Curated by Paul Sas, Behavioral Economist at Intuit. Paul was Intuit’s Behavioral Economist from 2012 to 2015, working with Mint, Quick Books, and TurboTax to deliver the most emotionally engaging product experiences. Paul got his PhD in experimental psychology at Stanford and interned at Xerox PARC during grad school. Paul’s dissertation addressed the paradoxical tendency that people’s stated priorities fail to align with their actual planning. He has been a program chair for BayCHI for over a decade.

What are the secrets to building emotionally engaging experiences? Customer choices are influenced more by their emotions than we realize. While most companies convey reasons to use their products, it is all too typical to ignore a far more powerful lever, the opportunity to engage with hearts as well as minds.

I came to Silicon Valley to study psychology in the 90’s at Stanford, motivated by the insights that inspired behavioral economics, namely, as Blaise Pascal put it, that “The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of.” Successful designers recognize that the emotions they evoke are the experience.

The resources I’ve assembled should point you on the path to thinking about the rich emotional channels available to connect with your customer.

Studies of brain trauma victims have recently demonstrated that the ability to perform logical inference and complex reasoning is not the core of effective decision making. Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio found that when people lose the ability to experience emotions, they cannot make up their mind. As the philosopher Hume explained, “Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions.”

Identify which of your customers’ emotions guide them to engage with your product.

Don Norman, one of the founders of the field of Human-Computer Interaction, expresses frustration with usability, per se, since his ambition is that we design a useful AND beautiful world. Norman’s framework breaks out 3 levels of responding:

  1. Visceral, i.e. immediate, biological, subconscious
  2. Behavioral: function, usability, physical interactivity
  3. Reflective: Conscious, summative, the awareness that determines something is beautiful (as opposed to attractive, which occurs viscerally)

Norman’s written an entire book on Emotional Design: why we love or hate everyday things. The Starck juicer on the book cover (also in TED talk), is unfortunately ONLY beautiful, but his book delivers on all 3 levels.

Break out the visceral, behavioral, and reflective responses that your product evokes.

In this deck, which prefigures his book by the same name, David Rose offers an inspiring vision of how designers can tap into the profound human desires expressed in myths, fairytales, and superhero comics. Recurrent yearning (for powers such as omniscience, protection, and self-expression) spotlights profound emotional needs. Using that guidance, designers can then consider how to endow ordinary physical objects with computational signal processing. Crucially, the charm of such connectivity depends on treating attention with a gentle touch. Rose exhorts designers to focus on communicating via pre-attentive processing, by lightening the load to sustain emotional connection without causing cognitive overload.

Imagine how you might transform at least one interaction with your product so that it can be managed via pre-attentive processing.

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