Chapter 5: Emotional Interaction

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The main aims of this chapter are to:

  • Cover how emotions relate to the user experience.
  • Provide examples of interfaces that are both pleasurable and usable.
  • Explain what expressive interfaces are and the effects they can have on people.
  • Describe how technologies can be designed to change people's attitudes and behavior.
  • Give an overview on how anthropomorphism has been applied in interaction design.
  • Present well-known models and frameworks of emotion and pleasure.
  • Enable you to critique the persuasive impact of an online agent on customers.


An overarching goal of interaction design is to develop products that elicit positive responses from users, such as feeling at ease, being comfortable, and enjoying the experience of using them - be it a washing machine or a flight deck. Designers are also concerned with how to create interactive products that elicit specific kinds of emotional responses in users, such as motivating them to learn, play, or be creative or social. There has also been much interest in designing websites that people can trust, and that make them feel comfortable about divulging personal information when making a purchase.

Taken together, we refer to this emerging area as emotional interaction. In this chapter we look at how and why the design of interactive products may cause certain kinds of emotional responses in people. We begin by looking in general at expressive interfaces, examining the role of an interface's appearance to users and how it affects usability.

We then examine how interactive products elicit positive effects, e.g. pleasure, and negative responses, e.g. frustration. How technologies are being designed and used to persuade people to change their behavior and attitudes is then covered. We look, in particular, at ubiquitous technology interventions that are being designed to improve health and well-being and reduce domestic energy and water consumption. Following this, we show how anthropomorphism has been used in interaction design and the implications of designing applications that have human-like qualities. A number of virtual characters and robot pets are described that have been developed to motivate people to learn, buy, and listen and we consider how useful and appropriate they are. Finally, we present three models that are well known in interaction design that conceptualize the user experience in terms of emotion, pleasure, and user experience: (i) Norman's (2004) emotional design model; (ii) Jordan's (2000) pleasure model for product design; and (iii) McCarthy and Wright's (2004) technology as experience framework.