Research Design Connections

Human Minds Fascinating – More Evidence (04-20-18)

A research team lead by Barilari confirms that humans process sensory information in intriguing ways.  They report that “Across cultures and languages, people find similarities between the products of different senses in mysterious ways.  By studying what is called cross-modal correspondences, cognitive psychologists discovered that lemons are fast rather than slow, boulders are sour, and red is heavier than yellow.  Are these cross-modal correspondences established via sensory perception or can they be learned merely through language?  We [demonstrate] that early blind people [blind before

Millennials at Work (04-19-18)

Goro and Plaisance used a widely-distributed survey to research the workplace-related expectations of people in the workforce.  They presented their findings at the 2018 conference of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology in a report titled “Using Science to Debunk Millennial Rumors in the Workplace.”  Goo reports that “‘the millennial generation reported wanting face-to-face time with their bosses on a weekly basis.’” Plaisance added that their study results “’negate the reputation of millennials to be job-hoppers and disloyal to organizations.’”  In addition, “non-mille

Elevation Above Street Level and Risk-Taking (04-18-18)

Esteky and colleagues linked what floor we’re on in a building and our response to financial risks – being even a few stories higher or lower in a building produces a noticeable effect on how humans think.  The researchers determined that  “high physical elevation increases risk-seeking tendencies.”  The effect is stronger when elevation is something people are aware of because they look out of a window.  The investigators also report that “In an unpublished study, we found that consumers at higher (vs. lower) elevations are more likely to consume juice from an unfamiliar (vs.

Branding and Design (04-17-18)

Bajaj and Bond investigated links between design elements and brand-related opinions. They share that “asymmetry in brand elements evokes arousal [excitement] in observers, which spills over to impressions of the brand itself. . . . symmetry was negatively associated with perceptions of brand excitement. . . . Among the . . .  academic research . . .  a common finding has been the broad benefits of symmetry for perceptions of beauty, perfection, etc. . . .

Labels and Evaluations (04-16-18)

Work by Anglada-Tort and his colleagues confirms that labels influence our opinions of various sorts of art.  As the Anglada-Tort team reports, previous research has “shown that titles influence peoples’ evaluation of visual art.”  The Anglada-Tort lead team “investigated whether names presented with music pieces influenced aesthetic and value judgments of music. Experiment 1 . . . focused on linguistic fluency. The same music excerpts were presented with easy-to-pronounce (fluent) and difficult-to-pronounce (disfluent) names. Experiment 2 . . . studied the affect heuristic.

Preferences for Symmetry – Expertise and Assessments (04-13-18)

Weichselbaum, Leder, and Ansorge researched humans’ responses to symmetry.  They share that  “In perception, humans typically prefer symmetrical over asymmetrical patterns. . . .  we tested the generality of the symmetry preference for different levels of individual art expertise. The preference for symmetrical versus asymmetrical abstract patterns was measured implicitly [indirectly], by an Implicit Association Test (IAT), and explicitly [directly], by a rating scale asking participants to evaluate pattern beauty. . . .

Earth Friendly Labels - Implications (04-12-18)

Haga studied the repercussions of labeling a lamp “environmentally friendly.”  He reports that “Built environments with objects that are labeled ‘environmentally friendly’ appear to change people’s behavior. For example, one study has shown that labeling a desktop lamp ‘environmentally friendly’ can enhance color discrimination, in comparison with when the lamp is labeled ‘conventional,’ even though there is no physical difference between the two lamps. This article explored . . .

Taxes and Flags (04-11-18)

Chan’s work is particularly timely as the deadline for paying income taxes in the United States draws near (April 17 this year).  Chan found that  “exposure to American, Australian, and British flags reduced Americans’, Australians’, and Britons’ tax evasion in financially‐incentivized tasks . . . and increased tax‐paying attitudes. . . . . [seeing the flags] made salient participants’ national identities that then motivated them to help their country.”  Chan’s work is consistent with a growing body of research related to the repercussions of seeing visual cues.

Altering Postures – Value? (04-10-18)

Schwartz and his team studied the implications of changing postures while working – in other words standing after a period sitting or sitting after a time standing.  They learned that when “Subjects executed validated cognitive tests (working speed, reaction time, concentration performance) either in sitting or alternating working postures on two separate days . . . . results suggest that working posture did not affect cognitive performance in the short term.. .


Research Conversations

Why do some places feel homelike but not others?  Scientists have thoroughly investigated the answer to this question and what they’ve learned should inform the work of designers developing not only homes, but also spaces such as workplaces, dormitories, hotels, hospitals, and stores.  

Semi-transparent wall

Spiritual/religious experiences can enhance our wellbeing and cognitive scientists have identified attributes of spiritually confortable spaces. Research consistently shows that places that support positive religious/spiritual encounters improve users’ lives.

Central Park sidewalk

Corridors and sidewalks channel the movement of human beings.  Insights drawn from research in the social and physical sciences indicates that their design has a significant effect on where people end up, physically and mentally. 

From Oscar statuettes to the Lincoln Memorial to the Elgin Marbles and beyond, sculptures are often focal elements in our lives.   But how does sculpture influence how we think and behave in a space?  The answers to this question have been extensively researched.  

PlaceCoach News Briefs

An engaging cubicle

Placement, quantity, and design all matter


Spaces that align with current roles/functions

Another important guide from the British Council for Offices

Straightforward ways to encourage student creativity

Design sends consistent messages

More nuanced understanding of curved, angular effects

Presentation mode influences enjoyment

Book Reviews


Making positive experiences in the physical world more likely

Recognizing and respecting culture in a useful new way

Design at Work


The Petrie European Sculpture Court at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City is a refreshing urban oasis.