Interpretive flux.jpg

Interpretive Flux

Have you ever asked a research participant how they feel about something and they said, “Well, it depends.” As a researcher, that’s exactly what you want to hear. That answer means they’re noticing something subtle about their behavior (and the human condition). They’re noticing interpretive flux—the tendency for some of our interpretations of the world to vary because of fluctuations in our socio-emotional states (e.g. moods, emotions, and social experiences.). These states act like lenses through which we see the world. An upbeat, inquisitive mood, for example, can render a place more interesting; an irritable mood can do the opposite.

In one mood you might swipe right, in another you might swipe left. Interpretive flux does not usually create dramatic interpretive shifts—people still maintain a relatively consistent set of values and preferences—but our moods and emotions give specific perceptions a particular emphasis and resonance for which experience designers should accommodate. In the words of writer Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Life is a train of moods like a string of beads; and as we pass through them they prove to be many colored lenses, which paint the world their own hue…”