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Karreman probed human response to robots.  She found that “A human being will only be capable of communicating with robots if this robot has many human characteristics. That is the common idea. But mimicking natural movements and expressions is complicated, and some of our nonverbal communication is not really suitable for robots: wide arm gestures, for example. Humans prove to be capable of responding in a social way, even to machines that look like machines. We have a natural tendency of translating machine movements and signals to the human world. Two simple lenses on a machine can make people wave to the machine. . . . and even a ‘low-anthropomorphic’ robot can be equipped with strong communication skills. It goes way beyond R2-D2 that communicates using beeps that need to be translated first.”

“Robot Does Not Have to be Human Look Alike.”  2016.  Press release, University of Twente,!/2016/9/166845/robot-doesnt-have-to-be-human-look-alike

Providing tools to help groups easily record information so they can recall it better later seems to be a good idea.  Thorley and Marion have learned via a study that will be published in Psychological Bulletin that “groups recall less than their individual members would if working alone.”  Group recall is important because “Collaborative remembering is important as it is used in a number of different everyday settings. In the workplace, interview panels jointly recall candidates’ answers before deciding whom to employ. In the courtroom, jurors work together to recall trial evidence prior to reaching a verdict. In schools and universities, students work together to revise course content prior to exams.”  The effect identified seems to occur because “group members disrupt each other’s retrieval strategies when recalling together.”  The researchers also found that “collaboration is more harmful to larger groups than smaller groups.”

“Group Work Can Harm Memory.”  2016.  Press release, University of Liverpool,

Park, Huang, and Newman set out to learn more about how New Urbanist design features influence home values.  They report that  “The principles of New Urbanism such as increased density, mixed land uses, and street connectivity are often recommended in response to the typical conditions of suburban developments. . . . This study finds that a lower density, decreased street connectivity, and a closer proximity to a transit stop can contribute to increased housing premiums, while mixed land uses are not shown to always do so.”

Yunmi Park, Shih-Kai Huang, and Galen Newman.  “A Statistical Meta-Analysis of the Design Components of New Urbanism on Housing Prices.”  Journal of Planning Literature, in press.

Research has shown humans respond positively to the sea; now psychotherapists will be applying those findings.  Galbraith reports that “Anecdotally, we have known for centuries that the sea can facilitate a sense of wellbeing; empirical evidence is now becoming available, specifically the work of Wallace J. Nichols (Blue Mind) and the University of Exeter’s Blue Gym Programme, which indicates that proximity to the coast is positively associated with good health. As a counselling psychologist who regularly facilitates imagery-based relaxation, it is impossible to overlook how often individuals will opt for a coastal location as their safe, relaxing space; and practitioners are increasingly taking therapy outdoors into natural settings. . . .  SEAcotherapy, a health and wellbeing concept, based on current evidence around utilising the sea as a co-therapist, launched this spring. We incorporate various coastal activities, including paddle boarding, surfing, arts and crafts, yoga, pilates, mindfulness and talking therapies. Particular attention will be focused upon wellbeing and preventative mental and physical healthcare.”

Victoria Galbraith.  2016.  “Big Picture:  The Sea as Co-Therapist.”  The Psychologist,

People naming places or objects or anything else should monitor the growing body of research on consistencies across languages in how humans use sound to refer to objects and ideas.  A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports that “an analysis of nearly two-thirds of the world’s languages shows that humans tend to use the same sounds for common objects and ideas, no matter what language they’re speaking. . . . For example, in most languages, the word for “nose” is likely to include the sounds “neh” or the “oo” sound, as in “ooze.” The word for “tongue” is likely to have “l” (as in “langue” in French). “Leaf” is likely to include the sounds “b,” “p” or “l.” “Sand” will probably use the sound “s.” The words for “red” and “round” are likely to include the “r” sound. ‘It doesn’t mean all words have these sounds, but the relationship is much stronger than we’d expect by chance,’ Christiansen said. . . .The team also found certain words are likely to avoid certain sounds. . . . [other] studies have shown words for small objects in a variety of languages are likely to contain high-pitched sounds.”

Susan Kelley.  2016.  “A Nose By Any Other Name Would Sound the Same, Study Finds.”  Cornell Chronicle,

Researchers studied the sort of lumbar support selected by people sitting in office task chairs.  They found that  “73.8% of the 201 participants in [their] study, self-selected asymmetrical lower back support that was at least 20% greater on one side vs. the other. Additionally, 16.9% of the participants self-selected support on one side which was at least twice that of the other side. Contrary to popular practice, participants were found to prefer asymmetric support in the lower back region. . . . Most current lumbar supports are designed to move vertically and to symmetrically increase or decrease in firmness as per a user’s adjustment.”

Tycho Fredericks, Steven Butt, Anil Kumar, and Teresa Bellingar.  2016.  “Do Users Desire Symmetrical Lumbar Supports in Task Seating.”  Ergonomics, vol. 57, no. 7, pp. 901-912.

Being in a traumatic situation, living through a flood, for example, effects how lives are lived and selections made, even after that flood or other traumatic situation ends.  Sigirci, Rockmore, and Wansink have learned that  “Traumatic experiences – such as combat, living in a conflict country or war-torn nation, or experiencing a violent crime or natural disaster . . . may . . . influence a life-time of consumer relationships with brands and shopping. . . .  We show that those who experienced heavy trauma (e.g., heavy combat). . . .became . . . more open to switching brands, to trying new products, and buying the least expensive alternative. . . . Trauma, such as combat, may change one’s decision horizon. Functionality and price become more important, which is consistent with the idea that they are more focused on the present moment than on building on the past or saving for the future.”  This finding has implications for the design of spaces and things to be used by people who are likely to have experienced trauma, for example, Veterans Administration hospitals, particularly when those traumatized individuals will participate in the design process.

Ozge Sigirci, Marc Rockmore, and Brian Wansink.  “How Traumatic Violence Permanently Changes Shopping Behavior.”  Frontiers in Psychology, in press.

Think that aches and pains vary based on the weather?  You’re correct.  Researchers from the University of Manchester (UK) have found “a link between weather conditions – specifically rain and lack of sunshine – and chronic pain. . . . results suggest a correlation between the number of sunny days and rainfall levels and changes in pain levels. . . . as the number of sunny days increased from February to April, the amount of time spent in severe pain decreased. However, the amount of time spent in severe pain increased again in June when the weather was wetter and there were fewer hours of sunshine.”  Data analyzed were collected in a novel way:   “Members of the public who have long-term pain record their daily pain symptoms on a special app. The app also independently captures hourly weather conditions using the smartphone GPS, thus joining pain data with real-time local weather events.”  These findings are potential useful in a variety of contexts, including for explaining differences in responses to places and things when data are collected on different days.

“Link Between Weather and Chronic Pain Is Emerging Through and Innovative National Smartphone Research Project.”  Press release, The University of Manchester,

Canonico’s research indicates that the performance-related benefits of telework decrease over time.  After collected data from over 500 employees of a British organization, she determined that  “The benefits of working from home disappear over time for both employees and organisations if it is a full-time arrangement. . . . While previous studies have demonstrated that home workers are more productive than office-based workers, . . . [this study] shows that on a long term basis, there are no differences between home and office workers. The reason, according to Dr. Esther Canonico from LSE’s Department of Management, is that employees no longer see home working as a discretionary benefit or a ‘privilege’ when it becomes the ‘norm’ in an organisation. Dr. Canonico says: ‘The study showed that some home working employees feel resentful that employers don’t pay their utility bills, or cover stationery costs, for example. Some managers, on the other hand, feel home workers take advantage of the situation. . . . .Some of the downsides of home working are an increased sense of professional isolation and a decrease in sharing knowledge with colleagues. It’s not for everyone but it is becoming entrenched into our working culture.’”

“Home Working Loses Its Appeal Over Time for Both Companies and Staff.”  2016.  Press release, The London School of Economics and Political Science,

Researchers probed human responses to triangles in different orientations.  They have learned that “the same triangular stimuli were generally rated as less pleasant, less liked, and less familiar when they pointed downward than when they pointed upward.”

Xu Shen, Xiaoang Wan, Bingbing Mu, and Charles Spence.  2015.  “Searching for Triangles:  An Extension to Food and Packaging.”  Food Quality and Preference, vol. 44, pp. 26-35.


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