Research in Engineering Design

, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 75–92 | Cite as

A linguistic approach to assess the dynamics of design team preference in concept selection

  • Andy Dong
  • Somwrita Sarkar
  • Maria C. Yang
  • Tomonori Honda
Original Paper


This paper addresses the problem of describing the decision-making process of a committee of engineers based upon their verbalized linguistic appraisals of alternatives. First, we show a way to model an individual’s evaluation of an alternative through natural language based on the Systemic-Functional Linguistics system of APPRAISAL. The linguistic model accounts for both the degree of intensity and the uncertainty of expressed evaluations. Second, this multi-dimensional linguistic model is converted into a scalar to represent the degree of intensity and a probability distribution function for the stated evaluation. Finally, we present a Markovian model to calculate the time-varying change in preferential probability, the probability that an alternative is the most preferred alternative. We further demonstrate how preferential probability toward attributes of alternatives correspond to preferential probability toward alternatives. We illustrate the method on two case studies to highlight the time-variant dynamics of preferences toward alternatives and attributes. This research contributes to process tracing in descriptive decision science to understand how engineers actually take decisions.


Decision-based design Ranking alternatives Social choice 



The authors wish to thank the participation of the engineering students in the experiments. The work described in this paper was supported in part by the National Science Foundation under Award CMMI-0900255. This research was also supported in part under Australian Research Council’s Discovery Projects funding scheme (Project Number DP1095601). The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the sponsors.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andy Dong
    • 1
  • Somwrita Sarkar
    • 2
  • Maria C. Yang
    • 3
  • Tomonori Honda
    • 4
  1. 1.Faculty of Engineering and Information TechnologiesUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Design Lab, Faculty of Architecture, Design, and PlanningUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia
  3. 3.Department of Mechanical Engineering and Engineering Systems DivisionMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA
  4. 4.Department of Mechanical EngineeringMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA

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