Implicit Bias in UX Research Methods
Authors: Nathaniel Pereira
Abstract: User Experience (UX) is a multidisciplinary field that utilizes specialized research methodologies to provide approaches to accessibility and usability among the users of a physical or digital product. However, in the development of these methodologies, implicit bias can present obstacles to an equitable user experience for marginalized groups. The purpose of this pilot study was to find trends in the awareness of implicit biases, such as physical, social and emotional, or cognitive and intellectual barriers to participation in UX research processes to ultimately inform larger studies. An online survey and optional interview were distributed to UX professionals from a range of user experience backgrounds that evaluated their robust understanding of implicit bias in UX research methods. Participants were also evaluated on their level of training in ethical UX practices from their formal education and workplaces. The mixed-method survey was split into three sections that investigated demographic data, workplace data, and implicit bias in UX research methodologies data. The results concluded that participants showed preparation for UX ethical practices in formal education. However, a lack of training and guidelines of UX ethical practices in their workplaces was prevalent. This information brings the concern of whether UX research methodologies inhabit inclusion for marginalized audiences, especially in the workforce. Although most participants received a robust understanding of UX ethical practices in formal education, the workforce is where services and products are being designed for all audiences to experience. Overall, participants acknowledged that a level of implicit bias exists within UX research methodologies, especially for populations with physical, social and emotional, and cognitive or intellectual disabilities. Furthermore, the mixed-method survey found that surveys and questionnaires, interviews, usability tests, journey mapping, and persona making were heavily utilized in the UX research process. A discussion of how these methods possibly present implicit bias was included. Although the data from the interview remains inconclusive due to a lack of data, the methodology used was proved to be vetted and valid by the participant. However, the participants demonstrated significance in their experiences as UX professionals and that there is a need for a vigorous understanding of humanity for the UX field. The results and methodology from this pilot study can be used for a larger qualitative and quantitative study. On this basis, the acknowledgment of implicit bias within UX research methods can spark further conversations on the importance of this topic and normalize accessible user experiences for marginalized groups within the UX community. Future implications involved finding mitigation or alternative strategies for marginalized groups with UX research methods, and exploring what specific educational topics and degrees contribute to being well-versed in ethical practices in UX. Other areas for future research include investigating better and fairer UX research methodologies that lead to better-targeted services and environments for all people, understanding establishments in DEAI and social justice in the research arena, and investigating best practices to UX research that need to be established as commonplace in the UX field.
Keywords: Implicit Bias, Diversity Equity and Inclusion in UX, UX Research Methods, Social Justice, Design
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