sensory science

Smelling and Drinking (08-28-14)

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 . . .

Elevators, Stairs, and Exercise (08-27-14)

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.

Research on Learning Spaces Design (08-26-14)

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.”

Inclusive Kitchen Design (08-25-14)

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.”

Sunlight: A Powerful Magnet (08-22-14)

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. . . .

Time of Day and Emotional Experience (08-21-14)

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.

Cell Phone and Web Survey Results (08-20-14)

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.”

What Symbols Do (08-19-14)

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.

Cities and Families (08-18-14)

Lilius investigated the lives of families with children living in inner cities.  She found that “urban living reduces the sharp divide between life before having children and family life. Urban parents stay in the city for much the same reasons they first moved there: because they are attracted to population density, good amenities and good public transport. . . . there is a lack of understanding among city planners and politicians about family needs in the inner city. . . . modernist ideals on proper family living still prevail. . . .

Lean Vs. Green (08-15-14)

Nieuwenhuis and his team have confirmed the value of adding plants to workplace environments. 

This research is timely because, as the researchers describe, “Principles of lean office management increasingly call for space to be stripped of extraneous decorations so that it can flexibly accommodate changing numbers of people and different office functions within the same area.”