Foundations Of Cognitive Science

Reflective Design

Norman (2004) argues that people process objects and devices at three different levels.  Visceral processing involves automatic, prewired, emotional responses: rapid judgments of good or bad. Behavioral processing involves brain processes that control everyday behavior, and can produce responses that are more sophisticated than can visceral processing.  Reflective processing involves reasoning and remembering, reflecting back on past experiences and actions, and evaluating them with the goal of planning future action.

Reflective design is that component of design that aims at delivering meaning of products: cultural meanings, personal remembrances, self-images.  “Products can be more than the sum of the functions they perform.  Their real value can be in fulfilling people’s emotional needs, and one of the most important needs of all is to establish one’s self-image and one’s place in the world” (Norman, 2004, p. 87).  Reflective design has the goal of creating products that meet these complex emotional needs.


Norman, D. A. (2004). Emotional Design: Why We Love (Or Hate) Everyday Things. New York: Basic Books.

(Added November 2010)