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Using Neuroimaging to Understand Moral Product Preference Judgments Involving Sustainability

[+] Author Affiliations
Kosa Goucher-Lambert, Jonathan Cagan

Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA

Jarrod Moss

Mississippi State University, Starkville, MS

Paper No. DETC2016-59406, pp. V007T06A023; 12 pages
  • ASME 2016 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference
  • Volume 7: 28th International Conference on Design Theory and Methodology
  • Charlotte, North Carolina, USA, August 21–24, 2016
  • Conference Sponsors: Design Engineering Division, Computers and Information in Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5019-0
  • Copyright © 2016 by ASME


Trying to decide whether to purchase or use a sustainable product often puts decision makers in a difficult situation, especially if the more sustainable option provides less desirable features, or costs a premium. These decisions are moral choice scenarios, where benefit to society is weighed against personal gain. Here, it is common for individuals to visualize themselves, and the way that they will be perceived, by choosing whether or not to act sustainably. From an engineering design perspective, trying to model user preferences in this context can be extremely difficult. While several methods exist to assist researchers in eliciting consumer preferences, the vast majority rely on input from the potential consumers themselves. More critically, these methods do not afford researchers the ability to truly understand what someone may be feeling or thinking while these preference judgments are being made. In this work, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is used to investigate the neural processes behind multi-attribute product preference judgments. In particular, this work centers on uncovering unique features of sustainable preference judgments; preference judgments which involve products for which the environmental impact is a known quantity. This work builds upon earlier work, which investigated how preference judgments were altered in the context of sustainability. A deeper look at participant decision-making at the time of judgment is examined using neuroimaging with the goal of providing actionable insights for designers and product developers.

Copyright © 2016 by ASME



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