psychology of perception

hi cordy,

i was going through some of the archived had mentioned once about ‘psychology of perception’ as regards product essentially means how people perceive abt products, what shapes their responses etc.Could you please suggest me some llinks or books (preferably that could serve me to understand its principles ! i am a product designer designing consumer appliances for a us based company.

Others too , all of you are a part of the discussion.



There is a guy here in Germany who does academic work in “Limbic thinking” which is basically trying to apply biology and cultural perspectives to account for how we look at stuff. His name is Häusel and his book “Brain Script” is, I think only in German.

The Germans seem to be more into this stuff nowadays - especially some car designers I know here.

For English titles, look on the academic part of google. There might be something there that could be useful to you as you do your research. psychology of perception - Google Search

I am not sure that you will get some sort of magic bullet from this stuff, but it should be interesting at least.

Can you be more specific about what you are looking for?

There is a whole field of perceptual psychology that focuses on how humans acquire information about artifcats and the environment through the senses. Or did you mean something more product-desgin specific?

“Emotional Design” by Donald Norman.
“Watches Tell More than Time” by Del Coates.

My God, I followed some of the links to that Google search and you really get hit with the true meaning of psycho-babble. I don’t want to be disrespectful, but come on, does anyone talk like that in conversation. Anyway, if you are really into the BS, you might want to look at books on art theory. I think you will find a lot of insight related to your subject of the perception of form, color, etc. Art As Experience by John Dewey is a personal favorite.

Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to make grand generalizations about what we are attracted to visually. If it were, it would be far easier to teach design through textbooks.

There is a minor renaissance in the long dormant field of gestalt psychology. mostly it seems in Germany (does that ring true, Cordy?) See (in English) Jurgen Weber, The Judgement of the Eye (Springer Verlag, 2002).

What you may be looking for are heuristics for attracting attention through aesthetics. If this is your key interest, the most significant processes for developing those heuristics in American industrial design have been those of Laszlo Moholy-Nagy who developed the seminal ID program at IIT and those of Roweena Reed Kostellow who co-developed the ID program at Pratt. While these documents are unsubstantiated by research, they have stood the test of time and have had a significant role in shaping the american aethetic.

Moholy-Nagy’s eductaional process was published in a book with examples of student work in the late 1950’s. It may have been titled: The New Vision : Fundamentals of Bauhaus Design, Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture, but not sure. If you can find it, the book I am talking about has some beautiful work in it.

Roweena Reed Kostellow’s work is documented in a book, Elements of Design: Rowena Reed Kostellow and the Structure of Visual Relationships
by Gail Greet Hannah

As for specific techniques to isolate and test design elements, try:Introduction to Human Factors Engineering (2nd Edition) – by Christopher D. Wickens, et al

Hi there everyone - new to core77

i’m currently preparing an EU proposal on this subject which will involve the collaboration of universities plus SMEs. I’ve been looking beyond a pyscho-centric approach to percpetion to look at the technology behind sensory appreciation - for both the designer and end user.

still early days but the following UK based cluster looks at this - tagging it onto multi-modal design:

the following design studies paper may also be pretty interesting. although focusing on the visual channel the fundamentals could be applied to all the senses:

Crilly, N., Moultrie J. and Clarkson, P. J. (2004) Seeing things: consumer response to the visual domain in product design, Design Studies, vol. 25, no. 6.

thanx prof butterfingers for that informative piece of info, and also to stevenmac for the response. " how does a continuous groove all around a product affetc the user’s decision" " Arent products that evelove as a result of ‘movements’ -minimalism, retro, etc just a bundle of lkines that somehow affect a user’s perception?" These are some questions that I wanna get into.

What is about apple that somehow does that magic? Are product forms just geometrical or volume enclosing surfaces or more more. I NEED material on this!!! I am sure you guys must have read or come across something to this effect.

thanx for you time.

I do not remember the paper and year but i Know that Robert Veryzer have written some papers on perception of basic geometric forms in Advances in Consumer Research

Hi Abhi,

You’re embarking on an extremely complex (but worthwhile) path here!
In short, there is no easy answer to questions regarding human perception.

I’m assuming that as you work for a consumer appliance company, what you are really interested in is consumer’s purchase behaviour, and what drives their decision making (i.e. is design important), not perception per se.

Perception is an integral part of the purchase process, but it is not the only part. references 1-3 below look at this process, and propose some models - several of which draw on Gestalt assumptions. I find the Zeithaml paper to be good.

Reference 4 is from the an area called affective design. There are many proponents of these techniques from the far east, and now also increasingly from Europe (check out books by Patrick Jordan, i find him to be a more credible author than Donald Norman, even though Norman used to work at Apple).
In fact, this raises an interesting point. Apple is so consistently held up to be a paragon of modern Industrial Design, and their iPod so ubiquitous, has this influenced our assessment (and hence perception) of their products? I suspect so. Their products are good, but they’re not perfect


  1. Zeithaml, V.A., 1988, “Consumer Perceptions of Price, Quality and Value: A Means-end Model and Synthesis of Evidence”, Journal of Marketing, Volume 52, Issue 3, pp. 2-22

  2. Gotlieb, J.B., Grewal, D., Brown, S.W., 1994, “Consumer Satisfaction and Perceived Quality: Complementary or Divergent Constructs?”, Journal of Applied Psychology, Volume 79, Number 6, pp. 875-885

  3. Grønholdt, L., Martensen, A., Kristensen, K., 2000, “The relationship between customer satisfaction and loyalty: cross-industry differences”, Total Quality Management, Volume 11, Numbers 4, 5 & 6, pp. S509-S514

  4. Hsu, S.H., Chuang, M.C., Chang, C.C., 2000, “A semantic differential study of designers’ and users’ product form perception”, International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics, Volume 25, Number 4, pp. 375-391.

Good journals include : The International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics, Applied Ergonomics, and Ergonomics.
For a more philosophical look at some of the issues of aesthetics, try Yili Liu and Klaus Krippendorff

Don’t forget that perception is a result of stimuli of ALL the senses, not just visual. Don’t neglect haptics and sound!

PHEW!! i imagine that rather than giving you a nice simple answer this has thoroughly depressed you! However, if it were that easy, everyone would be doing it.

Good luck!

Psychology in general is a very interesting subject…I would’ve minored in it in college…if only I could’ve known what I know now…I think specifically the behavior of the human being is very interesting…and any knowledge gathering…as fas as that goes could be very beneficial to the designer