The Social Psychology of Design Thinking

by Leigh Thompson and David Schonthal

The Social Psychology of Design Thinking
Like all decisions, design decisions are related to human psychology.


This article examines the cardinal tenets of design thinking using the research, theory, and insights of social psychology. People’s intuitions are often incorrect and, moreover, it is often difficult for people to revise their thinking. There are four principles common to many design thinking approaches: observe and notice; frame and reframe; imagine and design; and make and experiment. For each of these design thinking prescriptions, this article analyzes the social-psychological phenomena involved and illustrates practical applications from a real design thinking project at IDEO. Design thinkers and their companies can use these insights from social psychology to inform and inspire the design thinking process.


California Management Review

Berkeley-Haas's Premier Management Journal

Published at Berkeley Haas for more than sixty years, California Management Review seeks to share knowledge that challenges convention and shows a better way of doing business.

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