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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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Lasauskaite and Cajochen linked mental effort intensity and light color.  The team “tested effort-related cardiac response under four lighting conditions and found that it decreased with color temperatures [i.e., as light got bluer].  Thus, blue-enriched light in offices and schools might . . . preserve resources during cognitive activities.”

Ruta Lasauskaite and Christian Cajochen.  2016.  “Influence of Lighting Color Temperature on Mental Effort.”  Psychology of Architecture Conference (December 4-5, Austin, TX) Program, p. 26.

Unsworth and McNeill set out to learn more about how to encourage people to behave in an environmentally responsible way.  They found that self-interest can be used to motivate green actions.  The researchers determined that attempts to encourage earth-friendly behaviors are likely to be more successful when the green behaviors are linked to “goals that are important to people, even if such goals are unrelated to climate change or the environment in general. . . . This research has significant practical implications for workplaces, particularly for those in which employees or managers place a low priority on environmental and climate change considerations.”  So, efforts to encourage environmentally responsible behaviors are likely to be more successful when arguments presented for doing them align with already existing and personally important goals, such as saving money or getting more exercise.

Kerrie Unsworth and Ilona McNeill.  2017.  “Increasing Pro-Environmental Behaviors by Increasing Self-Concordance:  Testing an Intervention.”  Journal of Applied Psychology, vol. 102, no. 1, pp. 88-103.

Airflow velocity in a space influences how well we sleep there.  Morito and her team found that  “a higher air velocity of airflow disturbed human sleep more than a lower air velocity of airflow. . . . The mean air temperature, relative humidity, and mean radiant temperature in the rooms with both air conditioners were 26.4 . . . °C, 58 . . . %, and 26.3 . . . °C, and 26.4 . . . °C, 53 . . .  %, and 26.1 . . . °C for [A] and [B], respectively. The average . . . velocity of airflow was actually 0.14 . . . m/s and 0.04 . . . m/s for [A] and [B], respectively. . . . The subjects significantly felt more of the airflow and cooler at [A] than at [B] although comfort sensation did not differ significantly. . . . the number of times body movements, the number of times heart rate increased., and the number of times some sleep stages changed to the stage of wakefulness due to varying airflow in [A] were significantly higher than those in [B]. A higher velocity of airflow had a negative influence on sleep even though the average air velocity was less than 0.2 m/s [people are not aware of airflow at this low level].”  When higher airflow velocity was experienced, people slept more poorly.

Naomi Morito, Kazuyo Tsuzuki, Ikue Mori, and Hajime Nishimiya.  2017.  “Effect of Two Kinds of Air Conditioner Airflow on Human Sleep and Thermoregulation.”  Energy and Buildings, vol. 138, pp. 490-498.

Pati and colleagues investigated responses to curved and sharp contours in healthcare environments and gathered some intriguing data.  The team report that “Recent studies in cognitive neuroscience suggest that humans prefer objects with a curved contour compared with objects that have pointed features and a sharp-angled contour.”  During their study  “subjects (representing three age-groups and both sexes) were exposed to a randomized order of 312 real-life images (objects, interiors, exteriors, landscape, and a set of control images). Amygdala activation was simultaneously captured using functional magnetic resonance imaging technology.”  Data collected “suggest that contours play an important role in emotional response during the precognitive [unconscious] stages of human perception. Curve contours in the interior and exterior (envelop) views of hospitals triggered greater amygdala activation (fear response) in comparison to sharp contours, in the precognitive stages (150 ms [milliseconds]). This initial fear response, however, did not get reflected in healthy subjects’ eventual preference (like/dislike) measured after onset of cognition (roughly 2 s[econds]).”  The hospital interiors and exteriors with curved contours were preferred to those with sharp contours.

Debajyoti Pati, Michael O’Boyle, Jiancheng Hou, Upali Nanda, and Hessam Ghamari.  2016.  “Can Hospital Form Trigger Fear Response?”  HERD:  Health Environments Research and Design Journal, vol. 9, no. 3, pp. 162-175.

Nejati, Rodiek, and Shepley studied surgical nurses’ ideas about what makes break rooms restorative spaces using visual simulations.  They “assess[ed] the restorative potential of specific design features in hospital staff break areas, investigating nature-related indoor decor, daylight, window views, and direct access to outdoor environments.”  The Nejati team found that when “On a scale of 1–10, nurses evaluated the restorative qualities of (a) direct access to the outdoors through a balcony, (b) an outdoor view through a window, (c) a nature artwork, and (d) an indoor plant, all depicted on images of the same two staff break areas. . . . ratings increased significantly based on higher levels of nature content, from no added amenities, to indoor plants, to nature artwork, to window views, to direct access to the outdoors through a balcony. . . . higher levels of access to nature, daylight, and outdoor environments are perceived to have significantly more restorative potential in healthcare workplaces.”

Adeleh Nejati, Susan Rodiek, and Mardelle Shepley.  2016.  “Using Visual Simulation to Evaluate Qualities of Access to Nature in Hospital Staff Break Areas.”  Landscape and Urban Planning, vol. 148, pp. 132-138.

Research by Wilkes and colleagues confirms the psychological benefits of seats that encourage sitting with good posture.  As the investigators report, research has generally shown that “upright posture improves self-esteem and mood in [psychologically] healthy samples.”  Wilkes and her team studied a group of people “with mild to moderate depression.” Some study participants were asked to sit with good posture and others were not. The researchers found that “The postural manipulation significantly improved posture and increased high arousal positive affect. . . .  Upright shoulder angle was associated with lower negative affect and lower anxiety.”  So, study participants who were asked to sit with better posture were in more positive moods and had more energy than people who were not instructed to sit up straight and sat however they chose.

Carissa Wilkes, Rob Kydd, Mark Sagar, and Elizabeth Broadbent.  2017.  “Upright Posture Improves Affect and Fatigue in People with Depressive Symptoms.”  Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, vol. 54 pp. 143-149.

Pineda and her team studied soundscapes in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs).  Working with preterm infants born at 28 weeks or less gestation, placed either in private rooms or in open wards, the researchers learned that “There was [significantly] more silence in the private room . . . than the open ward, with an average of 1.9 hours more silence in a 16-hour period. . . . Understanding the NICU auditory environment paves the way for interventions that reduce high levels of adverse sound and enhance positive forms of auditory exposure, such as language.”  The research team reports that premature infants in private rooms may not hear enough people talking, and this may harm their development.  Previous research by Pineda indicated that babies treated in private rooms, when tested at age 2, did not have as advanced language skills as otherwise similar children who were treated in more open wards.

Roberta Pineda, Polly Durant, Amit Mathur, Terrie Inder, Michael Wallendorf, and Bradley Schlaggar.  “Auditory Exposure in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit:  Room Type and Other Predictors.”  The Journal of Pediatrics, in press.

Benson and Coleman have found that more older adults are choosing to “live apart together;” this new way of “co-habitating” has repercussions for home design, for example.  As a press release related to the Benson/Coleman research details,  “Since 1990, the divorce rate among adults 50 years and older has doubled. This trend, along with longer life expectancy, has resulted in many adults forming new partnerships later in life. A new phenomenon called ‘Living Apart Together’ (LAT)—an intimate relationship without a shared residence—is gaining popularity as an alternative form of commitment. . . . while the trend is well understood in Europe, it is lesser known in the U.S. . . .  Benson and . . . Coleman . . . interviewed adults who were at least 60 years old and in committed relationships but lived apart. The researchers found that couples were motivated by desires to stay independent, maintain their own homes, sustain existing family boundaries, and remain financially independent.”  Benson and Coleman’s study was published in the Journal of Marriage and Family.

“Older Adults Embracing ‘Living Apart Together.’” 2017.  Press release, University of Missouri,

A team lead by Hung confirmed that particular sorts of sounds are linked to certain shapes; their work is useful to people naming products and places, for example.  The research by Hung, Styles, and Hsieh, published in Psychological Science, indicates that  “Our tendency to match specific sounds with specific shapes, even abstract shapes, is so fundamental that it guides perception before we are consciously aware of it. . . . The ‘bouba-kiki’ effect, originally reported over 85 years ago and replicated many times since, shows that people consistently pair the soft-sounding nonsense word ‘bouba’ with soft-looking, round shapes and they typically pair the sharp-sounding nonsense word ‘kiki’ with spiky-looking, angular shapes. This effect seems to emerge across cultures and age groups.”  A press release issued as the Hung/Styles/Hsieh study was published quotes author Shao-Min Hung of Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore as stating that “The findings here show that once we have learned the sound of a letter, we are able to . . . map this unconsciously extracted sound to an unconscious shape.’”  

“Words Can Sound ‘Round’ or ‘Sharp’ Without Us Realizing It.”   2017. Press release, Association for Psychological Science,


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