design psychology

Sounds of Conversation are Indeed Disruptive (11-11-15)

Strukelj and his teammates have found that hearing conversations does indeed hinder cognitive functioning.  They found that sounds of playing children, crying babies, and a conversational babble impeded the management of mental processes such as problem solving and these sounds “were also classified as highly disturbing by participants.”

Alexander Strukelj, K. Brannstrom, Nile Holmberg, Frans Mossberg, and Kenneth Holmqvist.  “The Impact of Sound Presentations on Executive Control:  Evidence from Eye Movements.” Psychology of Music, in press.

Park Design and Youth Activity (11-10-15)

How actively children play in parks is influenced by the design of those parks.  Baek and his team found that “particular features of parks—especially complexity in landscape surfaces, proximity to sport facilities and playgrounds, and the availability of pedestrian trails—enable greater intensity of youth physical activity in a park.”

Solhyon Baek, Samira Raja, Jiyoung Park, Leonard Epstein, and Li Yin.  “Park Design and Children’s Active Play:  A Microscale Spatial Analysis of Intensity of Play in Olmsted’s Delaware Park.”  Environment and Planning B, in press.

Designing Polling Places (11-09-15)

Acemyan and Kortum have assessed the optimal design of places where people will vote.  They report that participants (from the United States) asked to view photorealistic images of polling places and indicate the usability of those locations gave the lowest ratings to configurations “when voting machines had neither dividers nor spacing between units and when the voting machines were placed so that two rows faced each other in the center of the room.

Associations to Textures (11-06-15)

Etzi and her colleagues were interested in learning more about people’s responses to feeling various textures.  They describe their project and findings: “Samples of cotton, satin, tinfoil, sandpaper, and abrasive sponge, were stroked along the participants’ forearm at the speed of 5 cm/s. . . . smooth textures were associated with features evoked by words such as ‘bright’ and ‘quiet’; by contrast, the rougher textures were associated with adjectives such as ‘dim’ and ‘loud’. . . .

Ethics and Distances (11-05-15)

Scientists have learned that distance between workers’ work areas influences the likelihood that unethical behavior will “trickle-down” through an organization, from higher-level managers to other employees.   Physical separation prevents unconscious copying of undesirable behaviors, and, unfortunately, similarly impedes the reproduction of desirable ones.  Separation of middle managers from their superiors seems to be the most effective way to thwart the spread of unethical behaviors from the highest to the lowest levels of an organization.  People are physically close to each other when t

Teammate Treatment (11-04-15)

Teammates can all be treated the same or some may be treated better than others, for example, via the design of their workspaces or tools provided to them.  Treatment can vary because of perceived differences in competence or for many other reasons.  Sui and his colleagues have learned that equal treatment to all or much better treatment to some team members decreases team performance.

Visual Distractions and Insights (10-30-15)

Recently completed research by Salvi, Bricolo, Franconeri, Kounios, and Beeman links eliminating visual distractions and searching for insightful solutions to problems.  The researchers found that study “participants blinked more frequently and for a longer total duration prior to problems that they solved by insight rather than by analysis.”  This finding is consistent with carefully monitoring the visual complexity of spaces where insightful/creative thinking is encouraged, and keeping it to a moderate level.  It also supports incorporating blank walls and similar areas in these sorts of

Materials in Society (10-29-15)

Drazin and Kuchler have edited an intriguing look at the link between materials and the society in which they’re used.  As the publisher’s description of their book details, “Beyond the physical and chemical properties of materials, their cultural properties have often been overlooked in anthropological studies: finished products have been perceived as 'social' yet the materials which comprise them are considered 'raw' or natural'. . . . Human societies have always worked with materials.


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