Chris Chen shares about ‘your brain on dating apps’ with National Geographic

The article highlighting a recent lawsuit alleging that dating apps are designed to be addictive includes insights from Chris Chen, assistant professor of communications design.

Could “swiping right” be more of a sign of addiction than a path to true love? That’s what six people are alleging in a lawsuit against popular dating apps that they claim are designed with “addictive, game-like” features that can lock users into an addictive loop.

Cheng “Chris” Chen, Assistant Professor of Communication Design

The lawsuit has caught the attention of media outlets, as journalists try to learn more about how apps leverage their interfaces and structures to engage users and keep them coming back. Assistant Professor of Communication Design Cheng “Chris” Chen talked with National Geographic about the impact of app design on the user experience and whether certain features can keep them using the app more frequently and for longer periods of time.

Chen told National Geographic journalist Leah Worthington for her article titled “This is your brain on dating apps” that apps including dating apps keep the algorithms they rely upon to feed content to users secret and that their design is “not exactly neutral,” meaning that the intention is to keep users engaging with the app. “Take swiping: it is just more fun than tapping, making the whole process feel more like a game,” Chen told Worthington.

Other features such as random rewards “really get our brains excited because we can’t predict when we’ll get a match,” Chen said.

Read the entire article to learn more about how apps connect with users and what practices may keep them hooked.

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Chen’s expertise falls into the area of user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) design with newer media technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI). She teaches Application and Interface Development and Web and Mobile Design in Spring 2024.

Chen examines the psychology of new media technology in her research, focusing on mobile media addiction and algorithmic bias. Her research goal is to promote better human-computer interaction that serves users’ needs by taking into account their welfare. Chris’s most recent publications have appeared in New Media & Society, Social Media + Society, Telematics & Informatics, Telecommunications Policy, and Social Science Computer Review, and major international conferences, such as AEJMC, ICA, NCA, and CHI.