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sensory science

Types of Airport Visitors (03-13-15)

Harrison, Popovic and Kraal have studied people in airports and developed a way to categorize them that’s useful to people designing spaces and experiences.  The researchers report that “Increasingly, the basic criteria used to segment passengers (purpose of trip and frequency of travel) no longer provide adequate insights into the passenger experience. . . .Based on our research, a relationship between time sensitivity and degree of passenger engagement was identified.

Handshaking and Smelling (03-12-15)

We seem to shake hands so that we can smell our acquaintances.  This olfactory communication is another reason why, as a species, we value face-to-face conversations.  Researchers at the Weizmann Institute learned that “one of the reasons for this ancient custom [handshaking] may be to check out each other’s odors. Even if we are not consciously aware of this, handshaking may provide people with a socially acceptable way of communicating via the sense of smell. Not only do people often sniff their own hands, but they do so for a much longer time after shaking someone else’s hand.

Insights on Store Design from Wharton (03-11-15)

Professors at Wharton report that physical stores have advantages that electronic ones do not; savvy designers will create spaces that support these benefits.  Retailers with electronic stores are setting up physical stores and, “e-tailers are not opening stores that look like your parents’ Sears Roebuck. They are reinventing the customer experience with smaller, more intimate spaces, focusing on delivering a special experience in addition to displaying products. . . .Opening an offline store . . . ‘deepens brand engagement, [Jonah] Berger adds.

Perils of Infrastructure Expansion (03-10-15)

A recent article in Current Biology by William Lawrence and colleagues review important issues related to infrastructure expansion.  As they detail, “issues that must be considered if there is to be any hope of limiting the environmental impacts of the ongoing expansion of new roads, road improvements, energy projects, and more now underway or ‘coming soon’ in countries all around the world. . . . [are] 1. Wilderness areas should be kept road-free according to the maxim ‘avoid the first cut.’ Narrow cuts through forested areas have a tendency to grow.
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Cash and Feeling Cold (03-09-15)

Being reminded of cash makes us feel cold, so turn up those thermostats wherever cash is present, literally or figuratively, and use materials in those environments that retain heat, etc.  Reutner and her team report that “individuals who had been reminded of money perceived the air in the room as colder compared to a control group. . . . reminders of money cause sensations of actual physical coldness.”

Creativity and Distractions (03-06-15)

People with varying abilities to block out distracting sensory information excel at different sorts of creative tasks.  Zabelina and her colleagues have found that “leaky sensory gating may help people integrate ideas that are outside of focus of attention, leading to creativity in the real world; whereas divergent thinking, measured by divergent thinking tests . . .

Cities are Predictable (03-05-15)

Cities are predictable sometimes, just like people.  Researchers report that “what happens in a given moment in a city on a demographic level depends on what happened in previous years, as well as the presence of other large cities nearby. ‘We can say that the urban systems have an inertia or memory of their past’, says the lead author, Alberto Hernando, from the Lausanne Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL, Switzerland).

More on Distracting Conversations (03-04-15)

Need to know more about distracting conversations? Parmentier and Beaman learned that “Variations of the content, but not the rhythm, of the irrelevant speech stimuli reliably disrupted [thoughtful work] in all experiments. . . . regular [occurrence] of the irrelevant speech was significantly more disruptive to [thoughtful work] than irregular [occurrence].”

Walk or Drive? (03-03-15)

What design features prompt people to drive between places that are within walking distance of each other?  Schneider found that in shopping districts “respondents were significantly more likely to walk when the main commercial roadway had fewer driveway crossings and a lower speed limit.”

Robert Schneider.  2015.  “Walk or Drive Between Stores?  Designing Neighbourhood Shopping Districts for Pedestrian Activity.”  Journal of Urban Design, vol. 20, no. 2, pp. 212-229.

Religious Reminders and Risk Taking (03-02-15)

Kupor, Laurin, and Levav’s research has implications for the design of spaces where religious images/objects are displayed.  This team learned that “exposure to the concept of God can actually increase people’s willingness to engage in certain types of risks. Across seven studies, reminders of God increased risk taking in nonmoral domains.”  So, reminders were linked with risk taking when moral issues weren’t involved.  Designers, and others, beware!