Neglect of probability

Image created with Midjourney. Image prompt:
Image created with Midjourney. Image prompt: A 2D, minimalist figure stands under two clouds. One cloud is small but has a lightning bolt hanging, symbolizing a certain but small shock. The other cloud is larger, with a translucent lightning bolt, symbolizing a possible but larger shock. The figure seems equally apprehensive towards both clouds

In the realm of digital product design, understanding human cognitive biases can significantly enhance the user experience. One such bias is the Neglect of Probability, which implies that people tend to focus on the outcome's impact rather than its likelihood.

Understanding the Neglect of Probability

The Neglect of Probability is a cognitive bias where individuals overlook the probability of an event occurring and instead focus on the potential impact of the event. This was demonstrated in a study where participants expressed the same level of fear towards a guaranteed small electric shock and a larger shock with a 50% probability. Even when the chance of the larger shock was reduced to 5%, the fear remained the same1.

Neglect of Probability in Digital Software Products

Let's explore how the Neglect of Probability can impact digital software products through three examples:

Example 1: Online Marketplaces

Online marketplaces like eBay often feature auctions where the final price is uncertain. Users may neglect the probability of winning an auction and focus more on the potential deal they could get, resulting in overbidding.

Example 2: Cybersecurity Software

Users often neglect the probability of cyber threats and focus on the potential impact, like losing important data. This can lead to users investing in robust cybersecurity software to protect their systems, even if the likelihood of a threat is low.

Example 3: Health Apps

In health apps, users may neglect the probability of certain health risks and focus more on the potential impact. For instance, a user might be more driven to make lifestyle changes based on the potential severity of a health condition, rather than its likelihood.


Understanding the Neglect of Probability bias can help digital product developers create more effective products. It's crucial to consider how users perceive the potential impact versus the likelihood of outcomes when designing interfaces and experiences. By acknowledging this bias, developers can guide users to make more informed decisions, resulting in a more satisfying user experience1.