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 2015

Need to make it easier for people to find their way through a space?  Add scents.  Jacobs, Arter, Cook, and Sulloway have learned that “Like homing pigeons, humans have a nose for navigation because our brains are wired to convert smells into spatial information. . . . While humans may lack the scent-tracking sophistication of, say, a search-and-rescue dog, we can sniff our way, blindfolded, toward a location whose scent we’ve smelled only once before. . . . Early sailors and aviators gave anecdotal reports of using odors to navigate, but there have been no experiential scientific studies on this until now.”

“Humans’ Built-In GPS Is Our 3-D Sense of Smell.”  2015.  Press release, University of California Berkeley, http://www.news.berkeley.edu.

June 2015

Want to describe something in a way that’s memorable?  Use a sensory metaphor.  As Akpinar and Berger report, “There are multiple ways to convey the same thing and phrases with similar meanings often act as substitutes, competing for usage. A not so friendly person, for example, can be described as unfriendly or cold. . . . compared with their semantic equivalents (e.g., unfriendly person), phrases which relate to senses in metaphoric ways (e.g., cold person) [are] more culturally successful. . . . Experimental evidence demonstrates that sensory metaphors are more memorable because they relate more to the senses and have more associative cues.”

Ezgi Akpinar and Jonah Berger.  “Drivers of Cultural Success:  The Case of Sensory Metaphors.”  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, in press.

June 2015

People who are happier see the world differently than individuals who aren’t as happy, which can explain variations in responses to spaces by user groups as well as different reactions to environments by designers and users.  Raila and her team learned that happy and satisfied people attend to (and therefore see) the world differently. . . . people who are happy and satisfied with life may literally see the world in a more positive light, as if through rose-colored glasses.”

Hannah Raila, Brian Scholl, and June Gruber.  “Seeing the World Through Rose-Colored Glasses:  People Who Are Happy and Satisfied with Life Preferentially Attend to Positive Stimuli.” Emotion, in press.

June 2015

A new study confirms that hearing traffic noise is bad for our health, further supporting actions such as using acoustic insulation in homes and sound dampening material on roadways.  Research by Halonen and associates published in the European Heart Journal indicates that “Living in an area with noisy road traffic may reduce life expectancy. . . . The findings suggest a link between long-term exposure to road traffic noise and deaths, as well as a greater risk of stroke, particularly in the elderly. . . . Researchers analysed data for 8.6 million people living in London between 2003 and 2010. They looked at levels of road traffic noise during the day (7am-11pm) and at night (11pm-7am) across different postcodes, comparing this to deaths and hospital admissions in each area for adults (aged 25 and over) and the elderly (aged 75 and over). Deaths were 4% more common among adults and the elderly in areas with daytime road traffic noise of more than 60dB compared to areas with less than 55dB.  The researchers say the deaths are most likely to be linked to heart or blood vessel disease (cardiovascular disease). They say this could be due to increased blood pressure, sleep problems and stress from the noise. Adults living in areas with the noisiest daytime traffic (more than 60dB) were 5% more likely to be admitted to hospital for stroke compared to those who lived in quieter areas (less than 55dB), which went up to 9% in the elderly. Night time noise (55-60 dB) from road traffic was also associated with a 5% increased stroke risk, but only in the elderly.”

“Road Traffic Noise Linked to Deaths and Increased Strokes.”  2015.  Press release, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, http://www.lshtm.ac.uk.

June 2015

A recent study links being in a good mood with more creative sorts of thinking; multiple previous studies have also shown that design can affect mood.  As Myers and Sar detail “Positive mood state was shown to facilitate the induction of mental imagery processing, . . . . negative mood . . . appeared to encourage a detail-oriented analytical processing.”

Jun Myers and Sela Sar.  2015.  “The Influence of Consumer Mood State as Contextual Factor on Imagery-Inducing Advertisements and Brand Attitude.”  Journal of Marketing Communications, vol. 21, no. 4, pp. 284-299.

June 2015

Our perceptions of the neighborhoods where we live influences cellular aging within our bodies.  Park and colleagues “examined whether neighborhood quality was associated with leukocyte telomere length, an indicator of cellular aging. . . . Neighborhood quality was assessed using modified measures of perceived neighborhood disorder [for example, vandalism], fear of crime, and noise. . . . . individual and community characteristics related to socioeconomic and demographic status, urbanization level, mental and physical health, and lifestyle [were eliminated as explanations for effects found using statistical tools]. . . . Compared to individuals who reported good neighborhood quality, the mean telomere length of those who reported moderate neighborhood quality was approximately 69 base pair shorter . . . and that of those who reported poor neighborhood quality were 174 base pair shorter. . . . For illustrative purposes, one could extrapolate these outcomes to 8.7 and 11.9 years in chronological age, respectively.”  So, people who felt they lived in neighborhoods with high levels of vandalism, noise, etc., were about a decade older, biologically, than people who didn’t feel they lived in these sorts of environments who were born in the same year they were; their bodies were in much worse condition than would be expected in someone of their chronological age.

Mijung Park, Josine Verhoeven, Pim Cuijpers, Charles Reynolds, and Brenda Penninx.  “Where You Live May Make You Old:  The Association Between Perceived Poor Neighborhood Quality and Leukicyte Telomore Length.” PloS ONE, http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0128460

June 2015

Usher’s research has produced an interesting new example of the symbolic power of place.  She found that  “Across the United States, newspapers are physically relocating their headquarters to smaller spaces, often away from the centers of downtown. This is the latest manifestation of the newspaper crisis manifest through a tangible and visible public manner. . . . physical newsroom moves are perceived to impact coverage, . . . objects inside the newsroom can also be symbols of newsroom decline and invigoration, and . . . saying goodbye to a building gives journalists the sense they may perhaps be losing their institutional relevance.”

Nikki Usher.  “Newsroom Moves and the Newspaper Crisis Evaluated:  Space, Place, and Cultural Meaning.” Media Culture Society, in press.

June 2015

Research by Ditta and Storm indicates that when talking to users about their experience with a place or an object, it may be more productive to ask about prior experiences before moving on to review anticipated future ones.  They determined that People are able to imagine events in the future that have not yet happened, an ability referred to as episodic future thinking. . . . we show that engaging in episodic future thinking can cause related autobiographical memories . . . and episodic event descriptions . . . to become less recallable in the future than they would have been otherwise. This finding suggests that episodic future thinking can serve as a memory modifier by changing the extent to which memories from our past can be subsequently retrieved.”  In short, thinking about the future can make it more difficult to remember related material from the past.

Annie Ditta and Benjamin Storm.  “Thinking About the Future Can Cause Forgetting of the Past.”  The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology in press.

June 2015

Many cities are interested in increasing the number of residents who are recent college graduates.  Research by Betz and Partridge to be published in Papers in Regional Science, has shown that “In the 1990s, grads were moving to cities with fast-growing “smart” industries in fields like high tech. . . . But since 2000, with a less vibrant national economy, college graduates are flocking toward the biggest cities with the biggest labor markets and the best chances of landing a job. . . . ‘Local policymakers often believe they can lure more college grads by becoming a hub of high-tech industry or creating a cool arts district,’ Betz said. ‘That’s not what grads are looking for, at least since the downturn in the economy. They’re interested in moving somewhere that has a lot of job opportunities, and that generally means a larger city.’. . . city leaders shouldn’t believe that bringing trendy high-tech industries to town or building arts and culture communities will necessarily help their cause [bring more recent graduates to their city].”

“Why the ‘Cool Factor’ Won’t Lure College Grads to Your City.”  2015.  Press release, The Ohio State University, https://news.osu.edu.