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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.

August 2014

Researchers have learned why humans enjoy being in the sun.  Designers can use their findings to make it more likely that people will use certain spaces during daylight hours, for example, by installing windows and light tubes to fill them with sunlight.  Sanders reports that Fell, Robinson, Mao, Woolf, and Fisher found that “Ultraviolet light causes mice to churn out an opiate-like molecule. . . . This feel-good molecule, called beta-endorphin, may explain why some people seem addicted to tanning.  The results may also explain why people are more generally drawn to sunny spots, says dermatologist and public health scientist Steven Feldman of Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C.”  Feldman was not part of the research team lead by Fell.

Laura Sanders.  2014.  “Sunbathing May Boost Endorphins in the Body and Brain.” Science News, https://www.sciencenews.org/article/sunbathing-may-boost-endorphins-body-and-brain.

August 2014

Time of day can influence how sensory experiences affect mood.  Brabant and Tolviainen report on their recent work: “According to the Hindustani music tradition, the ability of a song to induce certain emotions depends on the time of day: playing a song at the right time is said to maximise its emotional effect. The present exploratory study investigated this claim. . . . [study] results showed that sad and tender clips were rated higher on sadness and tenderness in the morning compared to the afternoon. Furthermore, the more tired the participants were in the afternoon, the higher was their perception of fear in angry and fearful music.” 

Olivier Brabant and Petri Tolviainen.  2014.  “Diurnal Changes in the Perception of Emotions in Music:  Does the Time of Day Matter?”  Musicae Scientiae, vol. 18, no. 3, pp. 256-274.

August 2014

Researchers pondering whether it matters if a survey is completed on a cell phone or on the web can apply Woo, Kim, and Couper’s findings.  This research team determined that a “cell phone survey has an advantage over the Web survey in terms of response rates, coverage of key domains, and item nonresponse [in other words, more data are collected via cell phone surveys] . . . cell phone surveys may be useful for surveys in populations with universal or near-universal coverage, and where cell use may be more popular than Internet use.”

Youngie Woo, Sunwoong Kim, and Mick Couper.  “Comparing a Cell Phone Survey and Web Survey of University Students.”  Social Science Computer Review, in press.

August 2014

What do symbols do?  The answer to this question is relevant to design because symbols are often employed in practice.  Akaka and her research team have found that“symbols support the coordination of interaction, the communication of information, the integration of resources, and the evaluation of value among actors.”

Melissa Akaka, Daniela Corsaro, Paul Maglio, Yuri Seo, Robert Lusch, Stephen Vargo.  2014.  “The Role of Symbols in Value Cocreation.”  Marketing Theory, vol. 14, no. 3, pp. 311-326.

August 2014

Lilius investigated the lives of families with children living in inner cities.  She found that “urban living reduces the sharp divide between life before having children and family life. Urban parents stay in the city for much the same reasons they first moved there: because they are attracted to population density, good amenities and good public transport. . . . there is a lack of understanding among city planners and politicians about family needs in the inner city. . . . modernist ideals on proper family living still prevail. . . . planning must acknowledge that exclusionary life stages are eroding and creating a need to facilitate multiple forms of lifestyles.”

Johanna Lilius.  2014.  “Is There Room for Families in the Inner City?  Life-Stage Blenders Challenging Planning.”  Housing Studies, vol. 29, no. 6, pp. 843-861.

August 2014

Nieuwenhuis and his team have confirmed the value of adding plants to workplace environments. 

This research is timely because, as the researchers describe, “Principles of lean office management increasingly call for space to be stripped of extraneous decorations so that it can flexibly accommodate changing numbers of people and different office functions within the same area.”

In a series of experiments, most involving actual workplaces and workers and with data collected over long periods of time, the investigators found that “enriching a previously lean office with plants served to significantly increase workplace satisfaction, self-reported levels of concentration, and perceived air quality. . . . enriching space also improved perceived productivity. . . and actual productivity. . . . simply enriching a previously spartan space with plants served to increase productivity by 15%. . . . a green office leads to more work engagement among employees. . . . the results unambiguously indicated that participants who worked in green office space were more productive than their counterparts who worked in a lean office space. Tasks were completed faster and— importantly—without any accompanying rise in errors.” 

Plants used by the researchers were green, leafy (as opposed to cactuses), and had an average height of 90 centimeters (about a yard).  In “green” test conditions, subjects could see at least one, and generally between one and three of these plants while working.  No plants were visible to participants working in lean spaces. 

For additional information on the benefits of designing in plants, read this article.

Marlon Nieuwenhuis, Craig Knight, Tom Postmes, and S. Haslam.  “The Relative Benefits of Green Versus Lean Office Space:  Three Field Experiments.”  Journal of Experimental Psychology:  Applied, in press.

August 2014

Researchers Justin Moss and Jon Maner of Florida State University have conducted research that again illustrates what interesting creatures humans are.  Their work has repercussions for the design/soundscapes of healthcare facilities and homes, for example.  The team learned that “The subtle sound of a ticking clock can quite literally speed up a woman’s reproductive timing. That is, the sound of a ticking clock can lead women to want to start a family at an earlier age, especially if she was raised in a lower socio-economic community. . . . Reproductive timing refers to the time frame and the specific years during which people begin to focus their energy and resources towards bearing and caring for their offspring.

“Tick-Tock:  How to Speed Up a Woman’s Biological Clock.”  2014.  Press release, Human Nature [journal], http://www.springer.com.

August 2014

Research completed at the Rotman School of Management highlights the social implications of living in a “tight” or “loose” culture.  Designers can use this information when planning interactions with clients and suggesting design options, for example.  As stated in Rotman’s press release, “Tight cultures such as those in China, Germany, and Pakistan have a lower tolerance for deviation from cultural norms and may even impose severe sanctions for doing so. Loose cultures, such as in the U.S., New Zealand and Hungary, tend to be more open to change, and experience higher rates of change than tight cultures.” Norway was also identified as a tight culture by researchers.  Additional information on tight and loose cultures and lists of cultures that are classified into each group is available online, by Googling “tight loose culture.”

“Gender Quotas Work in ‘Tight’ Cultures, Says New Paper from the University of Toronto.”  2014.  Press release, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, http://www.rotman.utoronto.ca.

August 2014

Frank Duffy, an important workplace design researcher, has contributed material to a new book on urban design.  He reports that “The concept of the “intelligent building” . . . is based on the unrealistic assumption that automated environmental control mechanisms will have the capacity to anticipate, and respond to, open–ended user expectations and ever changing patterns of occupancy. The very term is an excellent example of a “pathetic fallacy”, the belief that lifeless objects, on their own, can anticipate change. The practical implication of this argument is that the software of space management must become at least as “intelligent” as the design of the hardware of the buildings themselves – perhaps much more so. Space management for many organisations is already transcending isolated, individual buildings and will have to expand through time and space to embrace the accommodation of the totality of ever shifting networks, connecting people, wherever they happen to be, in multiple organisations in many buildings – and places – of many different types.”

Frank Duffy. 2014.  “A Time and a Place for Everything.”  In Cities for Smart Environmental and Energy Futures, edited by Stamatina Rassia, and Panos Pardalos, Springer:  New York, pp. 1-7.