Latest Blog Posts

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.

Corsello and Dylan Minor assessed how where people sit in a workplace influences their performance.   Data collected over 2 years from thousands of employees at a large tech company with offices in the US and Europe determined that “neighbors have a significant impact on an employee’s performance.”  The researchers “categorized workers into three types: productive workers, who completed tasks quickly but lacked quality; quality workers, who produced superior work but did so slowly; and generalists, who were average across both dimensions. . . . where groups of workers were clustered together, [the investigators] found that the best seating arrangements had productive and quality employees sitting beside each other, because each helped the other improve. . . . When productive workers were seated next to quality workers (and generalists were grouped together), [researchers] found a 13% gain in productivity (speed of work) and a 17% gain in effectiveness (fewer unresolved tasks) in that group. . . . these effects occurred almost immediately but vanished within two months.” Minor and Housman previously reported similar findings from closely related research.

Jason Corsello and Dylan Minor.  2017.  “Want to Be More Productive?  Sit Next to Someone Who Is.”  Harvard Business Review,

Papalambros and her team have learned that hearing pink noise (described here: while sleeping can enhance sleep quality and memory performance the day after the pink noise is heard among older individuals.  People 60 to 84 years old participated in the Papalambros lead study and the pink noise was coordinated with sleeping brain rhythms.   Zhou, Liu, Li, Ma, Zhang, and Fang (2012) reported, more generally, that “steady pink noise has significant effect on reducing brain wave complexity and inducing more stable sleep time to improve sleep quality of individuals.”

Nelly Papalambros, Giovanni Santostasi, Roneil Malkani, Rosemary Braun, Sandra Weintraub, Ken Paller, and Phyllis Zee.  “Acoustic Enhancement of Sleep Slow Oscillations and Concomitant Memory Improvement in Older Adults.”  Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, in press.

J. Zhou, D. Liu, J Ma, J. Zhang, and J. Fang.  2012.  “Pink Noise: Effect on Complexity Synchronization of Brain Activity and Sleep Consolidation.” Journal of Theoretical Biology, vol. 306, pp. 68-72.

Moss and Earle tested the effects of smelling rosemary on working memory in children.  They found that “Exposure to the aroma of rosemary essential oil can significantly enhance working memory in children. . . . A total of 40 children aged 10 to 11 took part in a class based test on different mental tasks. Children were randomly assigned to a room that had either rosemary oil diffused in it for ten minutes or a room with no scent. . . . Analysis revealed that the children in the aroma room received significantly higher scores than the non-scented room. The test to recall words demonstrated the greatest different in scores. Dr. Moss added: ‘Why and how rosemary has this effect is still up for debate. . . . We do know that poor working memory is related to poor academic performance and these findings offers a possible cost effective and simple intervention to improve academic performance in children.’”

“Rosemary Aroma Can Aid Children’s Working Memory.”  2017.  Press release, The British Psychological Society,’s-working-memory

Children and adults respond in different ways to their environments. Sloutsky and Plebanek “found that adults were very good at remembering information they were told to focus on, and ignoring the rest.  In contrast, 4- to 5-year-olds tended to pay attention to all the information that was presented to them – even when they were told to focus on one particular item. . . . The fact that children don’t always do as well at focusing attention also shows the importance of designing the right learning environment in classrooms, Sloutsky said. ‘Children can’t handle a lot of distractions. They are always taking in information, even if it is not what you’re trying to teach them. We need to make sure that we are aware of that and design our classrooms, textbooks and educational materials to help students succeed. Perhaps a boring classroom or a simple black and white worksheet means less distraction and more successful learning,’ Sloutsky added.”

“Children Notice Information That Adults Miss.”  2017.  Press release, Association for Psychological Science,

Speaking at the 2017 Science to Practice Conference, organized by the Interdisciplinary Center for Healthy Workplaces at Berkeley, John Swartzberg, MD, discussed the spread of disease in workplaces, among other topics.  He reviewed research indicating that sick individuals can spread diseases, such as the flu, to people within 6 feet when they sneeze.  The reported findings have implications for workplace and healthcare waiting room design, for example.

John Swartzberg.  2017.  “Workplace Health.”  Science to Practice Conference; Interdisciplinary Center for Healthy Workplaces; University of California, Berkeley.  Berkeley, CA; May 4.

Backstrom and Johansson studied consumer responses to being in stores, replicating a study they conducted in 2006.  They investigated “consumers’ in-store experiences and their components, from both a consumer and retailer perspective. . . . we also examine how the role of the physical store has changed over the last decade. . . . consumers’ in-store experiences to a large extent are created by the same aspects today as ten years ago (e.g. personnel, layout, atmosphere). Furthermore, while retailers today emphasize the importance of fulfilling new and more advanced consumer demands, they often still accentuate the weight and use of traditional values (e.g. personnel and layout) ahead of advanced technology.”  Data were collected in Sweden.

Kristina Backstrom and Ulf Johansson. 2017.   “An Exploration of Consumers’ Experiences in Physical Stores:  Comparing Consumers’ and Retailers’ Perspectives in Past and Present Time.”  The International Review of Retail, Distribution and Consumer Research, vol. 27, pp. 241-259.

Job and her colleagues learned more about how people determine how much they think something is worth.  They share that  “Past research finds that people behave as though the particular qualities of specific, strongly valenced individuals ‘rub off’ on objects. People thus value a sweater worn by George Clooney but are disgusted by one worn by Hitler. We hypothesized that social traces of generic humans can also adhere to objects, increasing their value.”  The researchers found that “simply marking that consumer products (mugs, giftwrap) were made by generic strangers (e.g., ‘by people using machines’ vs. ‘by machines run by people’) increased their perceived value. . . .  generic humans are perceived positively, possessing warm social qualities, and these can ‘rub off’ and adhere to everyday objects increasing their value.”

Veronika Job, Jana Nikitin, Sophia Zhang, Priyanka Carr, and Gregory Walton.  2017.  “Social Traces of Generic Humans Increase the Value of Everyday Objects.”  Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, vol.  43, no. 6, pp.  785-792.


Subscribe to Latest Blog Posts