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Research recently published indicates the value of providing opportunities in workplaces for people to spend time apart.  Bernstein, Shore, and Lazer report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of Americaon their study of the performance of three-person groups doing a complex problem-solving assignment in three different situations.  In some of the groups, members never interacted with each other, in another set of groups members interacted constantly, and in the final set of groups, members interacted intermittently with each other. The investigators found that “the groups in which members never interacted [were] the most creative, coming up with the largest number of unique solutions—including some of the best and some of the worst. . . . the groups that constantly interacted . . . produce[d] a higher average quality of solution, but that they . . . fail[ed] to find the very best solutions as often. . . . Groups that interacted only intermittently preserved the best of both worlds. . . . they had an average quality of solution that was nearly identical to those groups that interacted constantly. . . . these groups also preserved enough variation to find some of the best solutions, too.”  The researchers note that “open offices . . . often have some group spaces (booths, meeting rooms) and individual spaces (phone booths, pods) in which interaction can be paused for a period of time. . . . these design-based tools for achieving intermittent rather than constant interaction may be even more important for organizational productivity and performance than previously thought.”

“Collaborate, But Only Intermittently, According to New Study by Harvard Business School Professor and Colleagues.”  2018. Press release, Harvard Business School,

Anyone who’s ever been challenged by the need to identify a mysterious odor will be interested in study findings published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.  By studying a large dataset, a research team lead by Bainbridge has learned that “1 in 15 Americans (or 6.5 percent) over the age of 40 experiences phantom odors.”  

“That Stinks!  One American in 15 Smells Odors That Aren’t There.” 2018.  Press release, National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders,

The Fitwel team is making a bibliography of studies that support their program available free of charge at  At the noted website, Fitwel reports that “The Fitwel Strategies are based on a strong foundation of data and evidence from scientific publications and documented best practices, along with input and guidance from experts from the fields of design and public health. This resource outlines a subset of citations that support the Fitwel Strategies in the Fitwel Scorecards for Workplace and Multifamily Residential.”

Wang and Shao collected data over 30 days in a university library.  The team found that “Most users were found to belong to the short-occupancy one-time visitor type, while a minority were long-occupancy users. . . . the majority of long-occupancy users tended not to have frequent breaks with some taking no break for four hours. This could have implications for their health and wellbeing as well as their productivity.”  Design can be used to increase the likelihood of taking breaks.

Yan Wang and Li Shao. 2018.  “Understanding Occupancy and User Behaviour Through Wi-Fi-Based Indoor Positioning.”  Building Research and Information, vol. 46, no. 7, pp. 725-737,

Stahlberg, Palmquist, and Nordin have learned that people with irritable bowel syndrome are also likely to have environmental sensitivities; their findings should inform the development of gastrointestinal clinics and similar spaces where concentrations of people with irritable bowel syndrome are more likely to be found. The researchers determined that people with irritable bowel syndrome also often experienced “chemical and sound intolerance, fibromyalgia, migraine, post-traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, panic syndrome, and depression as well as strong reactions/disruptions from odorous/pungent chemicals and sounds.”

Linnea Stahlberg, Eva Palmquist, and Steven Nordin.  2018. “Intolerance to Environmental Chemicals and Sounds in Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Explained by Central Sensitization?” Journal of Health Psychology, vol. 23, no. 10, pp. 1367-1377,

Coutrot lead a large research team which probed how good people from various parts of the world are at wayfinding.  What they learned may help people who design projects internationally understand differences in wayfinding ability and wayfinding aids needed in different areas. The scientists determined via a mobile video game that tested the spatial navigation ability of over 550,000 people from 57 countries that “Spatial ability of the population of a country is correlated with economic wealth [more wealth, more ability].”  More on the mobile video game used by the researchers: “The game involves navigating a boat in search of sea creatures in order to photograph them. . . . It features two main tasks: wayfinding and path integration. . . . The wayfinding task requires quite elaborate processing, including interpretation of a map, planning a multi-stop route, memory of the route, monitoring progress along the route and updating of route plan, and transformation of birds-eye perspective to an egocentric perspective needed for navigation. . . . In path-integration levels, participants navigate along a river with bends to find a flare gun and then choose which three directions is the correct direction back to the starting point along the Euclidean space.”  Individuals from North America, Australia, New Zealand and Nordic countries (Finland, Denmark, and Norway) have the best spatial navigation abilities.  Via the methodology used, video game playing ability was eliminated as an explanation for the results found.

Antoine Coutrot, Ricardo Silva, Ed Manley, Will de Cothi, Saber Sami, Veronique Bohbot, Jan Wiener, Chrisoph Holscher, Ruth Dalton, Michael Hornberger, and Hugo Spiers. “Global Determinants of Navigation Ability.”  Current Biology, in press, DOI:

Castell, Hecht, and Oberfeld investigated how ceiling color influences how high a ceiling seems to be. As the researchers report, “Previous studies have reported that the perceived height of an interior space is influenced by the luminance [brightness] of the ceiling, but not by the luminance contrast between ceiling and walls: brighter ceilings appeared higher than darker ceilings, irrespective of wall and floor luminance. However, these studies used solely achromatic colors. We report an experiment in which we extend these findings to effects of chromatic ceiling colors.We presented stereoscopic room simulations on a head-mounted display (Oculus Rift DK2) and varied hue (red, green, blue), saturation (low, high), and luminance (bright, dark) of the ceiling independently of each other.We found the previously reported ceiling luminance effect to apply also to chromatic colors: subjects judged brighter ceilings to be higher than darker ceilings. The remaining color dimensions merely had a very small (hue) or virtually no effect (saturation) on perceived height.”

Christoph von Castell, Heiko Hecht, and Daniel Oberfeld.  “Which Attribute of Ceiling Color Influences Perceived Room Height?” Human Factors:  The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, in press,

Peper and colleagues studied how posture influences academic performance and their findings should encourage the development of design options that make good posture more likely. The research team reports that “Half the students [mean age 23.5] sat in an erect position [shoulders relaxed and back] while the other half sat in a slouched position and were asked to mentally subtract 7 serially from 964 for 30 seconds. They then reversed the positions before repeating the math subtraction task beginning at 834. They rated the math task difficulty on a scale from 0 (none) to 10 (extreme). The math test was rated significantly more difficult while sitting slouched . . . than while sitting erect. . . .  Participants with the highest test anxiety, math difficulty and blanking out scores (TAMDBOS) rated the math task significantly more difficult in the slouched position . . . as compared to the erect position. . . . clinicians who work with students who have learning difficulty may improve outcome if they include posture changes.”  

Erik Peper, Richard Harvey, Lauren Mason, and I-Mei Lin.  2018.  “Do Better in Math:  How Your Body Posture May Change Stereotype Threat Response.”  NeuroRegulation, vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 67-74,

Warren studies the behavior of people in crowds and reports on his work in a recent article in Current Directions in Psychological Science.  A press release from the Association of Psychological Science describes his findings:  “Since 2016, Warren and his collaborators have been mapping the interactions between larger crowds — 16 to 30 people moving around a virtual space. . . . Through their latest investigations completed in 2018, Warren and his colleagues found that the neighborhood of interaction in human crowds around a person can expand and contract in a donut shape. There is an immediate radius around a walker where they monitor neighbors and attention gradually decreases (the donut hole). This is surrounded by a ring in which attention drops off rapidly (the donut itself), and then decreases to zero at around 16 feet. So whether you recognize it or not, when you’re walking around the mall or on the sidewalk, you carry a meters-wide donut around yourself, avoiding people . . . who are too close, gravitating toward those who are too far away, and matching the direction of everyone your donut holds.”

“How Humans Move With the Crowd.”  2018. Press release, Association for Psychological Science,


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