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Welcome to the Research Design Connections blog, started in 2007. Recent blog entries are available here. Earlier blog entries (one for every working day since the beginning of May, 2007) are available to subscribers.

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Often workplaces are redesigned during periods of organizational change and research released by the American Psychological Association indicates that organizational change can be very stressful.  Workplaces can be designed to defuse at least some of that stress and the knowledge that it is present should inform the interpretation of research data, for example, information collected in the course of a post-occupancy evaluation.  The APA press release reports that “American adults who have been affected by change at work are more likely to report chronic work stress, less likely to trust their employer and more likely to say they plan to leave the organization within the next year compared with those who haven’t been affected by organizational change. . . .  Workers who reported being affected by organizational change currently or within the past year reported lower levels of job satisfaction compared with employees who reported no recent, current or anticipated changes (71 percent vs. 81 percent). . . . Working Americans also appeared skeptical when it comes to the outcomes of organizational changes. Only 4 in 10 employees (43 percent) had confidence that changes would have the desired effects and almost 3 in 10 doubted that changes would work as intended and achieve their goals (28 percent each). . . . Workers reported having more trust in their companies when the organization recognizes employees for their contributions, provides opportunities for involvement and communicates effectively.  

“Change at Work Linked to Employee Stress, Distrust and Intent to Quit, New Survey Finds.”  2017.  Press release, American Psychological Association,

Streicher and Estes gathered evidence indicating that haptic, or touch-related, experiences have a significant effect on consumer behavior.  They report that  “Consumers often touch products before reaching purchase decisions, and indeed touch improves evaluations of the given product. . . . We show that grasping a . . . product increases . . . the likelihood of choosing [a haptically similar; “haptic” means ”touch”] product. . . . We also show that visually crowded rather than sparse product displays increase the effect of touch on choosing other haptically similar products. . .  Our results suggest that by manipulating or mimicking the haptic features (e.g., shape and size) of objects that consumers grasp while shopping, marketers can develop packaging that . . . increase[es] choice of those products.”

Mathias Streicher and Zachary Estes.  2016.  “Multisensory Interaction in Product Choice:  Grasping a Product Affects Choice of Other Seen Products.”  Journal of Consumer Psychology, vol. 26, no. 4, pp. 558-565.

Work by Giebelhausen and colleagues indicates that there’s value in building support for charitable activities into retail spaces—for example: convenient spaces to place cash collection boxes near cash registers.  The Giebelhausen lead team reports that “Checkout charity is a phenomenon whereby frontline employees (or self-service technologies) solicit charitable donations from customers during the payment process. . . . The present research examines checkout charity in the context of fast-food restaurants and finds that, when customers donate, they experience a ‘warm glow’ that [was linked to] store repatronage. . . . Managers often infer, quite correctly, that many consumers do not like being asked to donate. Paradoxically, our results suggest this ostensibly negative experience can increase service repatronage.”

Michael Giebelhausen, Benjamin Lawrence, HaeEun Chun, and Liwu Hsu.  “The Warm Glow of Restaurant Checkout Charity.”  Cornell Hospitality Quarterly, in press.

New research confirms that people from different national cultures vary in how they perceive their physical worlds.  The specific findings of the study discussed here are not as important as the determination that cultural variations exist. A research team lead by Yoshiyuki Ueda of Kyoto University reports that “an ability to perceive differences between similar images depends on the cultural background of the viewer. Scientists have long recognized that the mental processes behind thinking and reasoning differ between people raised in Western and Eastern cultures. Those in the West tend to use 'analytical' processing -- analyzing objects independently of context -- while those in the East see situations and objects as a whole, which is known as 'holistic' processing. . . . In looking for the one odd line out of a group, North Americans took more time when the line was shorter, rather than if it was longer. No such differences were seen in Japanese volunteers, who in contrast had a significantly harder time identifying a straight line among tilted ones.”  Jun Saiki of Kyoto University adds that "’Our next step is to find the cause of this discrepancy. One such reason may be the orthographical [writing] systems the subjects see regularly. In East Asian writing, many characters are distinguished by subtle differences in stroke length, while in Western alphabets, slight angular alterations in letters result in remarkable changes in the reading of words.’" The paper detailing these findings is published in Cognitive Science.

“You Don’t See What I see?”  2017.  Press release, Kyoto University,

Speer and Delgado report that thinking about happy memories enhances wellbeing when people are stressed.  Their study “explored whether recalling autobiographical memories that have a positive content—that is, remembering the good times—can dampen the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis stress response.”  Study participants were stressed psychologically by the researchers and the scientists then determined that “recalling positive, but not neutral, memories resulted in a dampened cortisol rise and reduced negative affect [mood] . . . . These findings highlight the restorative and protective function of self-generated positive emotions via memory recall in the face of stress.”  The design of workplaces and other sorts of spaces can make it easier or more difficult for people to display objects, for example, that can bring positive memories to mind, such as photos taken during vacations.

Megan Speer and Mauricio Delgado.  “Reminiscing About Positive Memories Buffers Acute Stress Responses.”  Nature, in press.

Cartoons can be better ways to present information than photographs when certain outcomes are desired, according to research done by Rodriguez and Lin.  The scientists conducted a study that “compare[d] two modes of visually presenting information about wind energy – one using photographs and the other using cartoons – on audience’s knowledge, attitudes and behavioural intentions. . . . Results indicate no significant difference between the two groups in terms of knowledge and attitudes, but those shown the comics version showed stronger intentions to support wind energy than those shown as photos. Those exposed to the comics-aided brochure found it more informative, interesting and cognitively engaging. Those who saw the photo version found the brochure more credible.”

Lulu Rodriguez and Xiao Lin.  2016.  “The Impact of Comics on Knowledge, Attitude and Behavioural Intentions Related to Wind Energy.”  Journal of Visual Literacy, vo. 35, no. 4, pp. 237-252.

Panza and his team investigated links between levels of physical activity and wellbeing.  They learned that “light-intensity physical activity [was] positively associated with [subjective] psychological well-being . . . and negatively associated with depression . . . moderate intensity negatively associated with pain severity . . . and positively associated with psychological well-being; sedentary behavior negatively associated with psychological well-being and positively associated with depression. . . . Higher levels of sedentary behavior are associated with lower subjective well-being.”  Design can increase neighborhood walkability and probable user physical activity/movement within buildings, for example.

Gregory Panza, Beth Taylor, Paul Thompson, C. White, and Linda Pescatello.  “Physical Activity Intensity and Subjective Well-Being in Healthy Adults.”  Journal of Health Psychology, in press.

Awad’s research indicates that the symbols present in urban environments continually evolve and that different groups have varying relationships with them.  As she states, “Our urban environment is filled with symbols in the form of images, text, and structures that embody certain narratives about the past. Once those symbols are introduced into the city space they take a life span of their own in a continuous process of reproduction and reconstruction by different social actors. In the context of the city space of Cairo in the five years following the 2011 Egyptian revolution, I will look on the one side at efforts of activists to preserve the memory of the revolution through graffiti murals and the utilization of public space, and from the other, the authority’s efforts to replace those initiatives with its own official narrative.”

Sarah Awad.  2017.  “Documenting a Contested Memory:  Symbols in the Changing City Space of Cairo.”  Culture and Psychology, vol. 23, no. 2, pp. 234-254.

Kushner’s text challenges readers to thoughtfully consider the role that architecture plays in people’s lives today and how design can support future users.  As Kushner details, “Architecture impacts how you feel every day. . . . We can control this powerful force—we just have to start asking more from our buildings. . . . [the] architectural revolution is already upon us.  The average person is more comfortable having an opinion about architecture today than ever before, mostly due to the dialogue enabled by social media. . . .  Photographs shared on social media liberate buildings from their geographic locations, enabling a new level of public engagement.  We experience architecture today with an unprecedented immediacy, creating fodder for a global conversation about buildings and their impact. . . . In this new world, one in which people are asking more from their buildings, architects are no linger bound by any single style at any single time. “

Marc Kushner.  2015.  The Future of Architecture in 100 Buildings.  TED Books, Simon and Schuster:  New York.


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