Momentary Pleasure or Lasting Meaning?: Distinguishing Eudaimonic and Hedonic User Experiences

CHI, pp. 4509-4520, 2016.

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We have shown that eudaimonic and hedonic motives can be distinguished in user-generated descriptions of critical incidents with interactive technology

Abstract:

User experience (UX) research has expanded our notion of what makes interactive technology good, often putting hedonic aspects of use such as fun, affect, and stimulation at the center. Outside of UX, the hedonic is often contrasted to the eudaimonic, the notion of striving towards one's personal best. It remains unclear, however, what th...More

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Introduction
  • HCI research has expanded from a focus on utility and usability towards a holistic view of user experience (UX) that includes hedonic aspects of use.
  • The notion of the hedonic has a long tradition both in history and in UX research [1, 10]: The Greek philosopher Aristippus taught that the goal of life is to experience the maximum amount of pleasure, and that happiness is the totality of one’s hedonic moments.
  • Philosophy and positive psychology have long contrasted the hedonic with eudaimonia (“living the good and virtuous life”).
  • A reflective life facilitates the development of human excellence and is, as the psychologists Ryan and Deci have argued, an end in itself [32]
Highlights
  • In the last decade, HCI research has expanded from a focus on utility and usability towards a holistic view of user experience (UX) that includes hedonic aspects of use
  • We provide empirical evidence that eudaimonic experiences differ from hedonic ones in terms of ratings and content, introducing eudaimonia and its correlates – meaning and future importance, – as promising complementary concepts to the hedonic
  • As summarized above, positive psychology suggests that eudaimonia is distinct from hedonia, as it describes a different motivational orientation accompanied by specific experiential correlates; so far, empirical work in user experience on hedonia has been inconclusive
  • In contrast to the correlations reported by Muller et al (r = .82) [27], this suggests that eudaimonia and hedonia were relatively independent in our study
  • As shown in Table 3, eudaimonia was more strongly correlated with positive affect than hedonia
  • We have shown that eudaimonic and hedonic motives can be distinguished in user-generated descriptions of critical incidents with interactive technology
Methods
  • Positive psychology suggests that eudaimonia is distinct from hedonia, as it describes a different motivational orientation accompanied by specific experiential correlates; so far, empirical work in UX on hedonia has been inconclusive.
  • The method has successfully been used in several studies on the characteristics and contents of positive user experiences [14, 17, 27, 29, 37], as it allows collecting and combining qualitative and quantitative data.
  • As participants were asked to think of a past experience, it was assumed that meaning-making had already taken place to a certain degree, whereas this may have been less pronounced if the experience were captured at the precise moment it happened, as meaning has been argued to develop over time [2, 18, 24]
Results
  • While eudaimonia and hedonia correlated significantly, the effect was rather small (r = .22), similar to the studies of Huta and Ryan [18].
  • In contrast to the correlations reported by Muller et al (r = .82) [27], this suggests that eudaimonia and hedonia were relatively independent in the study.
  • Correlates of Eudaimonia and Hedonia To explore whether eudaimonia and hedonia exhibit differing experiential patterns in terms of needs and affect, the authors calculated a series of partial correlations.
  • When users engaged with interactive technology striving for eudaimonia, they felt confident, determined and focused, but more introspective
Conclusion
  • The authors' study provides empirical evidence that both eudaimonic and hedonic motives appear in user-generated experiences with interactive technology, and that they exhibit different experiential patterns.
  • What the authors call eudaimonic experiences is related to need fulfillment, long-term importance, positive affect, and feelings of meaningfulness
  • These experiences are more about pursuing personal ideas and achievements, even in activities as seemingly trivial as setting up a new device without outside help.
  • The distinction helps further conceptualize and empirically explore seemingly different experiences, such as those giving momentary pleasures or lasting meaning
  • This expands the understanding of positive experience and will lead to exciting new opportunities for experience design
Summary
  • Introduction:

    HCI research has expanded from a focus on utility and usability towards a holistic view of user experience (UX) that includes hedonic aspects of use.
  • The notion of the hedonic has a long tradition both in history and in UX research [1, 10]: The Greek philosopher Aristippus taught that the goal of life is to experience the maximum amount of pleasure, and that happiness is the totality of one’s hedonic moments.
  • Philosophy and positive psychology have long contrasted the hedonic with eudaimonia (“living the good and virtuous life”).
  • A reflective life facilitates the development of human excellence and is, as the psychologists Ryan and Deci have argued, an end in itself [32]
  • Methods:

    Positive psychology suggests that eudaimonia is distinct from hedonia, as it describes a different motivational orientation accompanied by specific experiential correlates; so far, empirical work in UX on hedonia has been inconclusive.
  • The method has successfully been used in several studies on the characteristics and contents of positive user experiences [14, 17, 27, 29, 37], as it allows collecting and combining qualitative and quantitative data.
  • As participants were asked to think of a past experience, it was assumed that meaning-making had already taken place to a certain degree, whereas this may have been less pronounced if the experience were captured at the precise moment it happened, as meaning has been argued to develop over time [2, 18, 24]
  • Results:

    While eudaimonia and hedonia correlated significantly, the effect was rather small (r = .22), similar to the studies of Huta and Ryan [18].
  • In contrast to the correlations reported by Muller et al (r = .82) [27], this suggests that eudaimonia and hedonia were relatively independent in the study.
  • Correlates of Eudaimonia and Hedonia To explore whether eudaimonia and hedonia exhibit differing experiential patterns in terms of needs and affect, the authors calculated a series of partial correlations.
  • When users engaged with interactive technology striving for eudaimonia, they felt confident, determined and focused, but more introspective
  • Conclusion:

    The authors' study provides empirical evidence that both eudaimonic and hedonic motives appear in user-generated experiences with interactive technology, and that they exhibit different experiential patterns.
  • What the authors call eudaimonic experiences is related to need fulfillment, long-term importance, positive affect, and feelings of meaningfulness
  • These experiences are more about pursuing personal ideas and achievements, even in activities as seemingly trivial as setting up a new device without outside help.
  • The distinction helps further conceptualize and empirically explore seemingly different experiences, such as those giving momentary pleasures or lasting meaning
  • This expands the understanding of positive experience and will lead to exciting new opportunities for experience design
Tables
  • Table1: Items of the HEMA scale
  • Table2: Overview of the measures employed
  • Table3: Partial correlations for eudaimonia (controlled for hedonia)
  • Table4: Descriptive statistics for the four median split groups. Note that total N = 245, because 21 experiences scored directly on the median and were therefore excluded
Download tables as Excel
Related work
  • RELATED WORK Happiness is an ambiguous term

    It can be understood as a transient emotion (synonymous with joy), an experience of fulfillment and accomplishment (thus prominently characterized by a cognitive evaluation), or a long-term process of meaning making and identity development through actualization of potentials and pursuit of personally relevant goals [6, 19]. The predominant view among hedonic psychologists is that happiness concerns the subjective experience of pleasure versus displeasure [21], a notion that has commonly been termed hedonism or hedonia [19]. The hedonic experience is thus typically characterized by the presence of positive affect, as well as the absence of negative affect [4, 19].

    In the last decade, the hedonic has become focal in UX research and several authors have argued that UX design may contribute to people’s well-being by affording pleasure and positive affect [8, 15]. According to Hassenzahl’s conceptualization, the hedonic emphasizes the individual’s well-being through non-instrumental, self-oriented product attributes [13]. He argues that “the functions and the attributes it [the hedonic] subsumes are strong potentials for pleasure” (p. 35). A recent literature review by Diefenbach et al [10] showed that the notion of the hedonic is well established within UX (see also [1]) and has been used in over 100 publications. However, it also revealed that the concept is often used in differing and sometimes even contradictory ways. Similarly, a study by Hassenzahl et al [17] suggested that current measures of hedonic product quality might not adequately take experience components such as meaning–selfactualization into account. Diefenbach et al [10] thus called for a clearer conceptualization of the hedonic, and stressed the need for more research into related phenomena.
Funding
  • Investigates a possible role for eudaimonia in UX research by empirically examining 266 reports of positive experiences with technology and analyzing its relation to established UX concepts
  • Provides empirical evidence that eudaimonic experiences differ from hedonic ones in terms of ratings and content, introducing eudaimonia and its correlates – meaning and future importance, – as promising complementary concepts to the hedonic
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