Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton July 28, 2012

Surprise and humor in product design

Designing sensory metaphors in multiple modalities

  • Geke D. S. Ludden, EMAIL logo , Barry M. Kudrowitz, , Hendrik N. J. Schifferstein, and Paul Hekkert,
From the journal Humor


When information from two or more sensory modalities conflicts, this can evoke a surprise reaction as well as feelings of amusement, interest, confusion or disappointment. In concurrence to joke theory, we argue that people appreciate and enjoy appropriate incongruities that can be related back to the product, whereas they are confused by and have negative opinions towards inappropriate incongruities.

This paper reports the design and the evaluation of products in two categories (rubber duckies and deodorants), with (in)appropriate sensory incongruities of three types: visual-tactual, visual-olfactory and visual-auditory. Participants evaluated the level of surprise felt and the intensity of resulting emotions. They also indicated their overall liking for the products.

Both appropriate and inappropriate incongruities were evaluated as surprising as well as confusing. As expected, appropriate incongruities evoked more amusement and were generally favored. Whereas products with visual-tactual incongruities showed large differences in ratings on liking and amusement between appropriate and inappropriate incongruities, these differences were smaller for products with visual-auditory and visual-olfactory incongruities. Possibly, the appropriateness of an incongruity is more conspicuous when it is brought about by a conflict between touch and vision than when olfaction or audition are involved.

Published Online: 2012-07-28
Published in Print: 2012-07-28

©[2012] by Walter de Gruyter Berlin Boston

Downloaded on 23.2.2024 from
Scroll to top button