Academic journal article International Journal of Design

Innovation Is Appreciated When We Feel Safe: On the Situational Dependence of the Appreciation of Innovation

Academic journal article International Journal of Design

Innovation Is Appreciated When We Feel Safe: On the Situational Dependence of the Appreciation of Innovation

Article excerpt


Aesthetically based evaluation of the environment seems to be a key functionality of the human brain (Faerber & Carbon, 2012). The latest research shows the clear adaptive quality of aesthetic appreciation (Carbon, 2011, 2012). Major factors of this adaption were identified by elaboration effects (De Bont & Schoormans, 1995), Zeitgeist-dependent norms (Carbon, 2010), or levels of expertise (Vogt & Magnussen, 2007)--in short: The assessment of aesthetic quality is clearly context-dependent (see Carbon & Jakesch, 2013; Leder, Belke, Oeberst, & Augustin, 2004). This view is contrary to the classic Fechnerian idea that object-inherent features determine whether something is beautiful or aesthetically pleasing, but is compatible with the situated cognition approach originating from social psychology. For instance, Schwarz (2007) claims that "to serve action in a given context, any adaptive system of evaluation should be informed by past experience, but highly sensitive to the specifics of the present" (p. 639). Whereas deeper knowledge of such adaptive behaviour in situational contexts has already been compiled for a variety of aspects in social contexts, comparable effects have to date rarely been investigated with respect to aesthetic evaluations, or even design objects (Blijlevens, Gemser, & Mugge, 2012).

In order to study the effects of situational context on the aesthetic assessment of objects, Carbon and Leder (2005) employed a technique developed in the context of applied aesthetics called "Repeated Evaluation Technique" (RET). The core of this technique is to initiate implicit elaboration of the inner qualities of consumer products by asking people to evaluate these products in a variety of product-relevant dimensions (e.g., prestige, pleasantness, innovativeness). The target-oriented usage of specific combinations of dimensions within the RET enables the activation of discrete situational contexts or "semantic concepts" (Faerber, Leder, Gerger, & Carbon, 2010).

In the present study we investigated the impact of situational contexts on the appreciation of innovativeness in car interiors. Innovativeness is well known to be a key variable for predicting the success of a specific car design (Leder & Carbon, 2005). Here, we chose this variable because it has been shown that the appreciation of innovativeness strongly depends on associative factors, e.g., as triggered by elaboration (Carbon & Leder, 2005). To generate specific (associative) contexts for the participants we confronted them with evaluative dimensions that either stressed the potentially positive aspects of innovativeness using fascinating, novelty-based attributes (condition Fascination) or emphasised potentially negative aspects of innovativeness by employing threatening properties of innovation, namely unfamiliar objects (condition Danger). We conducted the experimental procedure twice--the second testing after a one-week break. This temporal variation is a new way to show another important aspect of dynamic changes in appreciation and allows for the testing of whether (and which) situational context enables sustainable changes in aesthetic appreciation. As dependent measures, we not only focused on attractiveness or liking, but followed a multidimensional approach of assessing aesthetic appreciation (see for a deeper discussion on the multidimensional measurement of aesthetic appreciation in Faerber et al., 2010). For assessing aesthetic appreciation we used the following variables: 1) attractiveness, 2) innovativeness, 3) interestingness, 4) owning interest unlimited, and 5) owning interest limited (see method section for details).


Experiment Design


Fifty-one undergraduate students of the University of Vienna participated for course credit. Twenty-four people (17 women and 7 men; mean age = 21.6 years) were assigned the Fascination condition and 27 (19 women and 8 men; mean age = 22. …

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