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A team of British researchers, Gardner, Smith, and Mansfield, studied the general public’s response to research encouraging people to spend less time sitting at work.  Their findings indicate how important it is to effectively communicate with users when environments/objects are, or may be, changed.  The Gardner team report that “In June 2015, an expert consensus guidance statement was published recommending that office workers accumulate 2–4 h of standing and light activity daily and take regular breaks from prolonged sitting. This paper describes public responses to media coverage of the guidance. . . . Challenges were made [via public comments on the coverage] to the novelty of the guidance, the credibility of its authors, the strength of its evidence base, and its applicability to [real-world] UK workplaces. Public health was commonly mistrusted and viewed as a tool for controlling the public. . . . Interventions to reduce sedentary behaviour should seek to increase motivation by clearly communicating the health relevance of sitting, standing and light physical activity, in language easily understood by a general public that may lack sufficient interest to process nuanced messages discerning static and ‘active’ standing. . . . Such interventions might also present evidence to tackle potential disbelief in the health value of displacing sitting with standing.”

Benjamin Gardner, Lee Smith, and Louise Mansfield.  2017.  “How Did the Public Respond to the 2015 Expert Consensus Public Health Guidance Statement on Workplace Sedentary Behaviour?  A Qualitative Analysis.”  BMC Public Health,

Kaiser, Schreier, and Janiszewski link product customization and enhanced performance.  Their research “demonstrates that the self-expressive customization [this would be a modification that reflects the user’s beliefs, ideas about who they are as a person, membership in a group, etc.] of a product can improve performance on tasks performed using the customized product. Five studies show that the effect is robust across different types of tasks (e.g., persistence tasks, concentration tasks, agility tasks). The evidence further shows that the effect is not due to changes in product efficacy [effectiveness] beliefs, feelings of competence, feelings of accomplishment. . . . Instead, the self-expressive customization of a product extends an identity (e.g., personal identity, group identity) into the product.  When the product is subsequently used to pursue a goal whose desired outcome can affirm the extended identity, performance improves.”  So, if a knife is customized to indicate that someone is a chef, performance will improve on tasks related to being a chef.

Ulrike Kaiser, Martin Schreier, and Chris Janiszewski.  “The Self-Expressive Customization of a Product Can Improve Your Performance.”  Journal of Marketing Research, in press.

Wang, Krishna, and McFerran studied how consumers’ environmentally responsible behavior is affected by the actions of organizations.  They report that “Firms can save considerable money if consumers conserve resources (e.g., if hotel patrons turn off the lights when leaving the room, restaurants patrons use fewer paper napkins, or airline passengers clean up after themselves).”  Data gathered “in real-world hotels . . . show that consumers' conservation behavior is affected by the extent to which consumers perceive the firm as being green. . . . consumer perceptions of firms' greenness and consumer conservation behavior depend on (a) whether the firm requests them to conserve resources, (b) the firm's own commitment to the environment, and (c) the firm's price image. . . . firm requests to consumers to save resources can create consumer reactance [resistance] and can backfire when firms themselves do not engage in visible costly environmental efforts. Such reactance is more likely for firms with a high price image. . . . by spending a little money to signal environmental commitment, firms can save even more money through consumers' conservation of resources, resulting in wins for the firm, the consumer, and the environment."

Wenbo Wang, Aradhna Krishna, and Brent McFerran.  “Turning Off the Lights:  Consumers’ Environmental Efforts Depend on Visible Efforts of Firms.”  Journal of Marketing Research, in press.

Currie studied how the design of small urban parks.  She learned that “Public parks contribute to neighbourhood quality of life, promote a more public daily life, serve as important focal points for neighbourhoods, and provide access to nearby nature as part of the built environment. . . . This research identified design principles that good, small urban parks share – including accessibility, specificity, authenticity, functionality, and adaptability – applicable in smaller cities, towns, and lower density areas.”  

Melissa Currie.  2017.  “A Design Framework for Small Parks in Ultra-Urban, Metropolitan, Suburban and Small Town Settings.”  Journal of Urban Design, vol. 22, no. 1, pp. 76-95.

Brookfield probed how resident preferences align with neighborhood design elements that have been tied to walkability.  She found, after conducting focus groups with eleven residents’ groups with diverse sets of participants, that “Residents’ groups favoured providing a selection of services and facilities addressing a local need, such as a corner shop, within a walkable distance, but not the immediate vicinity, of housing. . . . Participants wanted their homes to be ‘insulated’ from the perceived disturbance ‒ noise, traffic, parking, anti-social behaviour ‒ of non-residential uses by a ‘buffer’ of residential properties. . .  overall the majority preference was for one that would take 10 to 15 minutes to cross on foot. . . . Uses such as offices, hotels, supermarkets, nightclubs, industry, warehousing and waste management were opposed in residential areas partly because they were assumed to introduce unwelcome noise. . . .  traffic, pollution, parking problems and anti-social behaviour.  . . . . a strong preference for green, leafy residential environments was identified. . . . . Providing housing at high densities ‒ specifically flats and small, tightly packed houses providing no private outdoor space ‒ was uniformly seen as unappealing and problematic.”

Katherine Brookfield.  2017.  “Residents’ Preference for Walkable Neighbourhoods.”  Journal of Urban Design, vol. 22, no. 1, pp. 44-58.

Barnes and Wineman investigated employees’ bonds to their workplaces.  At the 2017 SPSP conference they reported that data were collected in the course of a workplace redesign project: “In a longitudinal study our team examined worker satisfaction, wellbeing, work effectiveness and engagement within workplace environments on a large university campus.  Findings suggest that perception of loss is a predictor of [lower] worker satisfaction and that designing for functional fit does not solve the impact of perceived loss.”

Janice Barnes and Jean Wineman.  2017.  “Perception of Loss and Workplace Satisfaction.”  Society of Personality and Social Psychology Annual Conference, January 21, San Antonio, TX, Program, p. 151.

Ellard and his team reported on their work at the 2016 Psychology of Architecture conference.  They shared that they “have developed a toolkit using specially programmed mobile phones and sensor technology that permits rapid assessment of psychological and physiological responses to place.  Participants in our experiments are led on curated walks while prompted to answer self-assessment questions, complete cognitive tests, and are monitored for physiological arousal and some simple indices of brain activity.  Findings from experiments conducted in five different cities have shown a strong dependence of mental state on façade design and landscape architecture.  Participants not only preferred higher complexity façades, but such designs also showed higher affective states and physiological arousal.  Measures of eye movements also suggested that higher complexity locations elicited increased cognitive processing.  Locations rich in greenspace showed both high affect and low arousal, but impeded performance on a test of sustained attention.”  

Colin Ellard, Vedran Dzebic, Hanna Negami, Emily Grant, Robin Mazumdar, and Adam Francey.  2016.  “Field Investigations of the Relationship Between Place and Psychological State Using Mobile Sensor Technology.”  Psychology of Architecture Conference, December 5, Austin, TX, Program, p. 33. 

A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience indicates that we may be quicker to focus our thoughts in some locations than others.  A press release from Duke reports that “We are constantly being bombarded with attention-grabbing distractions, from the flashy shop fronts and advertisements that flank the side of the road to the tempting buzz of the phone during a meeting with the boss. For a long time, brain scientists believed that maintaining focus in these situations required a cascade of mental events: momentary distraction, followed by the realization that our attention has been diverted and a conscious effort to bring it back on the task at hand. But recent research shows that our brains actually have a clever mechanism for outwitting these distractions. With repeated practice, environmental cues -- such as a particularly busy intersection, or your boss’s office -- can trigger the brain to jump directly into a more focused state, bypassing distraction and saving precious time.”

“Triggering the Brain’s ‘Auto-Focus.”  2017.  Press release, Duke University (written by Kara Manke),

People designing spaces, objects, and services don’t frequently consider how something tastes, literally, but thinking about flavors can result in useful insights for their work.  As stated on Bloomsbury’s webpage for The Taste Culture Reader, “Taste is recognized as one of the most evocative senses. The flavors of food play an important role in identity, memory, emotion, desire, and aversion, as well as social, religious and other occasions.”

Carolyn Korsmeyer (ed.).  2016.  The Taste Culture Reader:  Experiencing Food and Drink.  Bloomsbury:  New York. 

Green spaces and bodies of water influence city development.  Roebeling and team found that “Urban green/blue spaces are put under pressure as urban areas grow, develop and evolve. It is increasingly recognized, however, that green/blue spaces provide important ecosystem services, stimulate higher real estate prices and prevent flooding problems. . . .  Results show four major tendencies regarding the value-added of green/blue spaces in urban landscapes: (1) cities become more compact; (2) population densities increase; (3) real estate values rise; and (4) demographic distribution patterns change. The magnitude of these impacts depends, however, on the quality and size of the intervention [i.e. green/blue space], the social classes attracted to the intervention area and on the location of the intervention relative to existing residential areas, urban centres, road infrastructure and environmental amenities.”

Peter Roebeling, Miguel Saraiva, Anna Palla, Ilaria Gnecco, Carla Teotonio, Teresa Fidelis, Filomena Martins, Henrique Alves, and Joao Rocha.  2017.  “Assessing the Socio-Economic Impacts of Green/Blue Space, Urban Residential and Road Infrastructure Projects in the Confluence (Lyon):  A Hedonic Pricing Simulation Approach.”  Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, vol. 60, no. 3, pp. 482-489.


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