Finnish researchers have determined that noise made by nearby workers has a persistent negative effect on individual performance. This issue is important because, as the Finnish team states, even “Unattended [not noticed] background speech is a known source of cognitive and subjective distraction in open-plan offices.” In the course of the study directed by Haapakangas, “four acoustic conditions were physically built. Three conditions contained background speech. A quiet condition was included for comparison.
Research recently completed in Sweden indicates that reducing traffic-related noise levels in buildings should be a high priority and that the tools used to do so can not only improve the health of space users, but also the planet. Kihlman and Kropp learned that “Traffic noise is today linked to stress-related health problems such as stroke and heart disease. . . .No simple technical solution exists for solving the traffic noise problem – neither at the source nor for preventing noise from reaching ears. . . . ‘Many of the needed measures are ideal for implementation in dense cities.
Environmental psychologists (for example, Mahnke) have been discussing the dangers of understimulating environments for years. Now, in related research, Wilson and his team have learned that study “participants typically did not enjoy spending 6 to 15 minutes in a room by themselves with nothing to do but think, that they enjoyed doing mundane external activities much more, and that many preferred to administer electric shocks to themselves instead of being left alone with their thoughts.
Andrade and her team investigated the influences of a hospital’s social and physical environments on opinions. They found that when study “participants were exposed to [only] information about an inadequate, neutral, or good hospital physical environment; or [only] about a negative, neutral, or positive hospital social environment [for example, staff friendliness] . . . .
Some workplace design strategies are based on the assumption that everyone can work successfully outside the office. A research team lead by O’Neill at the University of Calgary indicates that all workers are not psychologically suited for telework, at least not without training to deal with personality related issues. O’Neill and his colleagues learned that “telework technology doesn’t guarantee productivity from every off-site employee. . . .
Creativity is valued among creative professionals. Baas and his team have learned that “the ability to observe . . . various stimuli consistently and positively predicted creativity.” Observation skills were linked to creativity whether they were inborn in an individual or learned.
Matthijs Baas, Barbara Nevicka, and Femke Ten Velden. “”Specific Mindfulness Skills Differentially Predict Creative Performance.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, in press.
Research indicates that approaching objects are perceived less positively than those that are standing still or moving away from us. Hsee and his team found that “We live in a dynamic world, surrounded by moving stimuli—moving people, moving objects, and moving events. The current research . . . finds an approach aversion effect—individuals feel less positively (or more negatively) about a stimulus if they perceive it to be approaching rather than receding or static.
Knight and Baer investigated the effect of people standing during meetings on group performance. Their work indicates that standing by all attendees during meetings can improve a group’s work on knowledge work-type tasks. This work by Knight and Baer builds on a recent study by Oppezzo and Schwartz (2014) linking walking and better creative thinking. It’s important to recognize that the meetings Knight and Baer studied were 30 minutes long and only involved able bodied individuals who could stand for 30 minutes. The researchers also do not provide information about m
Researchers have learned more about why particular smells so quickly and consistently produce emotional reactions in the people smelling them. A team led by Igarashi report that the parts of our brains that process smells and long-term memories are linked by ultra high speed brain wave “connectors.”
Kei Igarashi, Laura Colgin, May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser. 2014. “Coordination of Entorhinal-Hippocampal Ensemble Activity During Associative Learning.” Nature, vol. 510, pp. 143-147.
Nespor, Langus, and Guellai confirm that gestures play an important role in communication. Their findings support co-location, particularly for important gatherings, at least until video conferencing tools become more advanced and readily available. According to Marina Nespor, “’gestures and words very probably form a single ‘communication system’. . . . In human communication, voice is not sufficient: even the torso and in particular hand movements are involved, as are facial expressions.’’