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Syndicus, Wiese, and van Treeck studied how temperature influences decision making, finding that at warmer temperatures people seem to take more risks.  The team reports that when “two groups . . . completed the aforementioned tasks either in a warm (≥ 30°C) or neutral (≤ 25°C) ambient temperature condition. Participants made significantly riskier decisions in the warm ambient temperature condition. . . Especially elevated ambient temperatures should, therefore, be monitored in office environments to prevent impairments of decision making.”

Marc Syndicus, Bettina Wiese, and Christoph van Treeck.  “In the Heat and Noise of the Moment:  Effects on Risky Decision Making.”  Environment and Behavior, in press.

Blending cultural symbols in a single space or object can cause tension.  Yang and his team wondered “When and why do local communities display negative or exclusionary responses to mixing and blending of local and foreign cultural symbols in the same space or percept [whatever is being perceived]?” They found after working with study participants that were either America or Chinese that “the local community reacted most negatively to culture mixing when both objects were perceived to be icons or symbols of their culture of origin . . . [and that] concern about cultural contamination underlies exclusionary responses to culture mixing. We also identified two conditions that can deactivate such responses. First, even when the cultural symbols were presented simultaneously, keeping a distance between them assuages the concern over cultural contamination . . . and reduces the perceivers’ negativity to culture mixing. . . . Second, not attributing cultural symbolism to either cultural object also makes exclusionary responses less likely.”

Daniel Yang, Xia Chen, Jing Xu, Jesse Preston, and Chi-Yue Chiu.  “Cultural Symbolism and Spatial Separation.”  Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, in press.

Franco, Chew, and Swaine report that young children and adults have similar emotional responses to music.  They state that as part of their study “novel child-directed music was presented in three conditions: instrumental, vocal-only, and song (instrumental plus vocals) to 3- to 6-year-olds.”  Music presented was categorized by the researchers as  “’happy’ (major mode/fast tempo) and ‘sad’ (minor mode/slow tempo) tracks.” Research with adults has tied feeling happy to hearing music in a major key with a fast tempo and feeling sad to hearing slow music in minor keys.  Also,  “Nonsense syllables rather than words were used in the vocals in order to avoid the influence of lyrics on children’s decisions.”  The researchers found that when “children chose a face expressing the emotion matching each musical track. . . . even the younger children were able to correctly identify the intended emotion in music [i.e., had the same emotional response to a piece of music as adults would].”

Fabia Franco, Marcia Chew, and Joel Swaine.  2017.  “Preschoolers’ Attribution of Affect to Music:  A Comparison Between Vocal and Instrumental Performance.”  Psychology of Music, vol. 45, no. 1, pp. 131-149.

Voisin and Kim linked neighborhood conditions to the mental health and behaviors of African American youth.  They learned by analyzing data collected from “683 African American youth from low-income communities. . . . that participants who reported poorer neighborhood conditions [i.e. broken windows index] compared to those who lived in better living conditions were more likely to report higher rates of mental health problems, delinquency, substance use, and unsafe sexual behaviors.”

Dexter Voisin and Dong Kim.  “’Broken Windows’:  Relationship Between Neighborhood Conditions and Behavioral Health Among Low-Income African American Adolescents.”  Journal of Health Psychology, in press.

Calienes and colleagues studied the design of stores that appeal to Millennials.  They report that  “the store's physical design plays a crucial role in whether a shopper enters a store and engages with a brand. The latest generation of shoppers, the millennials, are a powerful cohort representing 75.4 million individuals in 2016 and accounting for $200 billion in annual consumer spending. Although this generation is well known for online shopping, research has shown that the majority (75%) of their retail dollars are still being spent in brick-and-mortar stores.”  Stores that were appealing to Millennials were organized, clean, projected a relatively lighthearted/humorous approach to making sales, used high quality displays/fixtures, were easy places to find desired merchandise without asking for help, and had a residential feel. White interiors were seen as clean, modern, and upscale by Millennials.

Elizabeth Calienes, Candy Carmel-Gilfilen and Margaret Portillo.  2016. “Inside the Mind of the Millennial Shopper:  Designing Retail Spaces for a New Generation.”  Journal of Interior Design, vol. 41, no. 4, pp. 47-67.

Jokela and colleagues probed links between the location of homes, personality, and life satisfaction.  They learned that “Higher openness to experience was more positively associated with life satisfaction in postal districts [in London] characterized by higher average openness to experience, population density, and ethnic diversity. . . . These findings suggest that people’s life satisfaction depends, in part, on the interaction between individual personality and particular features of the places they live.” Also, people who were more agreeable had higher life satisfaction when they lived in areas with low crime, plenty of green space and lots of family-occupied homes.

Markus Jokela, Wiebke Bleidorn, Michael Lamb, Samuel Gosling, and Peter Rentfrow.  2015.  “Geographically Varying Associations Between Personality and Life Satisfaction in the London Metropolitan Area.”  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 112, no. 3, pp. 725-730.

The Center for Active Design (CfAD) probed links between design and civic life; what they’ve learned is available without charge at the website noted below.  Data collected via the Knight Foundation’s Soul of the Community survey (using phone interviews in English and Spanish) in 26 US communities and analyzed by the CfAD indicates that “Compared to people with little access to outdoor recreation space in their community, people who report an abundance of outdoor recreation space are 28% more likely to think their local leaders represent their interests. They are also 27% more likely to view local police positively.” In addition, “Compared to people with little access to outdoor recreation space in their community, people who report an abundance of outdoor recreation space are 10% more likely to report attending a local event and 14% more likely to report high levels of neighborhood interpersonal care and concern.”  And, “People who live in a place they think is beautiful are 9% more likely to interact with their neighbors regularly, and are 7% more likely to belong to multiple civic or social groups, relative to those that live in a place they don’t think is beautiful.”

Center for Active Design.  2016.  “Assembly: Shaping Space for Civic Life, Research Brief I.”  Available at:

Lee and colleagues report that, at this time, it is unlikely that people will respond positively to working underground.  Their work is timely because “With growing population in urban areas, the problem of lacking space is becoming more prominent. . . . the development of underground space has increasingly gained attention as a viable solution.”  The researchers’ review of available literature determined that “the overall impression of underground environment is generally negative. This may be the outcome of features of underground environment that are naturally feared and avoided by people . . . such as entrapment and darkness, or from the lack of real physical experiences with underground spaces.”  More specifics, as an example: “Underground environment is a confined type of space, of which people have (or believe to have) less control over. If any incident, such as fire or explosion, takes place, it would be much more difficult to escape as there is no direct access to the outdoor environment. . . . Lack of perceived control from underground space can result in a variety of symptoms ranging from formation of negative perception to claustrophobia.”

Eun Lee, George Christopoulos, Ming Lu, Min Heo, and Chee-Kiong Soh.  “Social Aspects of Working In Underground Spaces.”  Tunneling and Underground Space Technology, in press.

Haque’s research determined that people are just as distracted when driving and talking on the phone hands free as they are when driving and holding their phone as they talk.  So, even though headsets, etc., have become more prevalent among people traveling/walking and talking on their phones, it is still important to create spaces where people on the phone can be safe even though they’re not paying much attention to the world around themselves (for example, ones where changes of level/stairs are eliminated whenever possible). Haque determined that  “’The reaction time of drivers participating in either a hand-held or hands-free conversation was more than 40 per cent longer than those not using a phone’. . . . Dr Haque said it was the cognitive load required to hold a conversation that was the distraction, not whether or not the driver was holding a phone. . . . ‘In other words the human brain compensates for receiving increased information from a mobile phone conversation by not sending some visual information to the working memory, leading to a tendency to ‘look at’ but not ‘see’ objects by distracted drivers. The distraction of a mobile phone conversation is not the same as an in-car conversation with a passenger because the non-driver can alter their dialogue based on the driving environment, for example stop talking when approaching a complex driving situation.’”

“Hands-Free Just as Distracting as Handheld Mobile Phone Use Behind the Wheel.”  2016.  Press release, Queensland University of Technology,

Research by Sunaga, Park, and Spence confirms that, all else being equal, things that are painted lighter colors are perceived to weigh less than items painted darker colors.  The team described their study “The present study examines how the lightness of packaging colors, and the location of products on a display shelf interact to affect consumers’ purchase decision‐making via perceived visual heaviness. As predicted, a display with light (dark) colored products positioned in the upper (lower) shelf positions increases shoppers’ perceptual fluency and facilitates their visual search, thus leading to the suggestion that ‘light’ (heavy) locations are most appropriate for light (dark) colored products. . . . .This research also demonstrates that when consumers consider the lightness (in terms of their weight) of the products, they are more likely to choose light (vs. dark) colored products located in the upper shelf positions. . . . consumers’ purchase decision‐making may be promoted by in‐store environments designed to be congruent with their sensory correspondences.”  This research also indicates, for example, that people will be more comfortable when darker colored objects and surfaces are closer to the floor/ground than lighter colored ones.

Tsutomu Sunaga, Jaewoo Park, and Charles Spence.  2016.  “Effects of Lightness-Location Congruency on Consumers’ Purchase Decision-Making.”  Psychology and Marketing, vol. 33, no. 1, pp. 934-950.


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