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Welcome to the Research Design Connections blog, started in 2007. Recent blog entries are available here. Earlier blog entries (one for every working day since the beginning of May, 2007) are available to subscribers.

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Newly published research indicates that whether people are asked to make selections using check marks or x’s makes a difference.  Yoon and Vargas report that “we find that the check and X marks carry different symbolic associations; people associate check with good and X with bad. . . . People who make positively connoted [implied] check marks (as opposed to negatively connoted X marks) to indicate their judgments are more agreeable toward familiar, controversial social policies as well as market research survey items on values and life styles. Differential symbolic markings with check and X marks seem to shape how people think and make judgments. . . . Consumers instructed to make check marks may be more agreeable, whereas those instructed to make X marks may be more disagreeable.” Also, “The ways people construe the meanings of marks could also be shaped by their culture. . . .  For instance, a check mark is used to symbolize wrong in Sweden and Finland; an O mark signifies acceptance in Korea and Japan.”

Gunwoo Yoon and Patrick Vargas. 2018.  “The Subtle Influence of Check and X Marks:  How Symbolic Markings Influence Judgment.” Journal of Consumer Psychology, vol. 28, no. 4, pp. 682-688, 

Perfecto, Donnelly, and Critcher assessed how people estimate volume.  They determined that  “The same container is judged larger when right side up than when upside down because of the greater ease of imagining filling an upright container. . . . Imagining pouring water through a narrow opening toward a relatively wide base produces a sense that the container is cavernous and large (compared with identically sized, wide-topped, narrow-based containers).”

Hannah Perfecto, Kristin Donnelly, and Clayton Critcher.  “Volume Estimation Through Mental Simulation.”  Psychological Science,in press,

Han and Gershoff found that how much control we feel we have in a particular situation influences perceived physical distances.  The team learned that “Prior research has found that people perceive positive objects and locations as physically closer than negative ones. . . .  across four studies, we show that high (vs. low) control makes positive targets feel closer and negative targets feel more distant in both physical space (Studies 1 and 1a) and time (Studies 2 and 2a). Then, in Studies 3 and 4, we simultaneously examine perceptions of spatial and temporal distance and show that baseline differences in perceived control between these domains can explain the prior discrepant findings. . . . a within‐paper meta‐analysis offers further support to these findings.”

Jerry Han and Andrew Gershoff. 2018.  “When Good Things Feel Closer and Bad Things Feel Farther: The Role of Perceived Control on Psychological Distance Perception.”  Journal of Consumer Psychology, vol. 28, no. 4, pp. 629-643,

Researchers have linked living in a greener area with better cardiovascular health.  A Yeager-lead team reports that they “measured biomarkers of cardiovascular injury and risk in participant blood and urine. We estimated greenness from satellite‐derived normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) in zones with radii of 250 m and 1 km surrounding the participants’ residences. . contemporaneous NDVI within 250 m of participant residence was inversely associated with urinary levels of epinephrine . . . and F2‐isoprostane. . . . Independent of age, sex, race, smoking status, neighborhood deprivation, statin use, and roadway exposure, residential greenness is associated with lower levels of sympathetic activation, reduced oxidative stress, and higher angiogenic capacity. . . . Living in green spaces is associated with lower stress and diminished cardiovascular disease risk. . . . Persistent exposure to greenness is conducive to cardiovascular health.”

Ray Yeager, Daniel Riggs, Natasha DeJarnett, David Tollerud, Jeffrey Wilson, Daniel Conklin, Timothy O’Toole, James McCracken, Pawel Lorkiewicz, Zhengzhi Xie, Nagma Zafar and 8 more authors.  “Association Between Residential Greenness and Cardiovascular Disease Risk.”  Journal of the American Heart Association, vol. 7, no. 24, e009117, no pagination,

Davidovic and colleagues studied preferred colors for street lighting.  They report that their “project aimed to compare subjective evaluations of the sidewalk illumination under two street lighting installations, realised by LEDs of 3000 K (warm white) and 4000 K (neutral white). . . . Both installations had comparable sidewalk illuminances as well as other relevant photometric parameters. . . . [study participants were] asked to grade both lighting installations for the sidewalk light intensity, the appearance of human faces, the colour of light and the colour rendering as well as the overall impression. . . . the 3000 K LED installation was considered better than the 4000 K installation for all aspects assessed as well as the overall impression.”

M. Davidovic, L. Djokic, A. Cabarkapa, and M. Kostic.  “Warm White Versus Neutral White LED Street Lighting:  Pedestrians’ Impressions.”  Lighting Research and Technology, in press,

Findings of a study conducted by Horgan, Herzog, and Dryszlewski indicate that designers should not only keep their own workplaces looking neat, but that they should also support any potential efforts by the users of the offices they develop to maintain a neat looking desk via drawers/cabinets/etc., where desktop items can be “stashed.”  Horgan and team investigated  “How perceivers' impressions of a researcher's personality might vary as a function of the messiness of the researcher's office. . . . Participants from the US were randomly assigned to sit in a researcher's office (A) that was either clean, neat, organized, and uncluttered or one (office B) that was somewhat messy (experiment 1) or very messy (experiments 2 & 3). They guessed the Big 5 traits of the researcher afterward. In each experiment, participants thought that the office B researcher was less conscientious than the office A researcher. In experiments 2 and 3, participants also thought that the office B researcher was less agreeable and more neurotic than the office A researcher.”  In the neat office papers, books, and journals were neatly arranged on the desktop and shelves, for example, and in the messier office that was not the case; also, in the messier office, some materials were placed on the floor, for instance.

Terrence Horgan, Noelle Herzog, and Sarah Dryszlewski.  2019. “Does Your Messy Office Make Your Mind Look Cluttered?  Office Appearance and Perceivers’ Judgments About the Owner’s Personality.”  Personality and Individual Differences, vol. 138, pp. 370-379,

Hutmacher and Kuhbander studied the psychological implications of having touched something. They found that “The question of how many of our perceptual experiences are stored in long-term memory has received considerable attention. The present study examined long-term memory for haptic [touch] experiences. . . . These results indicate that detailed, durable, long-term memory representations are stored as a natural product of haptic perception.”  So touching builds memories, even when objects felt aren’t seen.

Fabian Hutmacher and Christof Kuhbander.  “Long-Term Memory for Haptically Explored Objects:  Fidelity, Durability, Incidental Encoding, and Cross-Modal Transfer.” Psychological Science, in press,

Vaughan has written a book, a PDF of which is free at the website noted below, that focuses on the development and use of maps tied to multiple social science-related factors. As materials describing the book on its website state, “Mapping Society traces the evolution of social cartography over the past two centuries. . . . Laura Vaughan examines maps of ethnic or religious difference, poverty, and health inequalities, demonstrating how they not only serve as historical records of social enquiry, but also constitute inscriptions of social patterns that have been etched deeply on the surface of cities.  The book covers themes such as the use of visual rhetoric to change public opinion . . . changing attitudes to physical disorder, and the complexity of segregation as an urban phenomenon. . . . the narrative carries the discussion of the spatial dimensions of social cartography forward to the present day, showing how disciplines such as public health, crime science, and urban planning chart spatial data in their current practice.”

Laura Vaughan. 2018.  Mapping Society:  The Spatial Dimensions of Social Cartography.  UCL Press, London,

A recent press release from VIB (a life sciences research institute in Flanders, Belgium) describes the findings of a study published in Nature Communications. That research indicates that what we “see” may vary based on the situation in which we encounter it.  Researchers lead by Vincent Bonin learned that “What we see is not only determined by what is really there, but also depends on whether we are paying attention, whether we are moving, excited or interested. . . . the processing of visual information in the brain is indeed modulated by our own behavior. . . . the researchers . . . found that some neurons were more strongly affected by movement than others [for example]. . . . ‘A consequence of these visual cell-type specific changes is that the overall sensitivity to fast-moving stimuli is enhanced. This may improve the processing of the fast-changing visual scene during exploration and navigation,’ says Bonin.”

“How Your Moving Brain Sees the World.”  2018. Press release, VIB,


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