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.

December 2014

Yamasaki and colleagues investigated how music heard influences perceptions of places.  They learned via a field experiment “wherein participants were asked to rate their impression of four different environments (a quiet residential area, traveling by train in the suburbs, at a busy crossroads, and in a tranquil park area) . . . while listening to music (which varied regarding level of perceived activation [high or low energy] and valence [positive or negative]) or in silence. . . . that the evaluation of the environment was in general affected in the direction of the characteristics of the music. . . . For example, highly active music increased the activation ratings of environments, which were perceived as inactive without music, whereas inactive music decreased the activation ratings of environments which were perceived as highly active without music. Also, highly positive music increased the positivity ratings of the environments. In sum, the findings suggest that music may function as a prism that modifies the impression of one’s surroundings.”

Teruo Yamasaki, Keiko Yamada, Petri Laukka and Osaka Shoin.  2015.  “Viewing the World Through the Prism of Music:  Effects of Music on Perceptions of the Environment.”  Psychology of Music, vol. 43, no. 1, pp. 61-74.

December 2014

How much people are willing to pay for things is an indication of how much they are valued.  Dong learned that during “the recent housing recession in the Portland, Oregon. . . . single-family homes that are closer to the central city held their value better . . . which might be a sign of recentralization. The effects of new urbanist features on home appreciation rate, however, were moderate and many of them were neutral or even negative.”

Hongwei Dong.  “Were Home Prices in New Urbanist Neighborhoods More Resilient in the Recent Housing Downturn?” Journal of Planning Education and Research, in press.

December 2014

Design is increasingly being customized for users based on individual differences, such as personality.  Researchers have learned that weather conditions can influence scores on “personality self-ratings. . . . self-ratings for some personality domains differed depending on the weather conditions on the day the inventory was completed. When compared with corresponding self-ratings collected under mixed weather conditions, ratings for . . . Openness to Experience were significantly lower on rainy days and ratings for Conscientiousness were significantly lower on sunny days.”

Beatrice Rammstedt, Michael Mutz, and Richard Farmer.  “The Answer is Blowing in the Wind:  Weather Effects on Personality Ratings.”  European Journal of Psychological Assessment, in press.

December 2014

Ability to hear is related to sense of balance among older people—better hearing, better balance.  This finding has implications for the design of spaces that hard-of-hearing oldsters will frequent.  Researchers report that “Epidemiologic studies indicate that there is a correlation between hearing loss and the risk of falling among older people.”  Via a study of people over 65 years of age who wear hearing aids in both ears, Rumalla, Karim and Hullar found that “hearing aids are a novel treatment modality for imbalance in older adults with hearing loss and suggest that wearing hearing aids may offer a significant public-health benefit for avoiding falls in this population.”

Kavelin Rumalla, Adham Karim, and Timpry Hullar.  “The Effect of Hearing Aids on Postural Stability.”  The Laryngoscope, in press.

December 2014

Schwartz and Porath surveyed 19,000 employed people to learn what those individuals thought increased their work-related satisfaction and performance.  The researchers found “that people feel better and perform better and more sustainably when four basic needs are met: renewal (physical); value (emotional), focus (mental) and purpose (spiritual). . . . The opportunity and encouragement to intermittently rest and renew our energy during the work day serves as an antidote to the increasing overload so many of us feel. . . . Feeling valued creates a deeper level of trust and security at work, which frees us to spend less energy seeking and defending our value, and more energy creating it. . . . better focus makes it possible get more work done, in less time, at a higher level of quality. . . . the sense that what we do matters and serves something larger than our immediate self-interest – is a uniquely powerful source of motivation. . . . meeting even one of the four core needs had a dramatic impact on every performance variable . . . studied.”  Details on the size of the specific effects found are available at the web address noted, below.  Workplace design can contribute directly to feeling refreshed and valued and being able to focus on the task at hand.

Tony Schwartz and Christine Porath.  2014.  “The Power of Meeting Your Employees’ Needs.”  Harvard Business Review, https://hbr.org/2014/06/the-power-of-meeting-your-employees-needs/

December 2014

Bernstein has studied transparency and boundaries, some of which have physical form and some of which don’t.  He has determined that “Some organizations . . . have found the sweet spot between privacy and transparency, getting the benefits of both.  They used four types of boundaries to establish certain zones of privacy within open environments:  They created [physical] boundaries around individual teams—zones of attention—to avoid exposing every little action to the scrutiny of a crowd.  They drew boundaries between feedback and evaluation—delineating zones of judgment—to avoid politicking and efforts wasted on managing impressions.  They set boundaries between decision rights and improvement rights—establishing zones of slack—to avoid driving out tinkering.  And they put boundaries around carefully defined periods of experimentation—zones of time—to avoid both too frequent and too infrequent interruptions.  Across several studies involving different industries, cultures, and types of work, the companies that had done all this were the ones that consistently got the most innovative, productive, and thoughtful work from their employees.”

Ethan Bernstein.  2014.  “The Transparency Trap.”  Harvard Business Review, vol. 92, no. 10, pp. 59-66.

December 2014

Kirk reports that it is important to present data collected visually.  He concludes that “If statistics can be said to describe and quantify the characteristics of data, visualization is what enables us to actually see the data.  In harmony, they give us the most thorough understanding of data.”  Many techniques for visually presenting data are illustrated at the web address noted below.

Andy Kirk.  2014.  “Visualising Statistics:  The Importance of Seeing Not Just Describing Data.”  Statistics Views, http://www.statisticsviews.com/details/feature/6314441/Visualising-Stati....

December 2014

Researchers at the University of Kansas have linked living in a walkable community with better cognitive functioning among the elderly.  Their study, presented at the 2014 meeting of the Gerontological Society of America determined that “neighborhoods that motivate walking can stave off cognitive decline in older adults.”  Watts, one of the study authors reports that “’Features of a neighborhood that encourage walking for transportation require having someplace worth walking to, like neighbors’ houses, stores and parks.’ Watts said neighborhoods that inspire walking for leisure also are full of pleasant things to look at, like walking trails or shade provided by trees. Also, such neighborhoods should make people feel secure on foot. ‘For older adults, safety is a key issue in walkability,’ she said. ‘That includes things like traffic lights that give ample time to cross, sidewalks that are in good repair, and benches to stop and rest.’”  In addition, “intricate community layouts might help to keep cognition sharp, rather than serve as a source of confusion in older adults. ‘There seems to be a component of a person’s mental representation of the spatial environment, for example, the ability to picture the streets like a mental map,’ Watts said. ‘Complex environments may require more complex mental processes to navigate.’”  Statistical techniques were used to eliminate gender, education, and wealth as explanations for the effect found.

“Research Shows Easy-to-Walk Communities Can Blunt Cognitive Decline.”  2014.  Press release, University of Kansas, http://www.news.ku.edu.

December 2014

Anderson studied domestic interiors through history.  She learned that “By the 1880s those proffering guidance on domestic decor were in agreement on one point: interiors had to be “harmonious.” This meant understanding the importance of color, form, and texture in fashioning the “model” interior popularly known as a House Beautiful; like a work of art, interiors were now compositions that required careful orchestration. Domestic advice pundits constantly drew analogies with both painting and music. . . . A preference for secondary and tertiary colors exemplified superior cognition, as the common herd was apparently unable to appreciate subtle shades or tones. . . . Although such unity of design would be hard to sustain, contemporary paint manufacturers still offer neutral or low tones with artful names. . . . Judging by current marketing strategies, a preference for subtle tones is still perceived as a mark of social distinction.”

Anne Anderson.  2014.  “Harmony in the Home:  Fashioning the ‘Model’ Artistic Home or Aesthetic House Beautiful Through Color and Form.”  Interiors:  Design, Architecture and Culture, vol. 5, no. 3, pp. 341-360.