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Rabb and his team set out to learn more about how we decide if something is beautiful and about relationships between sensory experiences.  They found that “Aesthetic judgments typically involve assessments of one’s own responses and thus are partly or largely subjective. Moral judgments may seem otherwise, but their susceptibility to influence by factors extrinsic to the object of judgment—notably, by irrelevant sensations of disgust—has led some to argue that moral and aesthetic judgments are functionally alike, a view consistent with philosophical arguments and neuropsychological evidence. We examined the behavioral consequences of this view. . . . In Study 1, participants drank bitter, sweet, or neutral liquids and rated liking and quality of abstract paintings. . . . participants in Study 2 [drank] bitter or neutral drinks and rate[d] the ugliness and badness of aesthetic violations—Komar and Melamid’s abstract paintings using undesirable art elements. . . . Across all studies, disgust had no effect on aesthetic judgments but reliably increased the severity of moral judgments.”

Nathaniel Rabb, Jenny Nissel, Alexandra Alecci, Leah Magid, James Ambrosoli, and Ellen Winner.  2016.  “Truths About Beauty and Goodness:  disgust Affects Moral But Not Aesthetic Judgments.”  Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, vol. 10, no. 4, pp. 492-500.

A new book probes links between design anthropology and future experiences.  As sell materials for Design Anthropological Futures on its publisher’s website describe, the text  “explores design anthropology's focus on futures and future-making. . . . Divided into four sections – Ethnographies of the Possible, Interventionist Speculation, Collaborative Formation of Issues, and Engaging Things – the book develops readers' understanding of the central theoretical and methodological aspects of future knowledge production in design anthropology. Bringing together renowned scholars such as George Marcus and Alison Clarke with young experimental design anthropologists from countries such as Denmark, Sweden, Austria, Brazil, the UK, and the United States, the sixteen chapters offer . . . theoretical reflections and rich empirical case studies.”

Rachel Smith, Kasper Vangkilde, Mette Kjaersgaard, Ton Otto, Joachim Halse, and Thomas Binder (eds.).  2016.  Design Anthropology Futures. Bloomsbury Publishing:  New York.

The British Council for Offices sponsored research on the workplace design-related opinions, expectations, and experiences of office workers.  The design of spaces where people work should align with tasks to be accomplished, organizational culture, etc., so although the insights shared are interesting, they do not necessarily indicate how workplaces should be designed.  Findings are available free at the website noted below.

Data, collected via a survey of people working in offices revealed that “Employees are seeking greater control of their office. Lighting and temperature are of key importance to employees, and there is increased demand for new technologies that would allow these factors to be controlled at desk level. . . . 40% of respondents believe that the office positively impacts on their physical health and 48% believe the office positively impacts on their mental health. . . . 30% have the opposite view. . . .[and] said the office does them harm. . . .  20% of male survey respondents would always or often use a standing desk if offered one. . . . 25% of the respondents would be willing to commute an extra 30 minutes to work in their perfect office. . . . Having a dedicated desk is by far the preferred option, accounting for 60% of respondents’ preference, a notable increase from 41% in the 2013 survey. . . .  despite the rapid evolution of hot-desking, collaboration and flexible working technology, most want to work from their own desk.”

British Council for Offices.  2016.  “What Workers Want 2016.”

Nolen and Simon investigated the best design for circulation routes used by people with low vision.  They report that “Our dependence on vision is crippling our other senses. . . . Experiencing architecture is not merely a sighted activity. We inhabit a space with our whole being. . . . What is architecture in a world without vision? How can someone move throughout space without seeing it? How might we perceive space if we ignore our dominant visual sense to focus on the other often ignored senses? We began to address these questions . . . This initial research informed the development of a set of principles for multi-sensorial design of built environments. Space. Edge. Path. Transition. Threshold. Landmark. These design principles are intended to enable people, no matter sighted or blind, to navigate spaces using multi-sensory perception.”  The researchers found, for example, that the varying acoustic and tactile properties of different building materials and architectural forms can help people with visual challenges understand where they are in a space and how they can travel to a desired location.

Betsy Nolen and Madlen Simon.  2016.  “[Architecture Without Vision] Challenging the Societal Dependence Upon Vision in Perception.”  Proceedings 2016 Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture Conference, September 22-24, San Diego, CA, Connections: BridgeSynapses, pp. 122-123.

Spendrup, Unter, and Isgren conducted research linking certain sounds and sustainable behavior.  They report that “Nature sounds are increasingly used by some food retailers to enhance in-store ambiance and potentially even influence sustainable food choices.”  Research the Spendrup team conducted showed that “nature sounds positively and directly influence WTB [willingness to buy] organic foods in groups of customers (men) that have relatively low initial intentions to buy. . . . our study concludes that nature sounds might be an effective, yet subtle in-store tool to use on groups of consumers who might otherwise respond negatively to more overt forms of sustainable food information.”

Sara Spendrup, Erik Unter, and Ellinor Isgren.  2016.  “Exploring the Relationship Between Nature Sounds, Connectedness to Nature, Mood and Willingness to Buy Sustainable Food:  A Retail Field Experiment.”  Appetite, vol. 100, pp. 133-141.

Researchers have confirmed the important influence of daylight on mental wellbeing.  Scientists learned that “when it comes to your mental and emotional health, the amount of time between sunrise and sunset is the weather variable that matters most.  Your day might be filled with irritatingly hot temperatures, thick air pollution and maybe even pockets of rainclouds, but that won’t necessarily get you down. If you’re able to soak up enough sun, your level of emotional distress should remain stable. Take away sun time, though, and your distress can spike. This applies to the clinical population at large, not just those diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder.”  Findings are published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

“Sunshine Matters a Lot to Mental Health; Temperature, Pollution, Rain Not So Much.”  2016.  Press release, Brigham Young University,

Mai and colleagues studied the implications of using pale and light colors on food packaging.  They found that “In food packaging, light and pale colors are often used to highlight product healthiness. . . . light-colored packages evoke two opposing effects: They stimulate favorable health impressions (health effect) and they activate detrimental taste inferences (taste effect) which jointly guide the purchase decision. . . . A series of experiments manipulating actual food packages confirms that the package health cue can indeed trigger negative taste associations in the consumer’s mind that backfire.”

Robert Mai, Claudia Symmank, and Berenike Seeberg-Elverfeldt.  “Light and Pale Colors in Food Packaging:  When Does This Package Cue Signal Superior Healthiness or Inferior Tastiness?”  Journal of Retailing, in press.

How is what we see related to how ethically we behave?  Kotabe, Kardan, and Berman set out to answer that question and report that  “Recent research suggests that basic visual disorder cues may be sufficient to encourage complex rule-breaking behavior. . . . Our results revealed that spatial features (e.g., nonstraight edges, asymmetry) are more important than color features (e.g., hue, saturation, value) for visual disorder. . . . In [experiments conducted by Kotabe and colleagues] manipulating visual disorder increased the likelihood of cheating by up to 35% and the average magnitude of cheating by up to 87%. . . . these experiments show that simple perceptual properties of the environment can affect complex behavior and sheds light on the extent to which our actions are within our control.”  So, we’re more likely to cheat in a more visually disordered (more asymmetrical, irregular, and/or unorganized for example) environment.

Hiroki Kotabe, Omid Kardan, and Marc Berman.  “The Order of Disorder:  Deconstructing Visual Disorder and Its Effect on Rule-Breaking.”  Journal of Experimental Psychology:  General, in press.

Groups can manipulate the amount of organizational nostalgia experienced, by, for example, changing the images shown in common spaces.  Leunissen and his team learned that “organizational nostalgia enhances work meaning and thereby reduces turnover intentions. . . . especially among employees who reported relatively high levels of burnout. When burnout is high, organizational nostalgia functions as a rich source of meaning that benefits employees’ work experience.”

Joost Leunissen, Constantine Sedikides, Tim Wildschut, Taya Cohen.  “Organizational Nostalgia Lowers Turnover Intentions By Increasing Work Meaning:  The Moderating Role of Burnout.”  Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, in press.

Cracknell and her team studied responses to a 550,000 liter aquarium, “14.3 m length × 6.2 m width × 6 m height . . .viewed predominately through a single, huge acrylic window (14 m × 4.25 m).”  They found that in this large aquarium, “increased [marine] biota levels were associated with longer spontaneous viewing of the exhibit, greater reductions in heart rate, greater increases in self-reported mood, and higher interest. We suggest that higher biota levels, even in managed settings, may be associated with important well-being and health benefits, particularly for individuals not able to access the natural analogues of managed environments.”  Data were collected at  “three stages of restocking: ‘Unstocked’—seawater only and artificial decoration; ‘Partially stocked’—moderate levels of biota; and ‘Fully stocked’—approximately double the number of species and individuals (as the Partially stocked condition).”

Deborah Cracknell, Mathew White, Sabine Pahl, Wallace Nichols, and Michael Depledge. 2016.  “Marine Biota and Psychological Well-Being:  A Preliminary Examination of Dose-Response Effects in an Aquarium Setting.”  Environment and Behavior, vol. 48, no. 10, pp. 1242-1269.


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