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A Study of How Products Contribute to the Emotional Aspects of Human Experience

Jodi Forlizzi , Bilge Mutlu , Carl DiSalvo

Studying the emotional aspects of products is of interest for any field concerned with human experience. The vast amount of research in the academic literature serves as a record of the many different approaches. Our earlier design research synthesized contributions from a number of disciplines and combined different perspectives into a unified framework applicable to design practice. The framework identified two levels of emotional expression (short and reflexive emotions, and sustained and reflective moods) and three ways that products function in constructing emotional experience (stimuli for new experience, extenders of current experience, and proxies for past experience).

In this paper, we extend our framework with new theoretical research and apply it in a study to understand what qualities of products construct an emotionally driven experience. We examined the experience of athletic activities, focusing on sports products used by females aged 21-57. We adopted a visual anthropology method to focus on participants’ perceptions, attitudes, and beliefs about product interactions as well as their goals and moods at the time of interaction. We found that products support varying qualities of practical, intellectual, and emotional experience, and these qualities vary based on the nature and the complexity of the experience, the relationship between the intended experience (goal) and the realized experience, and the way that the product functions within the experience.


experience, goals, emotion, function, products