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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.

May 2015

Awe, which can result from being in or viewing both built and natural environments,  is a hot research topic.  For more on experiencing awe, read this article and this one. Piff and colleagues learned that “awe may help situate individuals within broader social contexts and enhance collective concern. . . . awe may encourage people to forego strict self interest to improve the welfare of others”

Paul Piff, Pia Dietze, Matthew Feinberg, Daniel Stancato, and Dacher Keltner.  2015.  “Awe, the Small Self, and Prosocial Behavior.”  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 108, no. 6, pp. 883-899.

May 2015

Preferred acoustics seem to vary by culture.  Steven Waller learned that “the response of audiences and performers to acoustic characteristics is a function of their worldview, and it is as fluid as the environment they inhabit. . . . [Waller reports that] "’It's a parallel to 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder': perfect performance spaces are really in the ear of the listener. Today we value qualities like clarity--how it makes a modern orchestra sound . . . whereas prior to sound wave theory, echoes were considered mysterious and divine.’"

“From Reverberating Chaos to Concert Halls, Good Acoustics is Culturally Subjective.”  2015.  Press release, Acoustical Society of America, http://acousticalsociety.org.

May 2015

Babisch reports that sound may be having a significant negative effect on human health.  He shares that “The evidence is increasing that ambient noise levels below hearing damaging intensities are associated with the occurrence of metabolic disorders (type 2 diabetes), high blood pressure (hypertension), coronary heart diseases (including myocardial infarction), and stroke. Environmental noise from transportation noise sources, including road, rail and air traffic, is increasingly recognized as a significant public health issue. . . . it is not simply the accumulated total sound energy that causes the adverse effects. Instead, the individual situation and the disturbed activity need to be taken into account (time activity patterns). It may very well be that an average sound pressure level of 85 decibels (dB) at work causes less of an effect than 65 dB at home when carrying out mental tasks or relaxing after a stressful day, or 50 dB when being asleep.”

Wolfgang Babisch.  2015.  “Cardiovascular Effects of Noise on Man.”  Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, Pittsburgh, PA, http://acousticalsociety.org.

May 2015

Researchers continue to study the psychological implications of seeing red.  Previous research has been reported here.   Wiedemann, Burt, Hill, and Barton report that  “In humans, red stimuli are perceived as more threatening and dominant than other colours, and wearing red increases the probability of winning sporting contests.” They studied responses to photographs of men that were digitally altered so that those pictured were wearing red, blue, or gray clothing.  They determined “Men were rated as more aggressive . . . when presented in red than when presented in either blue or grey. . . . In a categorization test, images were significantly more often categorized as ‘angry’ when presented in the red condition. . . This suggests that the colour red may be a cue used to predict propensity for dominance and aggression in human males.”

Diana Wiedemann, D. Burt, Russell Hill, and Robert Barton.  2015.  “Red Clothing Increases Perceived Dominance, Aggression and Anger.”  Biology Letters, vol. 11, no. 5, no pagination.

May 2015

Researchers at Cornell learned that sound levels being experienced influence the taste of food and their findings will be published in Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance.  Dando and Yan, “While examining how airplane noise affects the palate, . . . found sweetness suppressed and a tasty, tender tomato surprise: umami. A Japanese scientific term, umami describes the sweet, savory taste of amino acids such as glutamate in foods like tomato juice, and according to the new study, in noisy situations – like the 85 decibels aboard a jetliner – umami-rich foods become your taste bud’s best buds. ‘Our study confirmed that in an environment of loud noise, our sense of taste is compromised. Interestingly, this was specific to sweet and umami tastes, with sweet taste inhibited and umami taste significantly enhanced,’ said Robin Dando, assistant professor of food science. ‘The multisensory properties of the environment where we consume our food can alter our perception of the foods we eat.’”

“When Flying, Taste Buds Prefer Savory Tomato.”  2015.  Press release, Cornell University, http://mediarelations.cornell.edu

May 2015

Maula and his team investigated the effect of slightly elevated temperatures on performance.  In a lab mock-up of a “realistic work environment,” performance in a space at “29°C (84 degrees F) . . . [was compared to one at]  23°C (73 degrees F). . . . [after 3 and a half hours] slightly warm temperature caused concentration difficulties.”

H. Maula, V. Hongisto, L. Ostman, A. Haapakangas, H. Kosekela, and J. Hyona.  2015.  “The Effect of Slightly Warm Temperature on Work Performance and Comfort in Open-Plan Offices – A Laboratory Study.”  Indoor Air, in press.

May 2015

DeLoach, Carter, and Braasch recently presented information at the annual meeting of the Acoustical Society of America confirming that hearing nature sounds while working supports human performance.  They report on “work by Braasch and his graduate student Mikhail Volf, which showed that people's ability to regain focus improved when they were exposed to natural sounds versus silence or machine-based sounds.”

“’Natural’ Sounds Improve Mood and Productivity, Study Finds.”  2015.  Press release, Acoustical Society of America, http://www.newswise.com/articles/natural-sounds-improves-mood-and-productivity-study-finds.

May 2015

Need another reason to include nature in upcoming projects?  Zelenski, Dopko, and Capaldi found that being exposed to nature increased cooperative behavior among participants in their studies. People participating in this project experienced nature via videos shown and not actually by being in nature.  The nature exposure had another benefit: “Participants exposed to nature videos responded more cooperatively on a measure of social value orientation and indicated greater willingness to engage in environmentally sustainable behaviors.”

John Zelenski, Raelyne Dopko, and Colin Capaldi.  2015.  “Cooperation Is in Our Nature:  Nature Exposure May Promote Cooperative and Environmentally Sustainable Behavior.”  Journal of Environmental Psychology, vol. 42, pp. 24-31.

May 2015

People have been working at home since they’ve been working. Holliss reviews the evolution of home workplaces.  Her work provides an interesting international context for the current development of new homes and at-home workplaces.

Frances Hollis.  2015.  Beyond Live/Work:  The Architecture of Home-Based Work.  Routledge:  New York.