Reading the user's mind : Designers show high accuracy in inferring design-related thoughts and feelings

Álvaro M. Chang-Arana*, Antti Surma-Aho, Jie Li, Maria C. Yang, Katja Hölttä-Otto

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference article in proceedingsScientificpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The success of design needfinding is largely dependent on how well designers understand their users. It is further claimed that user understanding and designers' capacity to adopt users' perspective, i.e. designers' ability to understand others, are key skills that should lead to successful design outcomes. The general ability to understand someone else's mental contents, such as what they else think, feel, wish, and believe, is called theory of mind. In this study, we connect concepts of humancentered design and theory of mind through empathic accuracy, a performance-based method for measuring empathy. We state two hypotheses. First, that designers are equally accurate at inferring thoughts as they are at inferring feelings. Second, that designers are more accurate in inferring design-related mental contents than those that are not related to design. We answer these hypotheses by analyzing results of altogether 24 designers watching recorded needfinding interviews of 6 users and inferring their mental contents. We observed that feelings were more accurately inferred than thoughts, although the data showed some inconsistencies. A stronger case can be made for designers' accuracy of design-related entries, where designers were consistently more accurate at inferring design-related entries than non-design-related ones. These results provide concrete insight into how designers understand users and how empathy could be quantified in the design context.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication32nd International Conference on Design Theory and Methodology (DTM)
PublisherAmerican Society of Mechanical Engineers
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9780791883976
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020
MoE publication typeA4 Conference publication
EventASME International Design Engineering Technical Conferences & Computers and Information in Engineering Conference - Virtual, Online, St. Louis, United States
Duration: 16 Aug 202019 Aug 2020
Conference number: 40

Publication series

NameProceedings of the ASME Design Engineering Technical Conference
Volume8

Conference

ConferenceASME International Design Engineering Technical Conferences & Computers and Information in Engineering Conference
Abbreviated titleIDETC/CIE
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySt. Louis
Period16/08/202019/08/2020

Keywords

  • Empathic accuracy
  • Empathy
  • Theory of mind
  • User-centered design

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