Research Design Connections

Music and Cooperation (08-19-16)

Cornell researchers have investigated the effects of hearing different sorts of music on cooperation.  After examining  “the influence of music upon cooperative behavior within decision-making groups” they found that “happy music significantly and positively influences cooperative behavior [and that increases team welfare].” The researchers are clear about the music categorized as happy and sad: “we selected a set of four “Happy” songs (“Yellow Submarine” by the Beatles; “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves; “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison; and, the theme song from “Happy Days”)

Green Or Blue Light? (08-18-16)

Pilorz and colleagues studied the effects of experiencing green and blue light on sleep.  They found that  “blue light was aversive, delaying sleep onset and increasing glucocorticoid levels. By contrast, green light led to rapid sleep onset. These different behavioural effects appear to be driven by different neural pathways.  More specifically, researchers found that “blue light (470 nm) causes behavioural arousal, elevating corticosterone and delaying sleep onset. By contrast, green light (530 nm) produces rapid sleep induction.”

Envy at Work (08-17-16)

Envy in workplaces can arise for many reasons, imagined or real (consider variations in desk chairs provided).  Koopman, at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Business has found  “a strong link between an employee’s feelings of envy after they perceive a supervisor has treated them worse relative to their co-workers and the length of time by which they process this information.”  A key concept discussed by Koopman is  “epistemic motivation” (EM) –– the desire to process information thoroughly and grasp the meaning behind a particular situation. . . .

Preferred Assistive Robots (08-16-16)

We prefer to interact with certain sorts of assistive robots.  Researchers have learned that “Making an assistive robot partner expressive and communicative [instead of efficient, less error prone] is likely to make it more satisfying to work with and lead to users trusting it more, even if it makes mistakes [and even if it takes 50% longer to complete the task]. . . .

Workplace Water (08-15-16)

Research lead by Thomas indicates that in-office drinking water can have an important effect on employees’ mental and physical health, as well as how they move through their workplace.  The team found that the office workers it interviewed “put considerable labor into developing and maintaining complex systems for making choices about what, how and where to eat while working. These systems . . . were then strained and frequently sabotaged by food that simply materialized in the workplace through catered meals and office ‘food altars.’ . . .

Value of Nature Videos: Additional Insights (08-12-16)

Research presented at the American Psychological Association’s (APA) annual conference by Patricia Hasbach provides compelling evidence of the benefits of viewing nature videos.  The insights she discusses, drawn from data collected in maximum security prisons, can be applied in settings where people are likely to be highly stressed, have restricted access to nature, etc.  A press release from the APA reports that “Inmates who viewed nature videos showed reduced levels of aggression and were less likely to be disciplined than those in similar cellblocks. . . .   Hasbach and her colleagues.

The Repercussions of Unstable-Looking Logos (08-11-16)

The design of logos can make them look more stable (i.e., like they’d be less likely to rock back and forth if carved out of wood, etc.) or less stable.  Research by Rahinel and Nelson indicates that this apparent stability can be important: “when considering safety-oriented products, consumers exposed to unstable-looking brand logos infer the presence of unsafe conditions, and because safety-oriented products are resistant to inferences that they are unsafe, the inference is instead applied to the environment (i.e., ‘the environment is unsafe’).

Speeding Up Walking (08-10-16)

Want to encourage people to walk more quickly?  Apply Van den Bergh, Heuvinck, Schellekens, and Vermeir’s findings to do just that.  This research team determined via lab and field experiments that “changes in flooring affect customers’ walking speed. The number, the nature and the relative salience of progress markers [how notable they are] along a walking path towards a physical location communicate goal progress and thus, the motivation to reach a particular destination. . . .

Slow Motion Viewing (08-09-16)

During the research process, videos taken in particular spaces or of the activities of certain user groups are often viewed in slow motion.  Research by Caruso, Burns, and Converse indicates that the choice of playback speeds influences conclusions drawn.  They report that “Four experiments . . . involving real surveillance footage from a murder or broadcast replays of violent contact in professional football demonstrate that viewing an action in slow motion, compared with regular speed, can cause viewers to perceive an action as more intentional.


Research Conversations


How we sense and make sense of the environment around us—and how our brains work with information, in general—varies based on where we are on Earth.  Expectations and interpretations of experiences also aren’t the same across the planet.  

Our emotional state is important – it is the key driver of our thoughts and behaviors.  Informed designers can apply research on the likely emotional consequences of design decisions to make desired experiences more likely.


Being in a space that seems either too large or too small is bad for our mental and physical health.  Cognitive scientists have identified ways to “right-size” places; the tools and techniques they’ve established are reviewed in this article.


The future is almost here, again.

News Briefs


Exploring practices and expectations


Making residents happy is, in part, a numbers game

Being in the dark has benefits

Aligning colors with activity goals 

Optimizing workplace performance tied to 8 factors

Putting the brain to work at work

Designing for walking pays off, literally

Viewing images supports training

Book Reviews


Chairs—and their design—matter, a lot  

A thought-provoking introduction to psychogeography

Design at Work


The  4th floor reading room at GVSU's Pew Library is a place where people can think great thoughts and get work done.