Many of our experiences are defined by our emotions and reactions to external or internal communication. Each person experiences a subjective experience, yet the qualities of experiences are what we all share. Don Norman, designer and author of “The Design of Everyday Things,” names three types of experiences that are defined by our emotional responses to those interactions: visceral, behavioral, and reflective.
Visceral experiences are our most primal level of processing information, usually on a sense-driven basis. These experiences can be aesthetic or physical, and appeal to the five senses. My favorite visceral experience that I enjoy on a regular basis is exercise; from a biological standpoint, endorphins are released and the body detoxifies through sweating and movement of muscles and joints. When I do not exercise for a period of time, I notice the difference in my body, and I compare that feeling to when I am more physically active.
Behavioral experiences are learned experiences that give us gratification to feeling in-control. Our ability to use products and adapt to skills with ease affect how we feel about them. My most recent challenge comes from a harmonium that I was gifted for my birthday about a month and a half ago. This acoustic instrument comes from India, and can be compared to an accordion that sits on the floor, requiring the user to play a piano-type interface while constantly pumping air with the opposite hand. I love the sound of it, and have played instruments my whole life, yet it takes a type of coordination that I don’t yet have. Constantly seeing and hearing other harmonium players gives me a feeling of satisifaction when it sounds good.
Lastly, reflective experiences those which make us feel a certain way because not because of the product’s functions, but our perceptions of them. I rented a 2017 Nissan Altima for about three weeks, that not only engaged my visceral experience with heated seats and that new car smell, but was very easy to drive on the road. The car had features such as Safety Shield technology and a rearview camera, and was much heavier than my own car. I never quite looked up the specs of the car, but the way it looked and the features I saw somehow made me feel safer than my own car (which I was in an accident in, hence the rental car.) The next time I buy a car, I am more likely to buy because of its age, features, and aesthetics, as opposed to the price.
Each of these experiences I have described all give me vivid emotional memories. The memory of how I feel when I exercise will always bring me back to the gym (hence me renewing my gym membership), the feeling I get when I master a new song on my harmonium will always get me to practice more, and driving a nice car will not only help me treat my own car well, but will make me think of Nissans differently when I make my next car purchase. The experiences I have are more likely to drive me to encourage others to partake in them as well (not having a car accident, but Nissans in general,) and for the most part, that is what they are intended to do.