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.

October 2014

Rashid studied the implications of colocating members of an organization who had previously worked at dispersed sites.  He found that “the purpose of colocation [i.e., promoting interaction among employees] might be defeated if organizational behavior and culture were not modified simultaneously to promote workers’ perception in support of interaction freedom.”  In addition, “any colocation that does not take into account the organizational and design factors of individual departments before colocation may fail to achieve the desired outcomes related to informal interaction support, formal interaction support, workplace location, and interaction freedom after colocation.”

Mahbub Rashid.  2013.  “A Study of the Effects of Colocation on Office Workers’ Perception.”  Journal of Corporate Real Estate, vol. 15, no. 2, pp. 98-116.

October 2014

When you’ve been writing online surveys, have you been wondering whether to put the check box (this is the square people click in to select an option) to the left or the right of the text of response options when they’re listed vertically?  Wonder no more.  Lenzner, Kaczmirek, and Galesic studied this issue, finding that  “questionnaire designers are advised to strive for layouts that facilitate the response process and reduce the effort required to select an answer. . . . placing the answer boxes to the left of left-aligned answer options. . . . [Results in] respondents require[ing] less cognitive effort . . . to select an answer.”

Timo Lenzner, Lars Kaczmirek, and Mirta Galesic. 2014.   “Left Feels Right:  A Usability Study on the Position of Answer Boxes in Web Surveys.”  Social Science Computer Review, vol. 32, no. 6, pp. 743-764.

October 2014

If you’re selecting landmarks to help people find their way through a site, consider some that aren’t visual.  Hamburger and Rose determined that nonvisual information, for example sounds, can be effective landmarks, i.e., ones that helps people move efficiently through a space.

Kai Hamburger and Florian Roser.  2014.  “The Role of Landmark Modality and Familiarity in Human Wayfinding.”  Swiss Journal of Psychology, vol. 73, no. 4, pp. 205-213.

October 2014

Religious symbols in place can remind people about their religious beliefs.  Recent research has shown that “reminding people of their religious belief systems . . . reduce[d] hostility after threat.”  Religious belief systems were brought top of mind by asking study participants questions such as “Which religious belief system do you identify with?” The sorts of threatening experiences study participants experienced included being asked to think about their own death or failing to execute a project well.  The religious reminders didn’t influence the study participants who weren’t exposed to a threat.  In summary, “by invoking magnanimous ideals, a religious belief system prime promotes less hostile responses to threat.”

Karina Schumann, Ian McGregor, Kyle Nash, and Michael Ross.  2014.  “Religious Magnanimity:  Reminding People of Their Religious Belief System Reduces Hostility After Threat.”  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 107, no. 3, pp. 432-453.

October 2014

For better, or for worse, materials with visuals that seem scientific, such as graphs, are more persuasive than reports, etc., without them.  As Tal and Wansink determined, “The appearance of being scientific can increase persuasiveness. Even trivial cues can create such an appearance of a scientific basis. In our studies, including simple elements, such as graphs . . . or a chemical formula . . . increased belief in a medication’s efficacy. This appears to be due to the association of such elements with science, rather than increased comprehensibility, use of visuals, or recall. . . . people who have a greater belief in science are more affected by the presence of graphs. . . . trivial elements can increase public persuasion despite their not truly indicating scientific expertise or objective support.”

Aner Tal and Brian Wansink.  “Blinded With Science:  Trivial Graphs and Formulas Increase Ad Persuasiveness and Belief in Product Efficacy.”  Public Understanding of Science, in press.

October 2014

Environmental psychologists have been saying for years that too much transparency (literally) in workplaces and elsewhere can create difficult situations. Ethan Bernstein, a professor of leadership and organizational behavior at Harvard, has reached similar conclusions after synthesizing many years of research done by himself and others. He describes the transparency paradox: “For all that transparency does to drive out wasteful practices and promote collaboration and shared learning, too much of it can trigger distortions of fact and counterproductive inhibitions. Unrehearsed, experimental behaviors sometimes cease altogether. Wide-open workspaces and copious real-time data on how individuals spend their time can leave employees feeling exposed and vulnerable. Being observed changes their conduct. They start going to great lengths to keep what they’re doing under wraps, even if they have nothing bad to hide. If executives pick up on signs of covert activity, they instinctively start to monitor employee behavior even more intensely. And that just aggravates the problem.”  Bernstein supports “boundaries around individual teams—zones of attention—to avoid exposing every little action to the scrutiny of a crowd.”

Ethan Bernstein.  2014.  “The Transparency Trap.”  Harvard Business Review, http://hbr.org/2014/10/the-transparency-trap/ar/1.

October 2014

The American Society of Anesthesiologists has something they’d like you to know about music.  In a press release publicizing a study presented at the 2014 annual meeting they report that “Patients undergoing elective hysterectomies who listened to jazz music during their recovery experienced significantly lower heart rates. . . . But the research also found that silence is golden. Patients who wore noise-cancelling headphones also had lower heart rates, as well as less pain.”

“Take Note:  Study Shows Jazz and Silence Help Reduce Heart Rate After Surgery.”  2014. Press release, American Society of Anesthesiologists, http://www.newswise.com.

October 2014

Living near a major road doesn’t seem to be good for women.  According to Hart and her colleagues “Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is a major source of mortality and is the first manifestation of heart disease for the majority of cases. Thus, there is a definite need to identify risk factors for SCD that can be modified on the population level. Exposure to traffic, measured by residential roadway proximity, has been shown to be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. . . . women living within 50 meters of a major roadway had an elevated risk of SCD. . . . Among this sample of middle-aged and older women, roadway proximity was associated with an elevated and statistically significant risks of SCD and fatal CHD [coronary heart disease].”

Jaime Hart, Stephanie Chiuve, Francine Laden, and Christine Albert.  “Roadway Proximity and Rick of Suggen Cardiac Death in Women.”  Circulation, in press.

October 2014

A new study confirms that, as environmental psychologists learned long ago, we become friendly with people we interact with regularly because we all share some element of our environment, such as a walkway to our front doors, and the resulting friendships enhance our well being.  Easterbrook and Vignoles have learned that among people living in “shared student accommodation,” “Respondents living in flats with design features that encouraged the use of communal areas – a shared common area and an absence of ensuite toilets – reported unintentionally meeting their flatmates more frequently within their flats. This in turn predicted the initial strength of their interpersonal bonds with their flatmates, which in turn positively predicted their well-being. These effects were maintained throughout the 10-week study.”

Matthew Easterbrook and Vivian Vignoles.  “When Friendship Formation Goes Down the Toilet:  Design Features of Shared Accommodation Influence Interpersonal Bonds and Well-Being.”  British Journal of Social Psychology, in press.