Service Design

Morphological Psychology

Find the structure behind people’s decision-making.

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The theory about how we think.

Why do consumers choose one product or service over another? How do you make a customer love your brand? How do you maximise customer engagement with your service?

It’s all about understanding how the subconscious mind works. We use morphological psychology to find out subconscious emotional structures behind everyday human experience and behaviour. This helps you to develop solutions, products and services based upon actual needs, motivations and goals of your customers.

95% of all purchase decisions are made subconsciously.

Contrary to popular belief, consumers aren’t as logical and rational in their decision-making as they believe themselves. What they really think or feel often contradicts what they say. An important reason behind this is that people are driven by unconscious urges in purchasing decisions, and decision-making in general. Of these unconscious urges, emotion is the most influential.

What drives people emotionally?

Developed in the 1960s by German Professor Wilhelm Salber, morphological psychology identifies six types of motivations. It is within these six motivations that we humans literally “make up our mind”, and each of these motivations influences the whole. It provides a consistent philosophy which explains our strategic decision-making.

Six motivations in three pairs or tensions.


Acquisition vs. Transformation.

Acquisition: The human need for continuity and safety. The desire to hold on to what has been acquired. Transformation: The human need for change. The desire to abandon safety for movement.

Impact vs. Structure.

Impact: The human need for individual intent and personal preferences. The desire to influence through action. Structure: The human need for rules. The desire to adapt to social expectations and structures.

Ambition vs. Competence.

Competence: The human need for skills, resources and understanding of our individual limits and limitations. Ambition: The human need for achievement. The desire to attain new levels of accomplishment.

The motivations influence and often battle each other.

Services and products play an important role in regulating these tensions. A service can help people feel safe (acquisition) or break away from routines (transformation). It can teach them new skills (competence) to achieve their dreams (ambition). It may enable people to set themselves apart from society (impact) or help adapt to society (structure).

Morphological analysis.

In-depth, contextual interviews combined with generative techniques allow us to uncover what is at work deep down in customers’ minds. Their needs are plotted on the general tension model, leading to specific tensions and need segments. These need segments can be elaborated into need-based personas.