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Investigating the role of affective force on design thinking

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Affect is a strong factor in regulating thinking because affect helps us to conditionally and unconditionally value situations with respect to value codes. Such cognitive behaviour is likely to cross over into design thinking, since the way designers value the design situation will influence the designer’s cognitive processing. In our research, we seek to address the role of affect in designing by understanding the extent to which linguistic displays of affective processing serve designing ends. Since design is often a team activity, we study the role of affect during collaborative design. In the presentation two papers about the role of affective content during collaborative design will be presented.

The first paper deals with the interaction of affect and shared understanding (Kleinsmann and Dong, 2007). It is theorized that affect may have cognitive processing consequences for shared understanding in design. In order to investigate this, the paper develops a research method that brings together theories and instruments from cognitive science, linguistics, and design studies. The results indicate that there is an alignment between patterns of appraisals and the formation of shared understanding, which suggest interplay between affect and shared understanding. In the presentation this alignment will be shown.

In the second paper that will be presented, we investigate the role that affective content plays during knowledge sharing and knowledge creation (Dong, Kleinsmann and Valkenburg, 2007). We find that positive appraisals positively influence knowledge creation, while negative appraisals hamper knowledge creation, during the brainstorms in two engineering meetings. We also find that negative appraisals lead to technical analysis, while positive affective content allows the group to rely on general knowledge and background experience rather than analysing the current situation to make a decision. Based upon these two studies we hypothesize that the language of appraisal serves three meta-functions in design: (1) to regulate logical design thinking where affect-in-cognition is part of a highly coupled regulatory network in logical thinking; (2) to signal and control the pacing and sequencing of design actions; and (3) to encode design knowledge, and in particular to mark useful knowledge.

This talk is part of the Engineering Design Centre series.

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