Psychology Behind QR Codes

QR Codes have started to make waves since the start of the pandemic. Through this technology, people were able to make easier and faster transactions without physical contact. This is a great advantage, since COVID-19 still exists. In this blog, we are going to find out the psychology behind QR Codes and how it became useful for users in the long run.

But before we go deeper into the users’ perceptions, let us first have an understanding of what a QR Code is, how it came about, and how it works.

What is a QR Code?

A QR  (Quick Response) code is a special kind of barcode that can hold a lot of information. It can store more than 7,000 letters, numbers or symbols, making it easy to access a lot of information, perform activities or make transactions quickly.

They look like squares made up of black and white dots or lines. Recently, the lines and dots have started to be designed in different shapes like hearts, squares, arrows, etc. Go-board, a traditional Japanese board game, inspired this creative design. As per the article from, the concept of QR code design has evolved over the years, and now it takes various forms other than the traditional black and white squares.

Japanese car company Denso Wave, invented the QR Code. According to an article from, the company needed a better way to track cars and car parts during the making process, so they created QR codes. QR codes were first developed and used by this automotive company for inventory tracking. Later on, it became popular for many other uses.

A QR Code can give you information or help you do things like make a purchase by using a special scanner. Before, you needed a special device to do this. But now, you can use your smartphone to scan a QR code and get information or make a transaction.

Psychology Behind QR Codes: What Users Think

Users initially had negative perceptions of QR Codes when they were first introduced. A study done by the University of California, Berkeley in 2011 found that early users of QR Codes experienced difficulty and confusion upon using it.  In addition, many consumers complained about the lack of standardization as far as design and use is concerned, making it hard for them to scan and read the codes.

A survey conducted by the National Retail Federation in 2011 also found that only 6% of retailers used QR codes in their stores. Only 1% of customers reported scanning them. The fact that QR Code scanning required additional software on smartphones influenced these perceptions, as the process proved to be tedious.

Here are some other factors that affect people’s initial perception of QR Codes:


People back then used to be skeptical about QR Codes due to unfamiliarity with technology. In a year such as 1994, gadgets such as smartphones were not yet available and accessible to the public.

Privacy and Security Concerns

The ease of access provided by a QR Code may also become a security threat to people. And this greatly affects their perceptions on the said barcode. Their personal information might be taken and be used against them, or in activities that are beyond their control.

QR Code Awareness

Despite their growing popularity, QR Codes have yet to find a foothold in many parts of the world. At that time, only a few businesses or organizations employing them. Many people are still uninformed of how to use it. This is due to a lack of proper education, practice, marketing, and advertisement.


Initially, not all business establishments accepted QR Code as mode of payments. This made it one of the factors that affect the first impression of users toward the barcode.


Another factor affecting people’s initial perceptions of QR Codes is their limited understanding of the benefits of QR codes over traditional forms of transactions. And the lack of familiarity with technology or access to gadgets like smartphones back this up.


People also initially thought of QR Codes as part of the fads or trending technologies. If issues such as scams start to pop up, people might not believe that QR Codes will actually work.

Psychology Behind QR Codes: A Change of Heart

It wasn’t until the year 2017 when QR codes started to become more popular. It can also be correlated with the wide use of smartphone technology. Problems with using QR codes have been fixed, and they are now being used in many different ways. According to an article in Forbes, the use of QR codes will likely continue to grow in the future.

According to a study by the University of Cambridge in 2019, more people trust QR codes now and know how to use them. A survey by the National Retail Federation in 2020 also found that more stores are using QR codes and more customers are scanning them, showing that more people are starting to adopt the use of QR codes. Technology has improved and now it is easier to scan QR codes using mobile devices. This made it easier to use QR codes and changed people’s opinions.

An article in Business Insider also specified events that propelled the world to appreciate the value of QR Codes in many aspects:

COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19, in its first wave, proved to be deadly, and maximum precautions were required for people to survive the virus. The need for contactless transactions and social distancing made QR codes widely adopted as a way to make transactions such as payments, filling in forms, accessing information, and so on.

Increase in e-commerce

As we are already in the digital age, e-commerce has grown and made use of QR Codes in giving information about products and services, and streamlining online purchases.

Marketing campaigns

Nowadays, a lot of marketing strategies are incorporating QR Codes such as on billboards, in newspapers and magazines, and on websites and other online platforms, in the hopes of increasing customer reach and engagement.

Government initiatives

Governments all over the world have started to promote using QR Codes for many reasons, like contact tracing, feedback and review, tracking records, and availing of public services.

Growing popularity of mobile payments

The advanced mobile devices have enabled cashless means of paying bills and others. Nowadays, we keep our money using mobile or e-wallets (e.g. Apple Pay, Google Wallet, and Alipay). With QR Codes, making payments is just as easy as a scan away.

Let’s face it, QR Codes are changing the game.

They are not simply square-shaped barcodes that can store information, but they also provide us with limitless options for how they might improve our lives. So, what’s holding you back from using QR Codes?