“Everyone knows what an emotion is, until asked to give a definition. Then, it seems, no one knows’ (Fehr & Russell, 1984).
What is an emotion?
Words like “emotion”, “mood” or “feeling” are all terms used by many to define a single concept, and it is this ambiguity of the definition that makes it even more difficult to measure.
The emotional experience in psychology and Human Computer Interaction studies is often described using terms that include “emotions”; “Affections”; “Moods” or feelings. (Plutchik, R., 2003; Fox, E., 2008; Watson, D. & Tellegen, A., 1985).
- complex responses to events that are particularly relevant to the person, characterized by certain subjective experiences and a complex biological reaction. Emotions are intense, temporally limited, and short-lived responses.
- defined as multi-component, including subjective feelings, evaluations, reactions, tendencies of action (including expressions) and regulation (Scherer, 2005; Frijda, 2007).
To make sense of the extent of emotional experiences, the literature on the science of emotions refers to two structures: 1. Discrete or basic emotions; 2. The theory of emotional dimensions.
Discrete (basic) emotions:
- they create the overall spectrum of possible affective states (Plutchik, 2003);
- there are 8, according to Izard’s (1992) facial expressions: interest, joy, surprise, anguish, disgust, anger, shame and fear. An emotional experience usually consists of a complex combination of basic emotions (Watson, 2000).
The theory of the 3 emotional dimensions (Scherer, 2005) includes:
- the state of arousal (states of calm and excitement);
- the valence of the emotional experience (i.e. whether the experience is positive or negative);
- the tension or dominance (or the degree to which a situation is controllable).
Fig.1 | Plutchick’s wheel of emotion. Source: www.interaction-design.org
What is the role of emotions?
Clore (1994) describes the primary function of emotions which is to provide information, for oneself or other people, represented by physiological, verbal or behavioral expressions (Frijda, N.H., 1994). For example, a sudden smile or frown, as a response to a stimulus or event, helps others to rate a person’s experience as positive (Clore, 1994).
Levenson (1994) provides a general description of the role of emotions:“Emotions serve to establish our position vis-à-vis our environment, pulling us toward certain people, objects, actions, and ideas, and pushing us away from others.“
Indeed, as Norman (2005) argues, many consumer products are designed to attract users.
The importance of emotions can also be found within the ISO 9241-210 standard, which by defining the User experience, calls into question the emotions, preferences, perceptions, physical and psychological responses of the user before, during and after the use of a product or service. Through the User Experience, the user establishes a complex relationship with the product-service system …. In addition to the elements purely related to use (usability), aesthetics or functionality, there is also “a strong emotional component in the way the products are designed and used. (…) the emotional aspect of design can in fact be more decisive for the success of a product than its practical characteristics. ” (Norman, 2004)
Explore, measure and evaluate emotions
Donald Norman, introducing the concept of Emotional Design, explores the three different levels of design (Fig. 2) that capture the way people react emotionally to visual experiences. It is not possible to have a design without all three levels:
- visceral refers to the external appearance of the product (the touch, the sensations it produces);
- behavioral refers to the pleasure and effectiveness of use (focuses on use);
- reflexive linked to the message, culture, history and meaning of a product and its use (he is interested in the product and personal identity).
Generating appropriate emotions at each level leads to positive experiences.
Furthermore, Norman defines Delight (enduring, lasting pleasure) as the intersection between visceral, behavioral and reflective emotional design. This is because it is essential that designers understand that these emotional reactions can be achieved with a design approach centered on people and their needs.
Fig. 2 | Norman’s 3 Levels of Emotional Design. (Norman 2005).
Fig.3 | The Hierarchy of Users Needs. Source: Aarron Walter (2011)
What if we translate Maslow’s human needs model into the needs of our users?
We should consider some key aspects:
- Aesthetic-Usability Effect: attractive and aesthetically pleasing objects allow the user to work better (Norman, 2005);
- Emotion-Memory Link: emotionally charged events persist much longer in our memories and are recalled more accurately than neutral memories. (John Medina, 2011);
- Persuasive Emotion (Gut Feeling): cognition interprets and understands the world around you, while emotions allow you to make quick decisions about it. (Norman, 2005);
- Ownership Effect: users place more value in experiences where they feel a sense of personalized ownership, as if the experience/product is an extension of themselves.
“Emotional design turns casual users into fanatics ready to tell others about their positive experience” (Walter, 2011, p.15).
Emotions, why evaluate them?
Emotions are integral to interactions with other people (eg. Colleagues) and objects (eg. Consumer goods).
The evaluation of emotional reactions is therefore important when trying to understand how to improve these interactions, for example when designing positive experiences for the end user.
How to measure them?
In literature there are many methods of evaluation of Human Centered Design (HCD), of User Experience (UX), of Affective Evaluation Methods (AEM), of Psychology and Cognitive Ergonomics and of affective sciences. Below are the main categories of methods (verbal self-report, Self-Report Based on Behavioral Representations, Sensual Self-Report, etc…) to which the main tools are associated.
- Verbal Self-Report: Geneva Emotion Wheel (GEW; Scherer 2005); Repertory Grid Technique; Concurrent Think Aloud;
- Self-Report Based on Behavioral Representations: PrEmo (Desmet, Porcelijn, & van Dijk, 2007); Self Assessment Manikin;
- Sensual Self-Report: Sensual evaluation instrument (shapes);
- Recall Self-Report: Relative Subjective Count; Cued Recall Brief
- Physiological Measures: Biosensors;
- Expression Measure: Video-Based Facial Expression Recognition
- Automated Evaluation of Different Measures: AMUSE
Other evaluation methods useful for understanding emotions and typical of UX and HCD:
For further information you can consult the following links:
- Clore, G.L., 1994. Why emotions are felt. The nature of emotion: Fundamental questions, S.103–111.
- Desmet P.M.A., Porcelijn, R., & van Dijk, M., 2007. Emotional design; application of a research based design approach. Journal of Knowledge, Technology & Policy, 20(3), 141-155.
- Fehr, B., & Russell, J. A. ,1984. Concept of emotion viewed from a prototype perspective. Journal of experimental psychology: General, 113(3), 464.
- Frijda, N.H., 1994. Emotions are functional, most of the time. The nature of Emotions: Fundamental Questions, 112 – 122
- Frijda, N. H., 2007. The laws of emotion. Mahwah, NJ: L.
- Fox, E., 2008. Emotion science: cognitive and neuroscientific approaches to understanding human emotions, Palgrave Macmillan.
- ISO 9241-210:2010, Ergonomics of human-system interaction — Part 210: Human-centred design for interactive systems
- Izard, C.E., 1992. Basic emotions, relations among emotions, and emotion- cognition relations. Psychological Review, Vol.99, No.3, 561 -565
- Levenson, R. W., 1994. Human Emotion: A Functional View, The nature of Emotions: Fundamental Questions.
- Medina, J. (2011). Brain rules: 12 principles for surviving and thriving at work, home, and school. ReadHowYouWant. com.
- Norman, D. A., 2004. Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things
- Norman, D.A., 2005. Emotional design, Basic Books.
- Plutchik, R., 2003. Emotions and life: Perspectives from psychology, biology, and evolution., American Psychological Association.
- Scherer, K.R., 2005. What are emotions? And how can they be measured? Social Science Information, 44(4), 693-727. Available from www.unige.ch/fapse/emotion/ [Accessed June 19 – 2006]
- Watson, D., Tellegen, A., 1985. Toward a consensual structure of mood. Psychological bulletin, 98(2), S.219.
- Watson, D., 2000. Mood and temperament, Guilford Press.
- Walter, A. , 2011. Designing for Emotion
Author of the lesson
Ester Iacono – Master’s Degree in Design at the School of Architecture at the University of Florence. Scholarship for PhD in Architecture, majoring in design (Cycle XXXIII). Researcher in the fields of ergonomics for Design, Human-Centred Design, and Medical Design at Laboratory of Ergonomics & Design, Architecture Department (DIDA). Tutor at Laboratory of Ergonomics for Design course of “Ergonomics and Design” and “Human-Centred Design/User Experience”. She is a lecturer of Interaction Design at AAP (Arts Abroad Project) at the Overseas Study Center in Florence Teaching Program. She collaborated as a designer with professional studios of product design, graphics and communication design.