The “Beauty Dilemma”

Diefenbach, S. and Hassenzahl, M. (2009). The “beauty dilemma”: Beauty is valued but discounted in product choice. In Proceedings of the CHI 09 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, pages 1419-1426. ACM.

The empirical study of aesthetics in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) is concerned with – among other topics – the relationship between beauty and usability and the general impact of beauty on product choice and use. Specifically, the present paper explores the notion of a “beauty dilemma” – the idea that people discount beauty in a choice situation, although they value it in general (i.e., they are not choosing what makes them happy). We explored this idea in three studies with a total of over 600 participants. Study 1 revealed a reluctance to pay for beauty due to its hedonic nature (i.e., associated with luxury etc.). Study 2 showed that people prefer a more beautiful product, but justify their choice by referring to spurious advantages in usability. Finally, Study 3 revealed that a choice situation, which requires a trade-off between beauty and usability, and which offers no further way to justify choosing beauty, leads to a sharp increase in the preference of usability. The underlying reasons for this “beauty dilemma” and further implications are discussed.

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