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Stern, E., Welsh, R., Gonzalez, R., Fitzgerald, K., Abelson, J., & Taylor, S. (2013). Subjective uncertainty and limbic hyperactivation in obsessive-compulsive disorder. Human Brain Mapping. 34, 1956-1970. DOI: 10.1002/hbm.22038 …

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Emotion primes implicit and explicit preference for ‘green’ products

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We may feel we have a preference for the material of an object, such as whether a bowl we are about to buy is made of natural wood or plastic. In this paper we show that those preferences may not be fixed nor reflective of an underlying trait. Rather, preferences can be shifted relatively easily depending on, for example, whether a decision maker has previously seen a slide show of photos depicting nature as either positive or negative (something to enjoy such as a sunset or something to fear such as a fierce thunderstorm). Participants were randomly assigned by the experimenter to watch either a “nature as positive” or a “nature as negative” slide show. Subsequent behavior and ratings on several tasks measure preference for various household goods, with some of those choice pairs varying on material.

We found several effects, with interactions by gender and in some cases whether the participant lives in an urban or rural environment complicating a simple description of the findigs. For example, we found that after seeing negative nature images, women reduce their preference for natural looking products. They show lower implicit positive associations with nature and, in an implicit preference task, are more likely to pick forms from a plastic folder than a paper folder. As predicted, this effect occurs primarily at an implicit level; it is not reflected in verbally expressed explicit product preferences. Men, on the other hand, do not reduce their preference for natural looking products after seeing images depicting nature as negative.

This paper makes several contributions. First, it brings modern theory and methods from social psychology to the study of design, such as the implicit association test and related theoretical constructs. Second, it uses some interesting measures. For example, in addition to standard preference measures used in other design studies where participants are asked directly what they prefer, we also observe subtle behaviors such as whether the participant chooses papers from a paper or a plastic folder when reaching for a copy of additional experimental response sheets. Additional research is needed to assess how closely these types of subtle measures are predictive of actual purchase decisions in the marketplace. We discuss more general implications for design and design research.

Sacharin, V., Gonzalez, R. & Andersen, J. (2011). Object and user levels of analysis in design: The impact of emotions on implicit and explicit preferences for ’green’ products. Journal of Engineering Design, 22, 217-234. doi:10.1080/09544820903158850 PDF


Understanding users’ perceptions is a key element in design. However, perceptions are typically assessed at the object level of analysis. In this paper, we distinguish between perceptions at the object level and the user level (study 1), and illustrate implications for product evaluations (study 2). We examine evaluations of ‘green’ products. In study 1, we surveyed 41 design students. At the object level, expressing a ‘natural’ look was associated with ‘safety’ for male and female respondents. However, at the user level, women differed from men and did not associate ‘natural’ with ‘safety’. Study 2 demonstrates how this gender difference is reflected in men’s and women’s product evaluations in the context of benign or threatening nature images. In an experiment with 112 participants, we found that women, but not men, reduced their implicit preference for natural products in the threat condition. The paper shows the importance of differentiating between the object and user levels of analysis when analysing consumers’ perceptions to predict product preferences and evaluations.