Empathic accuracy in design: Exploring design outcomes through empathic performance and physiology

Alvaro M. Chang-Arana*, Matias Piispanen, Tommi Himberg, Antti Surma-aho, Jussi Alho, Mikko Sams, Katja Holtta-Otto

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
100 Downloads (Pure)


Empathic design highlights the relevance of understanding users and their circumstances in order to obtain good design outcomes. However, theory-based quantitative methods, which can be used to test user understanding, are hard to find in the design science literature. Here, we introduce a validated method used in social psychological research - the empathic accuracy method - into design to explore how well two designers perform in a design task and whether the designers' empathic accuracy performance and the physiological synchrony between the two designers and a group of users can predict the designers' success in two design tasks. The designers could correctly identify approximately 50% of the users' reported mental content. We did not find a significant correlation between the designers' empathic accuracy and their (1) performance in design tasks and (2) physiological synchrony with users. Nevertheless, the empathic accuracy method is promising in its attempts to quantify the effect of empathy in design.

Original languageEnglish
Article number16
Number of pages34
JournalDesign Science
Publication statusPublished - 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Empathic design
  • empathy
  • empathic accuracy
  • user understanding
  • EMG
  • CARE
  • PAIN


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