Embodied Cognition and Product Design

from EmbodiCog

Jane Fulton Suri: "For audiences who prize objectivity over intuition, the psychology of embodied cognition provides us with a rational basis to explain why particular design concepts and design details are relevant."

Embodied cognition, the demon child of neuroscience, has increased our understanding of human thought and emotion.

Another formula for this understanding: Design intuition.

Rocked in the cradle of neuroscience, embodied cognition in design could transform the future of human commerce.

Introduced here are sample ideas in circulation or about to come true. Each of them appears familiar, but has been "enlightened" through the insights of embodied cognition.

The shape of a goblet or wine glass has been demonstrated through research to affect taste. An elegant shape increases the flavor. The embodied taste effect can be enhanced in modified shapes designed for drinking pleasure, in a range of models selected for their informed, delicious decor.

Can the shape of your glass enhance the taste of the wine? (www.theguardian.com)

Specially Designed Glass Intended to Enhance the Flavor of Coca-Cola (www.delish.com)

Next we turn to business and social products. The first item listed is a judgment tool, used for calculation, planning, organization, and, yes — notation...
The choice of a pen's color should be considered for its particular thought intention. So far the research — if not definitive, is at least suggestive: Blue pens are better for generating creative ideas, and red pens are better for critical editing.

Teachers who were studied when correcting student papers while using blue pens were found to make fewer corrections (and rated papers higher) than teachers using red pens. (Users-of-red-pens reversed this trend.) Intentions that are written in ink to produce results could be color-matched to their goals — open or focused — depending on one's purpose.

Research has shown that circular tables stimulate better social affiliation than square or rectangular ones. Circular tables can be recommended for social settings, while rectangular tables can be best utilized for serious meetings.

Recent studies on the (unconscious) effects of holding a heavier — vs. holding a lighter — clipboard on human judgments have generated the argument that: "If you carry a heavy clipboard, you will feel more important." Should heavier clipboards be designed for business leaders who wish to feel more decisive?

Let's pause to sit down. People sitting in hard chairs "were less willing to compromise in price negotiations than people who sat in soft, comfortable chairs."

Soft and rigid chairs could be tailored to fit specific embodied characteristics based upon a consumer's needs. (Soft chairs could be suggested for flexible negotiations; rigid chairs for determined negotiations.)

The items depicted in this article represent a small number of products that can be remodeled in purpose to fit unconscious embodied desires. The ideas from EC research can be breathed into familiar items, and marketed to inspire the thoughtful consumer. The implicit perks appear profitable: The "hidden nature" of objects can be seen to influence our attitudes, feelings, talents, and performance.

The "embodied" effects found in the designs of glassware or clipboards could implement a future merchandising trend. But in retrospect, the logic of neuroscience in the marketplace is nothing new. It has been suggested before in various guises.

Is it time to push it further?

The secrets learned from embodied cognition might enhance the brain in its competition for resources, fusing together the principles of self-knowledge and transcendence in a fundamental union. That prospect could spark enthusiasm for merchants and consumers.

On the other hand...

While EC could fuel incredible opportunities, its blind exploitation or abuse would also be frightening. The moral implications of manipulating EC in one's favor could be a potential problem. (On the other hand, secret hacks for success are scattered in abundance and already seem to dominate our latest social trends. Is wearing cologne to impress a date less disturbing? ...Or dressing for an interview?) Should the nuance of such tactics — in the marketplace — be discouraged altogether?

There's no simple solution. The challenge for merchants is to resist the temptations of greed and manipulation, to pursue a larger purpose. The ultimate goal is to optimize human potential.

Disclaimer: The author writes for EmbodiCog and is interested in merchandising neuroscience for consumers.


Spence, C., Harrar, V., & Piqueras-Fiszman, B. (2012). Assessing the impact of the tableware and other contextual variables on multisensory flavour perception Flavour, 1 (1) DOI: 10.1186/2044-7248-1-7

Gal, David and Wheeler, S. Christian and Shiv, Baba, Cross - Modal Influences on Gustatory Perception (November 14, 2007). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1030197 Link to Abstract

Rutchick, A., Slepian, M., & Ferris, B. (2010). The pen is mightier than the word: Object priming of evaluative standards European Journal of Social Psychology DOI: 10.1002/ejsp.753

Colleen Roller (2011). Embodied Cognition and How It Affects Judgment and Decision Making UXmatters

Dazkir, S., & Read, M. (2011). Furniture Forms and Their Influence on Our Emotional Responses Toward Interior Environments Environment and Behavior, 44 (5), 722-732 DOI: 10.1177/0013916511402063

SANDRA BLAKESLEE (2012). Mind Games: Sometimes a White Coat Isnít Just a White Coat The New York Times

Ackerman, J., Nocera, C., & Bargh, J. (2010). Incidental Haptic Sensations Influence Social Judgments and Decisions Science, 328 (5986), 1712-1715 DOI: 10.1126/science.1189993

Felicity Cloake (2012). Can the shape of your glass enhance the taste of the wine? The Guardian

Kiri Tannenbaum (2014). Specially Designed Glass Intended to Enhance the Flavor of Coca-Cola Delish

Erin Eberlin (2014). Marketing Your Property Using the Sense of Touch landlords.about.com

Picture Source:
Turbo Squid


John DiPrete is a Web designer with a passion for neuroscience, art, and business. His work has appeared in MacWorld, Perceptual and Motor Skills, Medical Hypotheses, Speculations in Science and Technology, among other outlets. His Web site (www.MindBluff.com) has been recommended by PC World Online. His most recent project is www.EmbodiCog.com. (Contact: John@embodicog.com)

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