Research Design Connections

Situations and Wellbeing (12-22-17)

White and his team wanted to learn more about visits to nature and people’s impressions of their own wellbeing.  They share that “Focusing on urban/peri [near]-urban residents . . . from a nationally representative survey of the English population, we explored the relationships between . . . types of exposure . . . and . . . components of SWB [subjective wellbeing]. . . .

Designing So Adolescents Ride Bikes (12-21-17)

How can design encourage adolescents to ride bicycles?  Verhoeven and her team answered that question via an online survey during which adolescents (average age about 14) “were asked to indicate which of two situations they would prefer to cycle to a friend’s house. The manipulated photographs were all modified versions of one semi-urban street which differed in the following physical micro-environmental attributes (separation of cycle path, evenness of cycle path, speed limit, speed bump, traffic density, amount of vegetation and maintenance). . . .

Thermal Pleasure (12-20-17)

Parkinson and de Dear studied links between temperature and positive environmental experiences.  They report that “the experiments presented in this paper and the prequels in this series point to the importance of context, in the indoor setting and also the bodily state of the occupant, in determining whether a given thermal environmental variation will be” felt to be pleasurable or unpleasant.  Parkinson and de Dear share that “A pragmatic design solution to the . . . individual differences inherent in . . .

Cleanability and Mirrors (12-19-17)

Consider using readily cleanable materials and mirrors together.  Ackerman, Tybur, and Mortensen found that “pathogen cues [situations in which people were thinking about germs because of something they saw/heard/etc.] lead individuals chronically averse to germs to express greater concern about their own physical appearance. Correspondingly, these people exhibited behavioral intentions and decisions intended to conceal or improve their appearance.”

Undesirable, “Artificial” Art (12-18-17)

We prefer human-created to machine-generated art, except when we see robot artists at work. Chamberlain and her colleagues conducted several studies: “Study 1 tested observers’ ability to discriminate between computer-generated and man-made art, and then examined how categorization of art works impacted on perceived aesthetic value, revealing a bias against computer-generated art. In Study 2 this bias was reproduced in the context of robotic art; however, it was found to be reversed when observers were given the opportunity to see robotic artists in action.

Eating While Crowded (12-15-17)

Crowding is a subjective experience, in the same situation some people may feel crowded while others won’t.  When we do feel crowded, we eat differently than we do when we don’t.  Hock and Bagchi completed  “six studies showing that crowding increases calorie consumption.  These effects occur because crowding increases distraction, which hampers cognitive thinking and evokes more affective processing.  When consumers process information affectively [emotionally], they consumer more calories.”  When they feel crowded and are “given a choice between several different options, people select an

Lunchtime Park Walks and Relaxation Spaces: Good Ideas (12-14-17)

Having parks near workplaces where employees can walk for 15 minutes at lunchtime can be good for business—and so can creating an at-work space where people can do relaxation exercises.  A Sianola-lead team reports that “park walk . . . and relaxation . . . groups were asked to complete a 15-min exercise during their lunch break on 10 consecutive working days. Afternoon well-being. . . [was] assessed twice a week before, during, and after the intervention, altogether for 5 weeks. . . . park walks at lunchtime were related to better concentration and less fatigue in the afternoon. . . .

Researching with Social Media (12-13-17)

Tenkanen and team wanted to learn more about park use and chose some interesting research methods to do so. The researchers report that they “compared data from Instagram, Twitter and Flickr, and assessed systematically how park popularity and temporal visitor counts derived from social media data perform against high-precision visitor statistics in 56 national parks in Finland and South Africa in 2014. We show that social media activity is highly associated with park popularity, and social media-based monthly visitation patterns match relatively well with the official visitor counts.

Context Matters (12-12-17)

How abstract art is evaluated depends on nearby art.  Tousignant and Bodner found when “average-beauty abstract target paintings were paired with either a low-beauty or a high-beauty context painting. . . . and . . .  participants rated . . . context-target pairs. . . . Abstract paintings were deemed more beautiful when paired with the low-beauty (vs. high-beauty) paintings.” Study details: “context paintings were either of a similar (abstract) or different (representational) style, . . . context-target pairs were presented either sequentially or simultaneously.”


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.