Date of Award

Spring 5-1-2024

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. George Pullman

Second Advisor

Dr. Mary Hocks

Third Advisor

Dr. Baotong Gu


Deception is a prevalent digital rhetoric strategy used in websites, apps, and games to nudge user behavior. A deceptive design employs multi-modalities to influence how people perceive choices. In user experience (UX) design, deception is often seen as an unethical practice that leads to “dark patterns,” designs in digital media that take advantage of users by exploiting their emotions and cognitive biases to mislead them toward detrimental behavior. But not all deceptive designs are dark patterns. In fact, deception can be applied to purposes that benefit users’ digital wellbeing and improve the usefulness of digital media. This thesis explores the rhetorical utility of a deceptive design as useful untruth. It defines notions of harm and wellbeing to differentiate malicious deception from benign uses. The research also examines how the procedural interplay of feedback, navigability, and consistency serves as an indicator of whether a deceptive design is useful or harmful due to the interconnected ways these three factors shape choice architecture and mental models of use.


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