Chapter 5: Emotional Interaction

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The main aims of this chapter are to:

  • Explain how our emotions relate to behavior and user experience.
  • Provide examples of interfaces that are both pleasurable and usable.
  • Explain what expressive and annoying interfaces are and the effects they can have on people.
  • Introduce the area of automatic emotion recognition and emotional technologies.
  • 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.
  • 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. De-signers 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 and apps that people can trust, and that make them feel comfortable about divulging personal information when making a purchase or giving feedback.

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 explaining what emotions are and how they shape our behavior and everyday experiences. We then look at expressive interfaces, examining the role of an interface’s appearance to users and how it affects usability and the user experience. We then consider how products elicit positive effects, e.g. pleasure, or negative responses, e.g. frustration. We introduce technological approaches to sensing people’s emotions and how these are being used to inform the design of new kinds of emotional technology. The ways technologies are being designed and used to persuade people to change their behavior and attitudes are 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. To illustrate this approach, virtual characters and robot pets are described that have been developed to motivate people to learn, buy, and listen.