don norman

Positive emotions and creative thinking

Lately I’ve been thinking about the future of work, and this morning I remembered this excerpt from one of my favorite design books.

Positive emotions are critical to learning, curiosity, and creative thought, and today research is turning toward this dimension. … The psychologist Alice Isen and her colleagues have shown that being happy broadens the thought processes and facilitates creative thinking. When you feel good, Isen discovered, you are better at brainstorming, at examining multiple alternatives. … We have long known that when people are anxious they tend to narrow their thought processes, concentrating upon aspects directly relevant to a problem. This is a useful strategy in escaping from danger, but not in thinking of imaginative new approaches to a problem. Isen’s results show that when people are relaxed and happy, their thought processes expand, becoming more creative, more imaginative. 

– Don Norman, Emotional Design

If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.

William Morris

The human mind

Because much human behavior is subconscious – that is, it occurs without conscious awareness – we often don’t know what we are about to do, say or think until after we have done it. It’s as if we had two minds: the subconscious and the conscious, which don’t always talk to each other. Not what you’ve been taught? True, nonetheless. More and more evidence is accumulating that we use logic and reason after the fact, to justify our decisions to ourselves (to our conscious minds) and to others. Bizarre? Yes, but don’t protest: enjoy it.

– Don Norman, The Design of Everyday Things