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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

Be careful how you promote green elements of a design solution!  Newman, Gorlin and Dhar have found that “Many companies offer products with social benefits that are orthogonal to performance (e.g., green products) . . . . information about a company’s intentions in designing the product plays an import role in consumers’ evaluations. In particular, consumers are less likely to purchase a green product when they perceive that the company intentionally made the product better for the environment compared to when the same environmental benefit occurred as an unintended side effect. . . . intended (vs. unintended) green enhancements lead consumers to assume that the company diverted resources away from product quality, which in turn drives a reduction in purchase interest.”

George Newman, Margarita Gorlin, and Ravi Dhar.  “When Going Green Backfires:  How Firm Intentions Shape the Evaluation of Socially Beneficial Product Enhancements.”  Journal of Consumer Research, in press.

August 2014

Scent-scaping spaces where people will be drinking alcohol and making sure that these areas are well ventilated (to remove undesirable smells) should be top of mind with designers. Endevelt-Shapira and her team learned that “after alcohol consumption, subjects with low alcohol levels could make olfactory discriminations that subjects with 0% alcohol could not make [a statistically significant difference]. . . . performance [ability to pick out odors] was improved at low levels of alcohol . . . and deteriorated at higher levels of alcohol.”  Study participants consumed 35 ml of alcohol and because of individual differences their Breathalyzer readings varied from .01 to .1; .06 was judged to be a low blood alcohol level.

Yaara Endevelt-Shapira, Sagit Shushan, Yehudah Roth, and Noam Sobel. 2014.  “Disinhibit ion of Olfaction:  Human Olfactory Performance Improves Following Low Levels of Alcohol.”  Behavioral Brain Research, vol. 272, pp. 66-74.

August 2014

Building design can support/encourage inside exercise through activity-inducing floor plans.  Bassett and his crew recently conceptually replicated the findings of earlier researchers, investigating “if buildings with centrally located, accessible, and aesthetically pleasing staircases result in a greater percentage of people taking the stairs.”  They conducted research in “3 buildings on a university campus. One of the buildings had a bank of 4 centrally located elevators and a fire escape stairwell behind a steel door. The other 2 buildings had centrally located staircases and out-of-the-way elevators.”  Bassett, Browning, Conger, Wolff, and Flynn found that “The percentage of people who ascended the stairs was 8.1% in the elevator-centric building, compared with 72.8% and 81.1% in the 2 stair-centric buildings [a statistically significant difference]. In addition, the percentage of people who descended the stairs was 10.8% in the first building, compared with 89.5% and 93.7% in the stair-centric buildings [another statistically significant difference].”  The team concludes that “if buildings are constructed with centrally located, accessible, and aesthetically pleasing staircases, a greater percentage of people will choose to take the stairs.”  For additional information on design that encourages people to take the stairs, read this article.  

D. Bassett, R. Browning, S. Conger, D. Wolff, and J. Flynn.  2013.  “Architectural Design and Physical Activity:  An Observational Study of Staircases and Elevator Use in Different Buildings.”  Journal of Physical Activity and Health, vol. 10, no. 4, pp. 556-562.

August 2014

The Society for College and University Planning (SCUP) has released the final report of Boys, Melhuish, and Wilson, the team awarded SCUP’s 2013-2014 M. Perry Chapman Prize.  Their work builds on previous studies that have determined that “there is never one correct solution for the design of a learning space that can be drawn from analyzing the data. Engagement with particular spaces depends on what students and faculty bring to them, how particular educational processes are played out, and what the space enables or hinders across diverse perceptions and experiences.”

Jos Boys, Clare Melhuish, and Angelina Wilson.  2014.  “Developing Research Methods for Analyzing Learning Spaces That Can Inform Institutional Missions of Learning and Engagement.” Society for College and University Planning.

August 2014

Maguire and his teammates have comprehensively assessed ergonomics-related problems experienced by people over 60 in their home kitchens.  Their full report is available free at the web address noted below.  Highlights of their study:  “personal problems with reaching, bending, dexterity and sight were more likely to be experienced with increasing age while for specific tasks, ironing and cleaning created the most difficulty.”

Martin Maguire, Sheila Peace, Colette Nicolle, Russell Marshall, Ruth Sims, John Percival, and Clare Lawton.  2014.  “Kitchen Living in Later Life:  Exploring Ergonomic Problems, Coping Strategies and Design Solutions.”  International Journal of Design, vol. 8, no. 1, http://www.ijdesign.org

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.