Theoretical and experimental investigations in engineering aesthetics
The systematic and quantitative study of aesthetics for both theoretical understanding and engineering application is termed engineering aesthetics. The goal of engineering aesthetics is to achieve systematic rigor in the study of aesthetics while facing several theoretical and methodological challenges. Three theoretical challenges were addressed in this dissertation: to better understand how humans make aesthetic judgments, to investigate the relationship between aesthetic judgment and performance, and to investigate quantitatively the role of time pressure in aesthetic judgment. The methodological challenge addressed is the lack of systematic methods to study aesthetics. The general objective of this dissertation was to address these challenges by evaluating three major research methodologies applied to human-computer interaction in webpage design, human-centered consumer product design and marketing, and advertising in e-commerce.
The first methodology is the dual process engineering aesthetics research methodology that uses global top-down multidimensional construct analysis and local bottom-up psychophysical experimentation to identify underlying clusters of design variables and to examine the effects of the design variables on user aesthetic preference and performance. The second is a clustering methodology that identifies market segments and enables the creation of product families and consideration of capacity constraints to an analytical user-centered design model, which incorporates user preference data, material use, functionality, fixed and variable producer costs, design requirements, price, and product characteristics. The third is a criterion-dependent choice (CDC) decision-making model that explains the information acquisition behavior of subjects when studying multiattribute binary choice. The CDC model was used as an inspiration for three experiments aimed at identifying the underlying mental process and information acquisition strategies of aesthetic judgment. Specifically, the effects of the number of aesthetic attributes, the aesthetic appeal of attribute levels, and the level of time pressure on stimuli selection and response time were investigated to infer aesthetic judgment processing strategies.
The dissertation has both theoretical and practical significance. Theoretically, the results from this quantitative study of aesthetic judgment offer a deeper understanding of the underlying mental constructs. Practically, designers can use the results to create aesthetic hardware or software interfaces that may or may not be viewed under time pressure.