Abstract

An encounter with a person using or wearing a potentially stigmatizing product is an impacting experience that is the result of the artifact itself, the individual experiencing the stigma, the observing bystanders and the cultural context in which the situation is set. Using or wearing a potentially stigmatizing product might stimulate bystanders to stereotype its user and arouse negative feelings or disgust, followed by avoidant behavior. Gaining insight in the causative factors of this process could help to create awareness amongst designers and assist them in overriding product related stigma. The experiment on which this paper reports is a first attempt to measure the staring and walking behavior of passers-by towards a research confederate who’s wearing a dust mask. Two categories of parameters were deduced. The first deals with two aspects of the staring behavior. The distance between a passer-by and the confederate on the moment of visual perception assessed the perception delay. Staring behavior was also measured by registering whether passers-by looked over their shoulders after passing the confederate. The second category, containing the most important measurement, deals with the registration of the closest interpersonal distance between the passer-by and the confederate. The research was conducted on a sample of 87 male and 82 female participants who were randomly assigned to three conditions, a no-mask reference condition and two distinct mask typologies. The results suggest that passers-by did notice the mask conditions significantly faster than the no-mask condition. The results also show a difference in the interpersonal distance for the three conditions; passers-by did maintain a significantly greater distance to the confederate with the dust mask. This research presents a first step towards the development of a tool that can be indicative of the potential ‘degree of stigmatization’ of product concepts in an early phase of the design process.

Keywords

product semantics, stigma, observational research, human-centered design

COinS
 
Jul 1st, 12:00 AM

Masked Aversion - Walking and Staring Behaviour towards Stigmatizing Products

An encounter with a person using or wearing a potentially stigmatizing product is an impacting experience that is the result of the artifact itself, the individual experiencing the stigma, the observing bystanders and the cultural context in which the situation is set. Using or wearing a potentially stigmatizing product might stimulate bystanders to stereotype its user and arouse negative feelings or disgust, followed by avoidant behavior. Gaining insight in the causative factors of this process could help to create awareness amongst designers and assist them in overriding product related stigma. The experiment on which this paper reports is a first attempt to measure the staring and walking behavior of passers-by towards a research confederate who’s wearing a dust mask. Two categories of parameters were deduced. The first deals with two aspects of the staring behavior. The distance between a passer-by and the confederate on the moment of visual perception assessed the perception delay. Staring behavior was also measured by registering whether passers-by looked over their shoulders after passing the confederate. The second category, containing the most important measurement, deals with the registration of the closest interpersonal distance between the passer-by and the confederate. The research was conducted on a sample of 87 male and 82 female participants who were randomly assigned to three conditions, a no-mask reference condition and two distinct mask typologies. The results suggest that passers-by did notice the mask conditions significantly faster than the no-mask condition. The results also show a difference in the interpersonal distance for the three conditions; passers-by did maintain a significantly greater distance to the confederate with the dust mask. This research presents a first step towards the development of a tool that can be indicative of the potential ‘degree of stigmatization’ of product concepts in an early phase of the design process.

 

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