Online Choice Architecture: The Good, The Bad, and The Complicated

10 Pages Posted: 18 Oct 2022

See all articles by Michael Sobolev

Michael Sobolev

Cornell Tech

Vedran Lesic

Competition and Markets Authority ; Leeds University Business School

Date Written: October 5, 2022


Online choice architecture (OCA) encompasses the set of design features that impact choice in digital environments. From default settings and notifications to personalization and recommender systems, OCA features are present in almost every interaction with technology. Existing evidence on the effects of OCA on human behavior have often been one-sided, focusing either on positive or negative outcomes. In online settings, the effect of OCA practices on consumer welfare is often complicated. In this paper, we describe the design process and practices of OCA, analyze applications of OCA for good and for bad, and discuss future direction for research and practice of OCA design. We recommend that designers and researchers measure and capture a wider range of outcomes, beyond user engagement and satisfaction. We also highlight the interplay between data, algorithms and OCA design since many OCA practices are embedded in the design of interfaces and are often data-driven. Therefore, advancing good and preventing bad OCA design might require an approach that goes beyond the individual user or designer, and looks at structural changes across the market.

Keywords: nudge, digital nudging, human-computer interaction (HCI), dark patterns, behavior design, markets

JEL Classification: C93, D23, D91, I12, L86, O33

Suggested Citation

Sobolev, Michael and Lesic, Vedran, Online Choice Architecture: The Good, The Bad, and The Complicated (October 5, 2022). Available at SSRN: or

Michael Sobolev (Contact Author)

Cornell Tech ( email )

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New York, NY 10044
United States

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Vedran Lesic

Competition and Markets Authority ( email )

Victoria House
37 Southampton Row
London, WC1B 4AD
United Kingdom
07768810453 (Phone)

Leeds University Business School ( email )

Maurice Keyworth Building
University of Leeds
United Kingdom

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