Interface Design, Positive Emotions and Multimedia Learning

Interface Design, Positive Emotions and Multimedia Learning

Chaoyan Dong (New York University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-782-9.ch011


In social psychology, “what is attractive is good” means that a physically attractive person is perceived to be more favorable and capable. In industrial design, the interface is one of the three elements that influence users’ experience with a product. For multimedia learning, does the interface design affect users’ experience with learning environments? Does attractive interface enhance multimedia learning? Research in multimedia learning has not yet sufficiently investigated this issue. In this chapter, I propose that attractive interface design does indeed promote multimedia learning. This hypothesis is based on the review of the following theories and related empirical studies: 1) an interface impacts a user’s experience; 2) beautiful interfaces induce positive emotions; 3) positive emotions broaden cognitive resources; and 4) expanded cognitive resources promote learning. The Model of Emotional Design in Multimedia Learning is proposed to highlight how emotions regulate multimedia learning. Suggestions regarding designing attractive interfaces are provided.
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Interface design is the first thing users experience when interacting with a multimedia design. Emotions are induced before initiation of cognitive activities to process in users’ brains. In other words, interacting with the interface design induces emotions and also activates cognitive activities from users. Emotional change is a rapid activity, preceding the cognitive activities. Norman (2004) proposes a theoretical framework to explain how interacting with an interface design affects users’ emotions, and also suggests that attractive designs induce positive emotions from users. Fredrickson’s (1998) positive emotion theory elucidates how positive emotions facilitate cognitive activities. The goal of multimedia learning research is to afford effective and efficient learning experience. The question we should ask is: Do positive emotions promote multimedia learning? Mayer’s cognitive theory of multimedia learning explains the general process of multimedia learning. One of Mayer’s assumptions is that working memory has a limited capacity, but he does not consider the possibility that positive emotions broaden cognitive resources. Does it mean that positive emotions promote multimedia learning by expanding the capacity of working memory? The discussion is illustrated in the following figure by connecting the four theories, which are combined to form the conceptual framework for the chapter. The details of each theory and the connections between these theories are explained in the following section.

Figure 1.

The conceptual framework

Key Terms in this Chapter

Positive Emotions: are a category of emotions, sharing features identified by the theories on emotions. Positive emotions promote cognitive activities.

Interface Design: refers to how the design presents information to users so that users can process information as required to complete a task (Raskin, 2000).

Multimedia Design: the presentation of materials both in words and pictures (Mayer, 2001).

Aesthetics: is both the study of beauty and the properties of a system that appeal to the senses, as opposed to the content, structures, and utility of the system itself (Budd, 1995).

Emotions: refer to mental states (Cornelius, 1996). The cognitive perspective of emotions focuses on the role that thought plays in the process of emotions (Arnold, 1960).

Multimedia Learning: refers to learning from multimedia design, i.e., words and pictures (Mayer, 2001).

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