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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.

July 2014

Research published in Human Factors confirms that interruptions while working have a negative effect on performance.  Foroughi, Werner, Nelson, and Boehm-Davis report that “the typical employee in an office environment is interrupted up to six times per hour.”  Foroughi and his team linked interruptions to lower quality work: “Two groups of participants were given time to outline and write an essay on an assigned topic. One group was interrupted multiple times with an unrelated task, and a control group had no interruptions. Independent graders scored the finished essays on a numbered scale. 

The researchers found significantly lower quality in essays completed by the participants who were interrupted during the outline and writing phases than in essays of those who were not interrupted. In addition, those participants who were interrupted during the writing phase wrote considerably fewer words.”

 “Say ‘No’ to Interruptions, ‘Yes’ to Better Work.”  2014.  Press release, Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, https://www.hfes.org/Web/DetailNews.aspx?ID=343.

July 2014

Researchers have identified an important difference in the reason people from Korean and American cultures personalize their cell phones; their work has implications for the personalization options and process provided for any designed object/location.  Sundar and Lee learned “In a study on culture and mobile phone customization. . . that people from Eastern cultures tend to be more motivated to change the look and sound of their mobile phones than people in Western countries.”  The research team found that “Koreans were more focused on how to fit into social situations. . . . They also were more likely to look at the actions of others to give them cues on behavior. Americans, on the other hand, valued self-expression more and were less worried about how others perceived them. This could be why Americans customize less, while Koreans accessorize their phones to a greater degree. . . . [people from] both cultures become more attached to the devices after they are customized.”  The researchers point out that the Korean culture is more collectivistic while the US’s is more individualistic.  For more information on designing for national culture, read this article, and review the Research Design Connections archives.   

“Mobile Phone Bling May Be a Personal, But Also Cultural Thing.”  2014.  Press release, http://www.psu.edu.

July 2014

People designing spaces where older adults can be expected to do cognitive work, for example, fill out medical forms, must make certain those areas are free of sensory distractions.  A team from Rice and Johns Hopkins reports that  “Older people are nearly twice as likely as their younger counterparts to have their memory and cognitive processes impaired by environmental distractions.” Two groups of people participated in this study; a set whose average age was 21 (with individual ages ranging from 18 to 32) and another with an average age of 71 (ranging between 64 and 82).  A press release from Rice University quotes Randi Martin, a professor there and one of the study’s co-authors: “’Almost any type of memory test administered reveals a decline in memory from the age of 25 on. . . . this is the first study to convincingly demonstrate the impact of environmental interference on processing having a greater impact on older than younger adults.’”

“Older Adults Nearly Twice as Likely to Have Memories Affected by Environmental Distractions.”  Press release, Rice University, http://news.rice.edu.

July 2014

A research team at the University of Exeter confirmed that gardens can enrich the lives of people with dementia.  Whear and her team report that they learned via a literature review that “gardens in care homes could provide promising therapeutic benefits for patients suffering from dementia. . . . outdoor spaces can offer environments that promote relaxation, encourage activity and reduce residents' agitation. . . . gardens could offer welcome spaces for interactions with visitors, helping to stimulate memories for dementia patients whilst providing wellbeing opportunities for families and staff.”  People interested in this topic should check out Cooper Marcus and Sach’s recent book and similar resources.  

“Study Reveals How Gardens Help Dementia Care.”  2014.  Press release, University of Exeter, http://www.exeter.ac.uk.

July 2014

Hatuka and Saaroni document the problems that ensue when park designers don’t realize that their work should reflect the local implications of global climate change.  The researchers report that “Though widely acknowledged, climate change and global warming considerations are poorly integrated in landscape planning practices. . . . [our] paper analyses the design of a contemporary urban park in Jaffa, Israel, investigating why climate considerations are so poorly addressed. . . . Though climate conditions are highly acknowledged, and aggravation in heat stress and discomfort conditions are well known in this region, planners and users alike prefer to suspend them in favour of image and aesthetics.."

Tali Hatuka and Hadas Saaroni.  2014.  “The Need for Advocating Regional Human Comfort Design Codes for Public Spaces:  A Case Study of a Mediterranean Urban Park.”  Landscape Research, vol. 39, no. 3, pp. 287-304.

July 2014

Aggarwal and Zhao have found that perceived height influences how people think.  They report “physical height or even the mere concept of height can impact the perceptual and conceptual levels of mental construal. . . . [people]  perceiving themselves to be physically “high” or elevated are more likely to adopt a global perceptual processing and higher level of conceptual construal, while those perceiving themselves to be physically “low” are more likely to adopt a local perceptual processing and lower level of conceptual construal.”   So, people who perceive themselves as high off the ground are more likely to take an abstract “why” type approach to resolving an issue while those who feel they’re close to the ground are prone to have a more pragmatic “how” type orientation.  These findings indicate the value of using seats at different heights above the floor in different circumstances and conference rooms on higher or lower floors for different types of meetings, for example.  For other similar information reported in Research Design Connections, see this article.

Pankaj Aggarwal and Min Zhao.  “Seeing the Big Picture:  The Effect of Height on the Level of Construal.”  Journal of Marketing Research, in press. 

July 2014

Wang and her colleagues have learned that people of all ages often overestimate the amount of information they can gather via vision.  As the researchers state, “Humans gain a wide range of knowledge through interacting with the environment. Each aspect of our perceptual experiences offers a unique source of information about the world-colours are seen, sounds heard and textures felt. . . . adults, like children, overestimate the informativeness of vision.”  This “overestimation” can be manifested in multiple ways, for example, seeing an object and without touching it inferring its weight.

J. Wang, D. Miletich, R. Ramsey, and D. Samson.  2014.  “Adults See Vision To Be More Informative Than It Is.”  Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, vol. 22, pp. 1-14.

July 2014

Susskind’s research on consumer responses to sustainable design elements can be applied in contexts beyond the hotel guest rooms in which it was conducted.  Susskind learned that “Subtle energy saving changes in guest rooms did not diminish satisfaction, based on a study of 192 guests at an independent four-star hotel. Two changes were tested, a television with three energy settings and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) in place of the standard compact fluorescent lightings (CFLs).”  Other information on user responses to sustainable design is reported here, for example.

Alex Susskind.  2014.  “Guests’ Reactions to In-Room Sustainability Initiatives:  An Experimental Look at Product Performance and Guest Satisfaction.”  Cornell Hospitality Quarterly, vol. 55, no. 3, pp. 228-238.

July 2014

Taste-related words have a special influence on the way that we think.  This research finding may be useful to designers as they plan discussions with clients and each other and may also foreshadow future findings from studies focused on other sensory experiences.  A team of scientists from Princeton and the Free University of Berlin have learned that “taste-related metaphors such as ‘sweet’ actually engage the emotional centers of the brain more than literal words such as ‘kind’ that have the same meaning.”

“Neural Sweet Talk:  Taste Metaphors Emotionally Engage the Brain.”  2014.  Press release, Princeton University, http://www.princeton.edu.