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RDC Blog

January 2012

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.

This is a forum to discuss recent research of interest to designers. To comment on a blog entry, please send an e-mail message to sallyaugustin@researchdesignconnections.com.

April 2014

Sellaro and her team have learned that our professional performance is best when we’re in a space that aligns with the temperatures we prefer.  This finding fine tunes knowledge derived from previous studies investigating the optimal temperature for workplaces.  The researchers determined that “subjective preferences are more reliable predictors of performance than objective temperature and that performing under the preferred temperature may counteract ‘ego-depletion’ (i.e., reduced self-control after an exhausting cognitive task) when substantial cognitive control is required.”  People in the study indicated their preference for cool or warm temperatures and completed the test tasks in spaces that were cool (59 degrees Fahrenheit), warm (77 degrees Fahrenheit), or a neutral temperature (68 degrees Fahrenheit).  Participants did their best cognitive work in the spaces that aligned with their preferred temperature (i.e., people who preferred cool temperatures did best in the space that was 59 degrees Fahrenheit). 

Roberta Sellaro, Bernhard Hommel, Meriem Manai, and Lorenza Colzato.  “Preferred, But Not Objective Temperature Predicts Working Memory Depletion.”  Psychological Research, in press.

April 2014

Amazeen’s research indicates that a box's shape influences its apparent weight.  Designers can use this information to create symmetrical or logical displays, for example - people generally expect heavier objects to be lower in a pile than lighter ones, so heavier appearing objects higher in a stack seems illogical.  Amazeen determined that “increasing width produced a greater . . . drop . . . in perceived heaviness . . . than increasing height”

Eric Amazeen. 2014.  “Box Shape Influences the Size-Weight Illusion During Individual and Team Lifting.”  Human Factors:  The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, vol. 56, no. 3, pp. 581-591.

April 2014

Researchers have found that experiencing bright light in the morning helps keep us thin.  As a press release reports, researchers at Northwestern University’s medical school found that  “the timing, intensity, and duration of your light exposure during the day is linked to your weight. . . . People who had most of their daily exposure to even moderately bright light in the morning had a significantly lower body mass index (BMI) than those who had most of their light exposure later in the day.” Statistical tests were use to eliminate the following factors as explanations for the effect found:  “an individual’s physical activity level, caloric intake, sleep timing, age, and the season of the year.”  Designers can therefore help combat the obesity epidemic by siting buildings to maximize user exposure to morning sun, for example.

“Morning Sunlight Keeps Off the Points.” 2014.  Press release, Northwestern University, https://our.northwestern.edu

April 2014

Researchers have determined that the color red communicates danger. As Pravossoudovitch and her team describe, there is “an implicit association between red and danger. Our findings confirm the wisdom of using red to communicate danger in systematic signal systems, and suggest that red may be used more broadly in other communication contexts to efficiently convey danger-relevant information.”

Karyn Pravossoudovitch, Francois Cury, Steve Young, and Andrew Elliot.  2014.  “Is Red the Colour of Danger? Testing an Implicit Red-Danger Association.”  Ergonomics, vol. 57, no. 4, pp. 503-510.

April 2014

British practitioners/researchers installed a new signage system in several hospitals (images are available at the website noted below).  They determined that effective signage in customer service areas not only helps people navigate from one area of a hospital to another, but provides information that helps keep people in a space calm.  The signage tested “has been found to reduce aggression and violence by 50 percent.” 

This common sense finding is applicable in all complex environments visited by the public, not just hospitals.

More specifically, the research team learned that “’A lot of the frustration that leads to anger is just a lack of knowledge and a lack of understanding about how things work,’ explained [PearsonLloyd director Tom Lloyd]. ‘It's caused by patients not understanding the clinical language or the process or why someone who arrives after them is seen before them.’  The proposed solution focuses on placing key information in relevant locations within the waiting room and consultation areas so patients are constantly aware of where they are and how long each part of the process might take. . . . Vertical panels throughout the department explain the activities that take place in each space and their consistent appearance makes them easily identifiable.  Live information about how busy the department is and predicted waiting times for different assessments are displayed on monitors.”

“Signage System Design for Hospitals ‘Reduces Violence by 50 Percent.”  2014.  De Zeen, http://www.dezeen.com/2013/12/02/hospital-redesign-by-pearsonlloyd-reduc....

April 2014

Gantman and Van Bavel report on their recent work on pareidolia, or “seeing something significant in an ambiguous stimulus.”  Their studies indicate that “moral content gave a ‘boost’ to perceptually ambiguous stimuli.”  Moral content can be related to fundamental human, survival related needs:  “Think about how you experience food when you are hungry . . . When you are hungry, food seems to ‘pop out’ and capture your attention. . . . In the moral domain, such ‘hunger’ may take the form of a desire to redress injustice.”

Ana Gantman and Jay Van Bavel.  2014 (April 6).  “Is That Jesus in Your Toast?”  New York Times, p. 12, Review Section.

April 2014

Ridgway and Myers investigated emotions linked to particular logo colors.  Their research does not indicate how colors used on surfaces or in lighting influence humans emotionally.  For information on the psychological implications of using particular colors, see Colors to Buy, Work, Live, Heal and Play By.  Ridgway and Myers learned that “blue logos invoked feelings of confidence, success and reliability; green logos invoked perceptions of environmental friendliness, toughness durability, masculinity and sustainability; purple logos invoked femininity, glamor and charm, pink logos gave the perception of youth, imagination and fashionable; yellow logos invoked perceptions of fun and modernity; and red logos brought feelings of expertise and self-assurance."

Jessica Ridgway and Beth Myers.  “A Study on Brand Personality:  Consumers’ Perceptions of Colours Used in Fashion Brand Logos.”  International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education, in press.

April 2014

Dubois, Rucker, and Galinsky have confirmed that sometimes people select options because of perceptions of their own social status.  The reported findings can be useful to designers presenting options to clients or synthesizing design-programming data.  As the researchers report, “consumers view larger-sized options within a set as having greater status. . . . states of powerlessness led individuals to disproportionately choose larger . . . options from an assortment. . . . this preference for larger-sized options was enhanced when consumption was public, reversed when the size-to-status relationship was negative (i.e., smaller was equated with greater status), and mediated by consumers’ need for status. . . . choosing a product on the basis of its relative size allows consumers to signal status.”

David Dubois, Derek Rucker, and Adam Galinsky.  2014.  “Super Size Me:  Product Size as a Signal of Status.”  Journal of Consumer Research, vol. 38, no. 6, pp. 1047-1062.

April 2014

Smart Growth America has issued a new report, highlighting the differential effects of sprawl and compact, connected development.  Their work is based on an index combining “residential and employment density; neighborhood mix of homes, jobs and services; strength of activity centers and downtowns; and accessibility of the street network.”  In previous studies  “sprawl has been linked to physical inactivity, obesity, traffic fatalities, poor air quality, residential energy use, emergency response times, teenage driving, lack of social capital and private-vehicle commute distances and times.”  The 2014 study reports “Individuals in compact, connected metro areas have greater economic mobility. Individuals in these areas spend less on the combined cost of housing and transportation, and have greater options for the type of transportation to take. In addition, individuals in compact, connected metro areas tend to live longer, safer, healthier lives than their peers in metro areas with sprawl. Obesity is less prevalent in compact counties, and fatal car crashes are less common.”

Smart Growth America.  2014.  Measuring Sprawl 2014, http://www.smartgrowthamerica.org/measuring-sprawl