Research Design Connections

Music and In-Store Crowding (01-31-18)

Knoeferle, Raus, and Vossen studied ties between in-store music tempo and whether shoppers felt crowded.  As the report, “Research suggests that in-store crowding can lower customers’ spending. . .  we [tested different] in-store music tempos and measured social density [crowding] in six European retail stores. Analyzing over 40,000 individual shopping baskets, we found that. . . . .fast music strongly increased spending under high-density conditions. The increase in shopping basket value was driven by customers buying more items rather than buying items that were more expensive.

Politics and Preferences (01-30-18)

Ordabayeva and Fernandes investigated links between political opinions and product selections.  Their findings can be used by people making design recommendations or trying to make sense of research data.  Ordabayeva and Fernandes found that “Conservative ideology leads consumers to differentiate from others vertically in the social hierarchy through products that signal that they are better than others, and liberal ideology leads consumers to differentiate from others horizontally in the social hierarchy through products that signal that they are unique from others.”

Consistent Responses to Sounds (01-29-18)

During a recently completed study, people from around the world categorized music they heard in consistent ways.  The regularities in their assessments support functional soundscaping, which is often discussed in Research Design Connections.  A research team lead by Mehr found that when people from 60 countries listened to songs from 86 cultures they could often identify the purpose of the song (for example, to lull children to sleep).

Moving in Museums (01-26-18)

Pelowski and his team reviewed “factors that could influence our interactions with museum-based art.”  They report, for example that “Upon entering a gallery, visitors often pause and survey the room, determining which objects should be engaged with and identifying a desired path to follow. . . . Visitors  . . . tend to move to the right upon entering a gallery and may give more attention to works on the right side of a room.  There is a tendency to follow the wall around a room and to leave at the first doorway. . . .

Risky Music (01-25-18)

The music to be played in a space is regularly considered as design decisions are made. Elvers and Steffens’ research indicates that potential playlists need to be carefully chosen:  “Listening to music before, during, or after sports is a common phenomenon. . .  In this study. . . .  listening to motivational music led to greater risk taking but did not improve [sports] performance.

The Dangers of Internal Distractions (01-24-18)

Sometimes too boring can be too bad, safety-wise.  Geden, Staicu, and Feng found that “A significant portion of the risk of driver distraction comes from the cognitive consequences of attention deviating from the current task. While distraction can be due to external stimulations such as flashing billboards or a ringing phone, simply engaging in internally-generated task-unrelated thoughts (i.e., mind wandering) could raise one’s crash risk as well. . . . Our study found that, under a higher perceptual load [more visually interesting environment], participants’ minds wandered less often. .

Encouraging Older People to Walk (01-23-18)

Keskinen and colleagues were interested in learning more about how the design of their neighborhoods influences distances walked outdoors by older people (age 75 to 90).  To complete their study, Keskinen and her team determined if water was present near study participants’ homes and assessed landscape diversity in the same areas.  The researchers found that “higher habitat diversity within natural areas correlates with higher PA [physical activity] among older people without walking difficulties and the presence of water correlates with higher PA among those with walking difficulties.

Take Care When Naming (01-22-18)

Designers are often asked to name their projects, etc., and research by Dohle and Montoya makes it clear that names for spaces and objects need to be carefully chosen.  The researchers found that “Prior research has demonstrated that high processing fluency [something being easier to pronounce] influences a wide range of evaluations and behaviors in a positive way. . .  we demonstrate that increasing the fluency of pharmaceutical drug names [making them easier to pronounce] increases drug dosage. . . .

Urban Psychology (01-19-18)

Ellard directs the Urban Realities Laboratory at the University of Waterloo.  He reports that some of his Laboratory’s research findings include:  “Street-level facades that are low in visual complexity not only cause participants to self-report lower levels of interest and pleasure, but their levels of autonomic arousal become low.  The biometric signature of a low-complexity street looks very much like the signature shown by participants in laboratory studies who are experiencing states of boredom.”  Also, “Immersion in greenspace in cities, even when it is modest (a community garden in t


Research Conversations

Dome view

Ceilings significantly affect the psychological experience of being in a place, although space users do not often focus on these horizontal planes.  This article reviews neuroscience research on ceilings and how these surfaces can be used to achieve design objectives.

Reflected Façades

Cognitive science research in urban and other settings regularly shows that people are people no matter where they are and that they respond in consistent ways to the worlds around themselves. This article highlights findings from urban design studies that illustrate fundamental design principles that improve people’s lives, anyplace.


Designed and natural spaces can inspire awe in humans.  How do they produce this effect and why does it matter?  Applying insights gained from social science research to answer these questions enhances design practice.

How we sense and make sense of the environment around us—and how our brains work with information, in general—can vary based on where we are on Earth.  We discuss Equator-relative, design-related variations in thoughts and behaviors in this article.

PlaceCoach News Briefs


Findings that prevent crowding


Build in exploration

Quantifying the effects of applying basic principles

What's on the walls matters

The right answer depends on location

Research to inform design that supports rehabilitation

Practical. Relevant. Free.

Varying user experiences can be appropriate

Book Reviews


Makes unconscious forces conscious considerations

A crucial guide to an important tool

Design at Work


London’s Design Museum is a marvelous place to spend time and to learn about design's ability to influence our lives.