Exploring our Subconscious

Chapter 2 of Designing for Emotion was a little difficult for me to grasp. It is hard to understand how our subconscious works especially when books try to tell us. Although I found the topic to be interesting I am not 100 percent sold on the fact that I like “baby faces” or that “I can find human presence in abstract objects.” Let me explain.

In Chapter 2, the author discusses how design can be used to target human emotion through different cognitive approaches.

First, it talks about Darwin’s theory in The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animal. This theory states that all humans have a common emotional lexicon. It states that we are born with emotions rather than emotions being a learned behavior.

The chapter then continues to discuss the “baby-face bias.” This states that we can overlook shortcomings and in return have positive emotions when we the face of a baby. It states that the proportions of a baby’s face (i.e. large eyes, small nose, etc.) are recognized in our brains as special. The author believes that this bias is what drove organizations like Twitter, Brizzly, MailChimp, and others to design the way they do. I personally believe that the baby-face bias does not apply to everyone. I for instance do not really like babies or animated designs with over exaggerated features, therefore, these designs do not appeal to me,

The book also discusses how we as humans are accidental narcissists looking for what we know best in everything we observe – ourselves. The author suggests that we are wired to find emotion in human faces. He mentions that we don’t even need a human face to associate human characteristics – we can find them in abstract objects as well. The example he uses includes the golden ratio, which is a mathematic division of proportions found in nature repeatedly, including the human form. It suggests that we subconsciously recognize this golden ration everywhere we go, which is why we find beauty in things such as the Parthenon. This is the other topic of the chapter I was very unsure about. I do appreciate architectural beauty, but I did not believe it was because I was associating it with human characteristics.

Although I am not 100 percent sold on this topic, I do believe it is very interesting and something to consider when designing. I think with more research into how designers actually use these design theories (versus just a few examples in the chapter) I will be able to fully make up my mind about whether I believe they are true or not.



Originally posted at OU Public Relations Publications