, profitable company. What’s evil about that?

  2. I’ll tell you what’s evil about that – when you don’t tell your customers IN ADVANCE. In big friendly letters. And when some of those customers who don’t know the system are flying with kids. “Excuse me sir, would you rather give up your seat or take care of my three-year-old?”

  3. Having flown Southwest 6 times in the past two months, my experience has been that families are allowed to board early enough to ensure they can sit together (perhaps after all of the “a” passengers board).

  4. Having flown Southwest for the first time with my family last month, I can assure you that isn’t always the case. And even if it were, there was no advance notice about how early we needed to show up at the gate – what if we were delayed in security and rushed in late? But we showed up at what is normally a very reasonable time out of habit, not that it made any difference – by the time the four of us were allowed on the plane, there were almost nothing but middle seats left.

    My talkative son was fortunate enough to get an aisle seat across from me and next to a very patient mom. Husband and daughter were half the plane away, I think within waving distance of each other. Or else some last-minute reshuffling went on to allow them to sit closer together – I don’t know, once my son and I had seats I didn’t dare move. Husband has vowed never to fly Southwest again.

  5. Also JetBlue is profitable as of July 2009, and pre-assigns seats online. So yes I think that Southwest’s 1st come 1st serve system is evil.

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