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Different cultures more effectively implement particular sorts of changes.  KelloggInsight, reporting on the work of Bryony Reich, states, “Societies, countries, communities, and friend groups—collectively known as network structures—that are more individualistic and loosely connected are better at adopting ‘low-threshold’ technologies, she [Bryony Reich, an assistant professor of strategy at the Kellogg School of Management] found. These are innovations that are valuable even without a large number of adopters, such as computers or agricultural innovations.  But for higher-threshold technologies, societies with more tightly knit groups have the edge. . . . In Mexico, which consists of highly cohesive communities, 78 percent of the population used instant-messaging apps in 2013. This compares to just 23 percent of the U.S. population, which is ranked as one of the most individualistic societies. The fax machine. . . . was invented in the United States, but did not catch on right away. It did, however, take off in the 1980s in Japan, the most cohesive society in the world. After the fax machine’s widespread adoption by Japanese businessmen and homeowners, Western societies embraced it.”

“How Tight-Knit and Individualistic Communities Adopt New Technologies Differently.”  2017.  KelloggInsight,

Ikea recently polled people to learn more about their co-living related preferences. Co-living people share common spaces, even, sometimes, bathrooms.  Since people may have been motivated to participate in the Ikea survey because they have some interest in co-living, data collected need to be used with care.  Data gathered indicate that among the many thousands of participants to date, “people who are of all ages, and are in any life situation, from all countries, on average:  would prefer couples, single women and single men in their community . . . prefer members to share equal ownership of the house . . . only want the common areas to come furnished and furnish their own space themselves . . . want house-members from different walks of life . . .  are most comfortable sharing internet, self-sustainable garden and workspaces . . . don’t need their own private kitchen and would use the communal kitchen so they can have more flexible private space . . . want to make sure their private room is off-limits when they’re not home . . . think 4-10 is the right amount of people for a community . . . worry most about the potential lack of privacy . . . and finally, think the two biggest pros of living with others is having more ways to socialize and splitting costs and getting more bang for your buck.”

Our personality seems tied, at least in part, to the climate where we grew up.  Since personality influences how people experience design/space, this link between personality and early living may explain consistencies found among user groups, and indicate reasonable design-response hypotheses based on user group locations, for example.  Wei and his team undertook their project because “Human personality traits differ across geographical regions.”  They established that “compared with individuals who grew up in regions with less clement [mild] temperatures, individuals who grew up in regions with more clement temperatures (that is, closer to 22 °C [72 degrees Fahrenheit]) scored higher on personality factors related to socialization and stability  (agreeableness, conscientiousness, and emotional stability) and personal growth and plasticity (extraversion and openness to experience). . . . As climate change continues across the world, we may also observe concomitant changes in human personality.”

Wenqi Wei, Jackson Lu, Adam Galinsky, and 23 others. 2017.  “Regional Ambient Temperature is Associated with Human Personality.” Nature, Human Behavior,

Research indicates that human’s aesthetic preferences are reflected in the forms chosen for letters in alphabets and syllabaries (“in which characters represent syllables”).  Price, reporting on the work of Olivier Morin, of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, shares that writing systems such as Cyrillic, Arabic, Sanskrit and 113 others “share basic structural features. . . .: characters with vertical symmetry (like the Roman letters A and T) and a preference for vertical and horizontal lines over oblique lines (like those in latters X and W). . . . Morin found, on average, that about 61% of lines across all scripts were either horizontal or vertical, higher than chance would predict. . . . And vertically symmetrical characters accounted for 70% of all the symmetrical characters.”  More insights:  “’People appear to have an aesthetic preference for certain kinds of shapes and designs, and that preference seems to explain the writing systems we see,’ says Julie Fiez, a psychologist at the University of Pittsburgh . . . who was not involved in the study. . . . Morin found no evidence that scripts tend to become more horizontal or vertical over time, suggesting that the scribes who created them baked human preferences into the written word from the beginning.”

Michael Price.  2017.  “Why Written Languages Look Alike the World Over.”  Science,

Experience may influence how distracting it is to hear background noise.  Kou and team share that “Previous research has shown that background auditory distractors (music and sound/noise) have a more severe impact on introverts’ performances on complex cognitive tasks than extraverts (Dobbs, Furnham, & McClelland, 2011).”  The Kuo-led group partially replicated Dobbs and team’s study, with Chinese instead of English participants, finding that when “Chinese participants . . . carried out three cognitive tasks with the presence of Chinese pop songs, background office noise, and silence. . .  results did not reveal any differences in performance as a function of the distraction condition, nor was there a difference in performance between extraverts and introverts. The failure to replicate is explained in terms of habituation to [adjustment to] noisy environments among Chinese participants.”  Fine-tuning these findings, using varying intensities of background noise, is in order.

Siyi Kou, Alastair McClelland, and Adrian Furnham.  “The Effect of Background Music and Noise on the Cognitive Test Performance of Chinese Introverts and Extraverts.”  Psychology of Music, in press.

Research indicates that the value of art is tied to its creator’s psychological state; it seems reasonable to extrapolate from this study to the value of design solutions, for example.  Graddy and Lieberman report that “Dates of death of relatives and close friends of 33 French artists and 15 American artists were gathered from electronic sources and biographies, and information on over 15,000 paintings was collected from the Blouin Art Sales Index and the online collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery of Art, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Musée d’Orsay, including more than 12,000 observations on price. . . . there is no evidence that the death of a friend or relative makes an artist more creative, and there is some evidence that prices of paintings are significantly lower [about 35%] during the first year following the year of death of a friend or relative [but this decrease usually doesn’t last longer than a year]. Furthermore, paintings that were created during this bereavement period are less likely to be included in a major museum’s collection.”

Kathryn Graddy and Carl Lieberman.  “Death, Bereavement, and Creativity.”  Management Science, in press.

Monsivais and his colleagues learned that the timing of the natural light we experience during a day influences our behavior, even when we have ready access to artificial (electric, for example) light.  They report that “For humans living in urban areas, the modern daily life is very different from that of people who lived in ancient times, from which today’s societies evolved.  Mainly due to the availability of artificial lighting, modern humans have been able to modify their natural daily cycles. . . . the length and timings of the human daily rhythms, still have a sensitive dependence on the seasonal changes of the sunlight.”  So, for example, during periods when the sun rises later in the morning, people also become active later in the morning and when the sun sets earlier, people go to sleep earlier.  These findings can be applied to better understand the peak times for the use of spaces and services (such as transit routes) and the relative amount of power consumed in a building during a day, for example.

Daniel Monsivais, Asim Ghosh, Kunal Bhattacharya, Robin Dunbar, and Kimmo Kaski.  2017.  “Tracking Urban Human Activity from Mobile Phone Calling Patterns.”  PLoS Computational Biology, vol. 13, no. 11,

EDRA is now accepting applications for its CORE (Certificate of Research Excellence) program (deadline: January 15, 2018).  For more information and to apply, visit the website noted below.

The EDRA website states that CORE “is a professional certification that recognizes and celebrates exceptional, rigorous, and impactful practice-based environmental design research studies. CORE affords design research professionals in any industry sector the opportunity to be at the forefront of environmental design research, showcase the proficiency of their work . . . and advance the industry with rigorous and impactful design research.”  Applications for CORE status are “scored on [their] own merit against the CORE evaluation criteria, which are based on two main dimensions: (1) Research Rigor—the use of recognized scientific approaches (research design, tools, and data collection) and techniques to produce valid results (data analysis and finding interpretation), and (2) Research Value—the study’s actual (or potential future) impact on the design industry and project stakeholders.”

Among the EDRA 2017 CORE recipients were (all quotes in this section from project descriptions provided by applicants):  

  • Project: Campus Capital Framework:  Mapping Meaning to Inform the Michigan Union Renovation, submitted by the research team of Brian Schermer, Jan van den Kieboom, Peter van den Kieboom, Nick Robinson, Sweta Meier.  This group’s project focused on the revitalization of the student union at the University of Michigan (the Michigan Union).  Team members learned that “the Michigan Union not only ranks among the most significant places on campus, but is also the only place that ranked among the top settings for each form of capital [social, intellectual, symbolic, and restorative]. . . . students advocated for a revitalized center for student life that would reflect their most cherished values: inclusion and activism. . . . they felt that these values could best be actualized by positioning the Michigan Union as a place to: (1) help students find their niche, (2) turn for comfort, care, and social support, (3) inspire campus pride and a sense of history, (4) foster involvement, collaboration, creativity, and debate, and (5) study while maintaining social connections.”
  • Project: On-Stage/Off-Stage Clinic Design:  Implications for Operational Efficiencies, Staff Collaboration, and Privacy, submitted by the research team of Kara Freihoefer, Len Kaiser, Dennis Vonasek, Sara Bayramzadeh.  This group of researchers wanted “to understand how two different ambulatory care centers (ACC) designed modules—on/off-stage and linear—impact[ed] the amount of time clinic staff spent communicating with other clinic staff; operational efficiency of clinic staff (as measured by distance and time spent traveling, and patient throughput); and patient perception of privacy.”   The team learned that “the on/off-stage module significantly improved operational efficiencies such as reduced time spent and distance traveled. . . . patients’ perception of privacy did not change among the two modules. . . . patient throughput times had significantly decreased in the on/off-stage module.” Some definitions: “The linear module had shared corridors and publicly exposed workstations; whereas, the on/off-stage module separates patient/visitors from staff with dedicated patient corridors leading to exam rooms (on-stage) and enclosed staff work cores (off-stage).”
  • Project: Revitalizing Underutilized Social-Study Areas in a Student Residence Hall submitted by the research team of Sharmin Kader, Nadia Zhiri, Kent Spreckelmeyer, Malia Bucher, Joellen Tipton.  This group probed the optimal design of social-study areas in college/university student residence halls. They found that  “students utilize study areas almost twice as much if the environment is attractive and comfortable to them. . . . a good number of students reported that they do not like having daylight or a window view in their study areas because these features are distracting to them during study. Students also like a variety of styles in study areas instead of similar ones on each floor. These diversities also increased social interactions among students from different floors. . . . a list of significant design criteria has been recommended: create an intimate and warm environment; provide comfortable, attractive, and flexible furniture to create multiple desirable arrangements; design semi-privacy with enough sense of enclosure and having a visual connection with circulation; provide a stimulating factor such as TV, or white board; create a focal point (e.g., a hearth) to encourage intimate gathering; promote tangible traditions such as artwork of school spirit; and allow natural light and views with a control system.”  

Chaney and Sanchez studied responses to gender-inclusive bathrooms; best practices for designing these sorts of rest rooms have been receiving a lot of attention recently, for example here:  Chaney/Sanchez report that  “While gender-inclusive bathrooms serve a practical function of providing a safe public restroom for transgender individuals, they may also signal identity safety [in other words, fairness] for women and racial minorities who may experience identity threat in organizations. . . .  we demonstrated that women . . . and racial minorities (Blacks, Latinos; . . .) report greater procedural fairness [i.e., less discrimination] and a more positive gender . . . or racial . . . climate in organizations with gender-inclusive bathrooms compared to traditional bathrooms. Further, these effects were due to . . . gender-inclusive bathrooms. . . signaling more egalitarian social environments.”

Kimberly Chaney and Diana Sanchez.  “Gender-Inclusive Bathrooms Signal Fairness Across Identity Dimensions.”  Social Psychological and Personality Science, in press.


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