System map 2.0 and before/after case study

Based on feedback in the class, the system map i created last week has several problems. I found that the earlier version doesn't have a very clear logic connection between each element; there is no direction between flows; and because it included two main element which are "be less rational", and "be rational", it was not clear that which is the problem and which is the solution.

In the class, I realized that I was trying to make an association map, covering the relationship between rational & less rational behaviors, using a now timescale to help my audience / people who are blind trust rationality / are too rational to identify the value of less rational behaviors.

Now I've refined this map. and am able to carry out two maps.

To clarify the problem I identified was not being rational itself, i made this diagram to show the difference between "rational", which is acceptable, and "too rational," which is problematic:

In my definition, trying to logically analyze in every situation is where the problem locates. Then I listed three typical situations where people shouldn't be too rational, including desperate situation, when we comfort other people, and situation of over-analyzing. Then extrapolated three bad results when people think rationally in these situations.


on the other side of the diagram-the bottom, three less-rational behaviors generates, as solutions of these problems caused by being too rational in these situations.

The map covers the main idea of my product, experience, service and App work, but not includes detail of my every project yet.

Context, channel & factors

In a case study in the book A Mind of Its Own by Cordelia Fine, a patient hurt part of his brain that in charge go human’s emotional reaction, which lead to an unexpected result that he can no long make simple decisions like which shampoo to buy any more, because now he is forced to completely logically compare multiple brands of shampoo,  and can’t ignore any details that is not important.

Although extreme situation like this only happens to people who hurt their brain, but I think nowadays we are forcing ourselves to think logically, which is like the “healthy” people’s version of this case.

I have to admit I found my users needs from wikipedia instead of chatting with them first, but I will soon talk to my users about over analyzing. As I mentioned in my linguistic choices blog post, 

Analysis paralysis or paralysis by analysis is the state of over-analyzing (or over-thinking) a situation so that a decision or action is never taken, in effect paralyzing the outcome. A decision can be treated as over-complicated, with too many detailed options, so that a choice is never made, rather than try something and change if a major problem arises. A person might be seeking the

optimal or "perfect" solution upfront, and fear making any decision which could lead to erroneous results, while on the way to a better solution.

In other words: 

The phrase describes a situation in which the opportunity cost of decision analysis exceeds the benefits that could be gained by enacting some decision, or an informal or non-deterministic situation where the sheer quantity of analysis overwhelms the decision-making process itself, thus preventing a decision. 

So here I assume their need is to stop over-analyzing on things that is not important.

They are in an environment that themselves or everybody around them get used to logical reasoning, or only admit logical reasoning, and intuition is not a legitimate reason explaining for decision; they waste too much time on unnecessary delibeI imagined the channels to get to my users should be very accessible, and interfere with their life. The channels might includes hot triggers in anxiety including situations; situations when you have no proof; speed read; window display; dissolving menus or any self destroying things; underground everything; message in a bagel; mushroom/drugs/achohol; guerrilla radio station; lsd spritzing station; 2nd hand high street art; hoffs r us.


While I have all these ways to get to my users, I also need to pay attention to: my products won’t provoke anxiety to people; I want to create long term behavioral change; I need research to convince people; I should choose situations where people are not afraid of bad results of the intuitive decision, or these activities won’t cause big bad results; my process would be pulling people from mindfulness to mindless.

Research & Methodology

Before I came to SVA, I just started Isaac Asimov’s The Galactic Empire. The concept of Mentalic left me a long lasting impression.

“Mentalic” is a range of unusual psionic capabilities owned by the Second Foundationers in the story. People who have this ability can sense and adjust the emotions of humans, to influence their decision making. 

I’m so interested in this mysterious mental ability, partly because, first, this seems awesome; second, I took enough psychology classes in my undergrad to know our brain have some mysterious power, but I don’t know what are those. I even started to guess what inspired Asimov to create “Mentalic?” What’s the prototype of this ability?

So, in last summer I started my research on everything I thought are related to it.

The first thing that comes to my mind is the daydream. In movies like Little Princess and The Secret life of Walter Mitty, we always see daydreams as an unusual mental ability, which represents imagination and creativity. I listened to Ted talks about the daydream, read some psychology books talking about daydreams, and even found products that encourage their users to daydream.

What surprised me was that, in this society, people are trying so hard to stop themselves from mind wondering, and always want to be focused.

It seems perfectly reasonable. However, how do people think of this conflict? So I started several interviews asking this question to different people, including specialists from the area of game design, science fiction, virtual reality, psychology, and perfume. 

During the interviews, I learned about the suspension of disbelief, body memory, role switching and twisted reality, which directs me to focus on the way our mind works. 

After digging into books and theories about the mind, I gradually realized that, since the thrive of science and logic, we have been paying too much attention to our conscious and logical side of our brain. And we see rationality as a reliable ability, but the other kind of mental abilities as problems. But troubles arise when we only respect one of the two. 

Since nature gives us both kinds of power, shouldn’t we embrace both?

Linguistic Choices

Why do I choose "less rational" instead of irrational? Answer: to avoid misunderstanding!

After few talks with my audience, I found people usually have their own understanding of "irrationality." The word always means a lack of reasoning and has a bad connotation. However, it's relatively easy to know what is rationality other than irrationality.

1. Rationality in Wikipedia and Google.

In Wikipedia, rationality is the quality or state of being reasonable, based on facts or reason. If you type "rational" in Google, you can see:

Based on the meaning, we always relate rationality to the right results. However, the synonyms are tricky. Is common-sense always right? What is judicious? What kind of reason is the good reason to do something? What are the standards of intelligence? 

When these subjective words change their meaning over time, do you still relate rationality to the right results?

2. Perfect rationality and bounded rationality.

Rationality also is used in economics and game theory.

In economics and game theory, it is sometimes assumed that agents have perfect rationality: that is, they always act in a way that maximizes their utility,

and are capable of arbitrarily complex deductions towards that end. They will always be capable of thinking through all possible outcomes and choosing that course of action which will result in the best possible outcome.

However, as a person can never be perfectly rational--So Herbert A. Simon proposed the concept of bounded rationality. Bounded rationality is the idea that when individuals make decisions, their rationality is limited by the tractability of the decision problem, the cognitive limitations of their minds, and the time available to make the decision. 

The concept of bounded rationality is interesting to me because it seems like a voice that saying, ”Don’t try too hard to be perfectly rational, it’s impossible; it’s ok to have limits, and make the best out of it!” This is extremely interesting when it comes to negotiation— we never just calculate, we even take advantage of cognitive bias of both us and the other negotiator to get the best deal. 

3. Emotion of rationality

It might be weird to talk about the emotion of rationality, because people tend to see emotion as the counter part of rationality. But I do feel some emotion, everytime we say "be rational" to ourselves.

According to Philosophy professor He Xiu Huang from Chinese University of Hong Kong: 


Rational activities represent our attitude or emotion of being objective, restricting ourselves, and considering other people.

The idea of restricting self, can be conflictive and dangerous. Sometimes it’s an ignorance of our natural desire, sometimes it can be a guilty feeling of being aware of our most normal psychology defense mechanism.

To sum up, I think it's necessary to bring out the meaning of rationality for my thesis:

Goal and Objectives

As I mentioned in last post, we are in the society of strong mind. So I’m wondering is there a way to “sense and adjust the emotions” of ourselves like the members of the Second Foundation in Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Series?

If we want to control our own mind, what might happen could be like what the movie Inception said: if you said to yourself don’t think about elephant, you will think about elephant—this is also a problem of self-comfort—what you said to yourself wouldn't be so convincing once you have the awareness that you are just comforting yourself.

So there is no way to adjust your own emotions? Think about how the protagonists in Inception solved this—they embedded a thought deeply to the subconsciousness of their target user. Yes, the subconsciousness, or let’s use an easier phrase—the mind of your brain.

In the book A Mind of Its Own: How Brain Distorts and Deceives, author Cordelia Fine describes our brain not only rejects unbearable ideas, but also memorizes selectively. Because our brain has this protective function, there are also cognitive biases. Now we are trying hard to avoid those biases to help make better decisions—again, this is a time people pursue rationality—but I think we can embrace irrationality as a way of creative problem solving.


I don’t mean that we should always follow the cognitive biases, but want to find the moments when we are willing to be tricked by our mind, and explore if we can bring delight and consolation to life by magnifying these psychological tricks and bringing designs to the society. 

Can I provide ways for people to purposely and consciously use the irrationality of their mind in today’s society—if the pursue of rationality push us to face our “crucial” emotional needs, can we at least create more subtle and interesting experience, and build a more tolerant environment for sensitive people?

To put this to practical use, people would have to accept the value of irrationality first.  But this would be challenging in today’s market, where there are thousands of products that are driven by “known desire”. As I’m exploring one of the unknown desires,  my work will be convincing in some degree, but maybe more a tool of pushing the market instead of immediate measurable.

I see my thesis a chance to learn how to find the unknown desires, and also a chance to explore those design territories which exist in a balance between practical and novelty.

They may be branding, experience design, game design, advertisement, social media, interaction design or even “traditional” product design. And I’m trying to take advantage of these tools and method to help the development of my products.

They may be branding, experience design, game design, advertisement, social media, interaction design or even “traditional” product design. And I’m trying to take advantage of these tools and method to help the development of my products.

In the class, I marked third continuums of my goals, they are about physical or digital, science fiction fan based or real life problem based(because I have a science fiction writing background, and I found sharing area of speculative design and science fiction, but I don’t want to design Sci-fi merchandise), and radical solution or gentle solution.

Audience & Markets

When I began my thesis journey, I had this blurred image in mind. It’s where people can potentially use my designs, and feel an emotional resonance. During the process of my thesis development in last semester, I found my audience seems surrounding me all the time. As I did more research in the winter, I found a more clear image of my audience and where they are. My thesis is exploring the value of irrationality, I think first I should talk a little about the status of rationality in our life. 

1. People in a society like this

We are in a society requiring people to have a stronger mind. Why? there are three reasons.

First, this is a scientism time (Scientism is a belief in the universal applicability of the scientific method and approach, and the view that empirical science constitutes the most authoritative worldview or the most valuable part of human learning—to the exclusion of other viewpoints). We naturally pursue rationality, logic and objectivity. But the way science and logic work, doesn’t mean that they meet our psychology needs. For example, you might have to accept the fact that you are not as clever as the kid next door because that kid has a better gene, but you would never feel good about the truth. In the sci-fi series Start Trek, Vulcans chose to give up their emotion, because it gets in the way of social development. 

Second, there have never been as many Atheists and Agnostics in history as in our time.  The 2015 Pew Religious Landscape survey reported that as of 2014 , 22.8% of the American population is religiously unaffiliated. And according to Statista, one of the world’s most successful statistics databases, Research found that nearly twice as many Americans in 2014 said they did not believe in God as in 1980 - and that five times as many in 2014 said they never prayed, with millennials in particular accounting for the change in public opinion. Alain De Botton,


    the author of Religion for atheists: a non-believer's guide to the uses of religion, one of the biggest function of religion is consolation. However, for a world where there is no god, people “let go entirely of a host of consoling, subtle, or just charming rituals for which we struggle to find equivalents in secular society.”

    Third, for people who live in big cities, although "the city everywhere has been the center of freedom and toleration, the home of progress, of invention, of science, of rationality. ” The inventor of urbanism, Louis Wirth, describes the city as a “Substitution of secondary for primary contacts, the weakening of bonds of kinship, the declining social significance of the family, the disappearance of neighborhood and the undermining of traditional basis of social solidarity. ” which indicates the cause of“social alienation.” I’m going to read more articles on social alienation, and see if I can find more information on the psychology effect of “social alienation.” 

    2. People who may have these behaviors

    I’ve talked about the background of my audience, but if you don’t fit in, it doesn’t meant that you are not the audience. from a micro perspective, you may have these behaviors:

    1. You always know or understand the reason or the results to do something, but you emotionally don’t want to do it.
    2. You have to say to yourself, “Be rational!”
    3. Privacy makes you feel safe, but you don’t know when to give it up in exchange of emotional connection

    These people may frequently have these emotions in their life:

    anxious, embarrassed, awkward, jealous, left out, aggrieved, conflicted, lonely

    I want to ask them:

    1. How do you understand “rationality,” “emotional” and “irrational”
    2. How do you think of superstition, intuition and subconsciousness
    3. Do you have any moment you feel conflict between your emotion and rationality? 
    4. How do you think ofyourself when you have the emotions I mentioned above?
    5. What impact do you think the society has on your inner conflicts?

    3. Second Audience

    I also want to introduce my thesis to designers. Although “emotional design” is used in many design theories, but the word “emotion” always have a positive meaning. However, I want to step into the more “dangerous” side of emotion—the “irrational.” Irrational always have a negative connotation. In this world,irrationality usually means wrong decisions, losing control and craziness, but I think designers shouldn’t be afraid of this word. As long as we explore even a little more, we will find it so amazing that how many emotions we ignored to take care of and irrationality itself has been a most important part of our life.

    In the coming days, I will interview designers about emotional design, and ask them:

    1. How do you understand “rationality,” “emotional” and “irrational”
    2. What kind of emotion are your design work taking care of?
    3. What products do you feel emotional resonance to and why?

    I hope to collect these information to create the persona of my audience.