Student Research Goes International

PROVO, Utah – Apr 04, 2019 –

What role does emotion play in a transformative experience? That’s what BYU Marriott experience design management (ExDM) student researchers will present on in Melbourne, Australia, at the International Positive Psychology Conference in July 2019. Their research was selected for the conference out of thousands of other proposals to receive a slot as a podium presentation rather than a poster presentation.  

Neil Lundberg, department chair of ExDM at the BYU Marriott School of Business, and Brian Hill, an ExDM professor, recruited a number of students from different disciplines, including ExDM, to conduct qualitative research on how experience designers can use emotion to create more powerful experiences. By using criterion set by positive psychologist Barbara Fredrickson, students analyzed experiences collected from over three hundred interview subjects. “One thing we hypothesized was that different emotions would be associated with different levels of experiences,” says Hill. “We focused on four main categories of experiences: transformative, meaningful, memorable, and ordinary.” 

One of the main takeaways from the study was that transformative and meaningful experiences often involve a significant amount of positive emotion, a small amount of negative emotion, and are shared with another person, Hill explained. “It’s important to understand that not all transformative and meaningful experiences are completely positive,” says Hill. Transformative experiences included events such as getting married, taking a life-changing class, or serving a church service mission. The study found that the volume of emotion observed from these transformative experiences was much greater than the volume seen in memorable experiences, which could be a trip or an instance of performing service for someone else. 

The project, which was born from a need of more research on emotional experiences, began in earnest in February 2018. The students on the research team were in charge of creating the questionnaire for interview subjects, summarizing results, and submitting the application to present at the conference in Melbourne. Research team members used the behavioral research lab at BYU Marriott to conduct interviews. “I am incredibly excited to share what we’ve discovered with the world,” says team member Maddie Park, a junior from Issaquah, Washington. “I hope that our work will lead to further research in the still-young field of positive psychology.” 

The next step for this research will be using the findings to create events that cater to creating happier, more emotionally positive experiences. “Positive psychology is a foundational idea in the industry of experience design,” says Hill. “People are looking for happiness, so understanding happiness becomes important to us.” 

This research has also had an impact on the lives of the students who conducted the research. “This research project has changed my life,” says Park. “When I first applied for the project, I had no idea where this research would take me. Turns out, working on this project led me around the world. Through this project, I was able to get a job as a study abroad facilitator, which was an eye-opening experience.” 

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Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Ellen Ford