Centre of Applied Research Technology

Seneca’s Error: an Affective Model of Cognitive Resistance


This thesis describes how human beings change their mind. As any designer will know from his or her own experience, this does not always come naturally. Therefore this dissertation aims to modify Seneca’s assertion: not only to err is human, but it is also human to persist in this mistake despite evidence to the contrary.

I will argue that changing one’s mind is regulated through emotions, building on Damasio’s thoughts that emotions are essential to rational thinking and everyday behaviour. His landmark book “Descarte’s Error“ (1994) inspired the title of the current work. Part of my motivation for this research has been prompted by my own experience in industry, where I have been lucky enough to collaborate with many talented, friendly and rather stubborn engineers for over 20 years. In countless interactions I witnessed how emotions seemed to moderate the way that designers were able to align their thoughts and collaborate.

Reference de Boer, R.J. (2012). Seneca’s Error: an Affective Model of Cognitive Resistance , PhD thesis, Delft University of Technology
Published by  Faculty of Technology 7 May 2012

Publication date

May 2012


de Boer, R.J.