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PhysFeel: Mapping Material Properties Onto Emotions

We are delighted to announce that we have been awarded funding from the UCL Grand Challenge of Human Wellbeing to work in collaboration with colleagues in UCL Psychology and the Institute of Education. The funding is for a pilot project, ‘PhysFeel’, which aims to explore how physical props and material stimuli can enable a different kind of conversation about emotions than that made available through verbal communication.

A pile of small metal clips with soft red plastic ends

Further Information

The project team will investigate; whether emotions may be communicated non-verbally using sets of physical objects that vary in physical dimensions such as density, hardness, elastic modulus, thermal emissivity, surface roughness and luminosity; what dimensions of emotions these physical properties might map onto.

The main research activities will include; co-design of project-specific object sets to explore the relationship between emotions and material properties; 
initial validation of object sets against a standardised measure of emotions; 
discussion and dissemination of methods and outcomes at a cross-disciplinary forum in June 2016, aimed at sharing novel methods for research into wellbeing.

This work has potential impacts in a clinical setting, adding to current understandings of the ways in which people can communicate their emotions with psychological therapists. An understanding of people's emotional responses to materials and their physical properties could also help those from materials science or design communities to better understand the implications of the materials they make and use.

Watch this space for further PhysFeel developments, and get in touch if you are interested in joining a discussion about the potential role of materials, objects and co-design activities in wellbeing-related research.

Andy Fugard

Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology

Sarah Wilkes

Institute of Making

Praveetha Patalay

Institute of Education

Mark Miodownik

Institute of Making