Academic journal article International Journal of Design

Design for Interest: Exploratory Study on a Distinct Positive Emotion in Human-Product Interaction

Academic journal article International Journal of Design

Design for Interest: Exploratory Study on a Distinct Positive Emotion in Human-Product Interaction

Article excerpt


When using products, we can experience all kinds of emotions. We can, for example, be inspired by the aesthetic appearance of a mobile phone, feel joy with a new toy, be content with the high-quality sound of a music player, or be delighted by an alarm clock sound (Desmet, 2008). Different eliciting conditions evoke these emotions and they also differ in how they influence our behavior and attitudes (Roseman & Smith, 2001). This applies to positive as much as to negative emotions. It has been shown that positive emotions like joy, contentment, love, interest, amusement and pride improve individual and collective functioning, psychological well-being and physical health (Fredrickson, 2003). Moreover, positive emotions alleviate stress and reduce the harmful effects of negative emotions (Fredrickson & Losada, 2005). For these reasons, it can be advantageous for designers to understand how distinct positive emotions are elicited and how these emotions affect usage behavior. By deliberately designing products to elicit distinct, predefined positive emotions, people can be supported in their efforts to use products. For instance, a product that evokes joy may stimulate playful interactions, a product that elicits interest may stimulate focused and explorative interaction and a product that evokes contentment may stimulate peaceful and reflective interactions.

Despite the beneficial effects of positive emotions, little viable knowledge is available to assist designers in their attempts to design interactions that evoke differentiated positive emotions. Traditionally, design research has focused on general pleasure or displeasure, ignoring the differences, both in eliciting conditions and manifestations between distinct positive emotions. Although general emotion theorists have studied these differences, their theories predominantly focus on negative emotions (Fredrickson, 1998, 2003). As a consequence, the roles of differentiated positive emotions in human-product interactions remain largely unrevealed.

The aim of the current study is to explore the possibility to design for a specific positive emotion. The emotion 'interest' (Scherer, 2005) was selected for several reasons. Firstly, interest is an emotion that is often experienced by product users (Desmet, 2002). Secondly, the experience of interest has a positive effect on general well-being (Richman, Kubzansky, Maselko, Kawach, Choo, & Bauer, 2005). Thirdly, interest is known to play a powerful role in the growth of knowledge and expertise (Silvia, 2008). Because little is known about how products evoke interest during product use, the study focused on interest experienced during dynamic interaction. Hence, the overall question addressed in this paper is: how to design an interaction that evokes an experience of interest?

The paper firstly discusses the basic eliciting conditions of interest, drawing from emotion psychology and the empirical arts. Next, the aim of the study is stated: demonstrating the central role of the appraisal dimension 'coping potential' for experiencing usage-interest. Two hypotheses regarding the eliciting conditions of interest in human-product interaction are formulated. The paper reports on two workshops that generated an understanding of how knowledge of these basic eliciting conditions can be used to design an interesting interaction. The insights gained were subsequently used for designing interactive prototypes that served as stimuli in the main study in which appraisal components of interest and emotions were measured. By providing an example of how to design for a specific positive emotion, this paper can serve as an example of how products can be designed to evoke experiences that are differentiated beyond the basic pleasure-displeasure dimension.

Studies of Interest in Empirical Art

Interest is an emotion type that represents experiences like fascination, curiosity, intrigue, excitement and wonder, and shares a conceptual space with challenge and intrinsic motivation (Deci & Ryan, 1985). …

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