Illusive Design Pattern

Visual Filtering

Fake imagery, comparison and beauty filters are all designed to distort reality.


Exploiting human competitiveness for engagement.


  • Filters that can beautify or touchup appearance used for comparison and to lower self-esteem.
  • Misleading photos of apartments appear much smaller in person compared to photos because of wide-angle.
  • Airbrushed fashion images used in social apps that are not realistic or representative of the user base.
  • Unrealistic food designed to look more tasty whilst taking hours to prepare.
  • Algorithms like Youtube rely on the shock factor for attracting engagement using their thumbnails that are digitally enhanced.

Post-AI Altruheuristics

  • Framing Bias
  • Priming
  • Survivorship Bias
  • Conformity Bias
  • Affinity Bias
  • Exclusion: Filters create misrepresentation and are not inclusive if user doesn’t realize filter is used.
  • Status Play: User compare themselves to unrealistic ideals or have unrealistic expectations.
  • Reminders: It’s a dangerous reminder that the user needs fixing.
  • Anxiety: Repetitive exposure leads to renumeration and to depression.
  • Comparison: Comparison to manufactured ideals designed to appear perfect leads to worry and more.
  • Trust: False advertising.
CBT Distortions
  • Shoulds e.g. I should look like that.
  • Filtering e.g. Why can’t I look like that?
  • Labelling e.g. I’m no good because I don’t look like this.
  • Overgeneralization e.g. Everyone else is better.
  • Discounting the Positives e.g. My features are not good.
  • Jumping to Conclusions e.g. I should get this as it can fix me.
  • Catastrophizing e.g. What if I can’t look like this?
Circ's Principles
  • Balance: Always think about keeping the user in allostasis.
  • Esteem: Respect the values & boundaries or the user.
  • Transparency: Display risks of biases and distortions for illusive interactions that are unavoidable.
Mental Health
  • Narcissism: Avoid the elevation of self-importance through power dynamics.
  • Depression: Avoid comparison, highlight reels and distorted realities.
  • Chronic Anxiety: Avoid the state of uncertainty and provide reassurance.
  • ADHD: Avoid impulsive habit forming interactions and context switching.

Pre-AI Heuristics

Dark Patterns




Graphic Design


Don Norman Principles


Jakob Nielson Principles
  • Match Real World: Photos are not representative of the real product or person.