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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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Success and selecting luxurious options have been linked by Wu and his team.  They report that “Conspicuous consumption refers to the phenomenon where individuals purchase goods for signaling social status, rather than for its inherent functional value. . . .  Winning a [social] competition increased . . . preferences for higher-status vs. lower-status products.”  All participants in the study by Wu and colleagues were male and an example of conspicuous consumption is buying an expensive sports car. Participants winning social competitions were victorious playing the game Tetris.  Decision makers at organizations planning new offices, for example, are likely to be influenced in the same way by their social successes as people playing Tetris.

Yin Wu, Christoph Eisenegger, Niro Sivanathan, Molly Crockett, and Luke Clark.  2017.  “The Role of Social Status and Testosterone in Human Conspicuous Consumption.”  Scientific Reports, vol. 7, article 11803.

Gibson and his team studied the how languages communicate color information.  They learned that “Across languages, from the hunter-gatherer Tsimane' people of the Amazon to students in Boston, warm colors are communicated more efficiently than cool colors. This cross-linguistic pattern reflects the color statistics of the world: Objects (what we talk about) are typically warm-colored, and backgrounds are cool-colored. Communicative needs also explain why the number of color terms varies across languages: Cultures vary in how useful color is. Industrialization, which creates objects distinguishable solely based on color, increases color usefulness.”

Edward Gibson, Richard Futrell, Julian Jara-Ettinger, Kyle Mahowald, Leon Bergen, Sivalogeswaran Ratnasingam, Mitchell Gibson, Steven Piantadosi, and Bevil Conway.  “Color Naming Across Languages Reflects Color Use.”  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, in press.

Digg shares, at the website noted below, floor plans for several fictional television workplaces drawn up by Bizdaq.  These sets influence user expectations for actual workplaces, so a review of these floor plans can be time well spent.

Joey Cosco.  2017.  “Tour the Floor Plans of All Your Favorite TV Offices.”

The National Walking and Walkable Communities Report Card has been issued.  It seems that the United States may need some remedial tutoring: “The United States earns failing grades when it comes to the number of people walking to work and school plus the number of walkable communities. . . . The U.S. earned an “F” for children and youth walking behavior, safety, public transportation, institutional policies and pedestrian infrastructure. It earned a “D” for walkable neighborhoods and pedestrian policies. It got a “C” for adult walking behavior. . . .The full report is available at”

“U.S. Report Card on Walking and Walkable Communities:  Fail.”  2017.  Press release, Washington University in St. Louis,

Whitehead ties interior design, generally, to the design of film sets.  As the material at his publisher’s website states: his “book sets out to explore the creation of interior atmosphere as seen through the lens of mise-en-scène. [Readers] learn how this film theory informs the concept of 'staged space' translated through the narrative and expressive qualities of a particular scene. Jean Whitehead . . . takes this concept beyond the screen and considers its application to the interior 'setting'. [Readers learn] to use the ingredients that inform an 'interior' mise-en-scène such as its backdrop, choice of props, use of special effects alongside the application of colour, pattern, graphics, light and shadow, [to develop] an immersive atmospheric experience.”  Case studies, from movies and “real” life, support discussions of “props” and “special effects,” for example.

Jean Whitehead.  2017.  Creating Interior Atmosphere:  Mise-en-Scene and Interior Design.  Bloomsbury Visual Arts, New York.

Finch and her colleagues assessed how standing influences reading comprehension and creativity.  They report on the findings of their lab experiment:  study “participants completed reading comprehension and creativity tasks while both sitting and standing. Participants self-reported their mood during the tasks and also responded to measures of expended effort and task difficulty. . . . body position did not affect reading comprehension or creativity performance, nor did it affect perceptions of effort or [task] difficulty. . . . Participants exhibited greater task engagement (i.e., interest, enthusiasm, and alertness) and less comfort while standing rather than sitting. In sum, performance and psychological experience as related to task completion were nearly entirely uninfluenced by . . . standing desk use.”  Study participants first stood or sat while taking a set of reading comprehension and creativity tests and then changed to the alternate position (those sitting down stood up and those standing up sat down) to complete additional reading comprehension and creativity tests.  Participants, on average, spent about 30 minutes standing and about 30 minutes seated during the study.

Laura Finch, A. Tomiyama, and Andrew Ward.  2017.  “Take a Stand:  The Effects of Standing Desks on Task Performance and Engagement.”  International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 14, no. 8,

Research Xu and Labroo published in 2014 was discussed in a 2017 issue of KelloggInsight, bringing their study findings to the attention of a broad audience of management professionals.  As the article in KelloggInsight states, Xu and Labroo found that “bright light can make us a little hot under the collar. This is true physically—we feel warmer in a brightly lit room than in a dimmer one at the same temperature—as well as emotionally.  In one study, participants were shown a script for a commercial that featured a man honking at someone while driving, cursing at someone in a parking lot, and rushing past a pregnant woman. Participants viewed the man’s behavior as more aggressive when the lights in the room in which they were sitting were bright. Bright light also amplifies positive reactions—female models were rated as more attractive to participants sitting in a brightly lit room than in a dimly lit one. . . .  So if you want to sway others with an impassioned plea, consider a place flooded with light. If you want cooler heads to prevail, however, hit the dimmer switch.”  Xu and Labroo’s 2014 study was published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology (“Turning On the Hot Emotional System with Bright Light,” vol. 24, no. 2, pp. 207-216).  In their article, the researchers report that “Across six studies we show that ambient brightness makes people feel warmer, which increases the intensity of their affective [emotional] response.”  In the brighter condition, overhead fluorescent lights of unspecified intensity were turned on and in the dimmer condition they were turned off and the only light in the research space came from computer screens in use (again, intensity of light unknown).

“Take 5:  How to Nurture Your Work Relationships.”  2017.  KelloggInsight,

Multiple recent studies report that sitting too long at work can be dangerous; new research by Smith and his team indicates that too much standing at work can also be harmful.  Workplace options that encourage people to sit, stand, move, and change position are advantageous.  Data collected over 12 years for 7320 employed Canadians 35 years old or older, who were free of heart disease when the study began, were examined.  The researchers determined that “Occupations involving predominantly standing were associated with an approximately two-fold risk of heart disease compared to occupations involving predominantly sitting.”  Statistical techniques were used to eliminate “other health, socio-demographic and work variables” as explanations for the effects found.

Peter Smith, Huiting Ma, Richard Glazier, Mahee Gilbert-Ouimet, and Cameron Mustard. “The Relationship Between Occupational Standing and sitting and Incident Heart Disease over a 12-Year Period in Ontario, Canada.”  American Journal of Epidemiology, in press.

Lewis and her team researched personal space invasions in airplanes.  Their findings indicate there are several ways we can invade each other’s space: “The invasion of personal space is often a contributory factor to the experience of discomfort in aircraft passengers. . . . the results of this study indicate that the invasion of personal space is not only caused by physical factors (e.g. physical contact with humans or objects), but also other sensory factors such as noise, smells or unwanted eye contact.” The lessons learned by Lewis and her team are applicable in all shared spaces, not only airplane interiors.

Laura Lewis, Harshada Patel, Mirabelle D’Cruz, and Sue Cobb.  2017.  “What Makes a Space Invader?  Passenger Perceptions of Personal Space Invasion in Aircraft Travel.” Journal of Ergonomics, vol. 60, no. 11, pp. 1461-1470.


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