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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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A research team headed by Hollander studied how we look at neighborhoods/cities.  They conducted a study during which participants “looked at different scenes of New York City public buildings in a set up with an eye tracker in front of a monitor displaying images. Half of the images had design characteristics exemplary of traditional neighborhood design (TND) (like narrow streets, complex facades, and bilateral symmetry). Subjects tended to show greater eye fixation on building fenestration [openings in building envelope] in TND environments, as opposed to the non-TND environments.”

Justin Hollander, Ann Sussman, Alex Levering, and Cara Foster-Karim.  2020.   “Using Eye-Tracking to Understand Human Responses to Traditional Neighborhood Designs.” Planning Practice and Research, vol. 35, no. 5, pp. 485-509,

Research continues to detail the many, nuanced implications of seeing the color red.  Pontes and Hoegg report that “Three studies demonstrate a red-derogation effect for married women’s judgments such that men are perceived to be less attractive and less sexually desirable when their profiles are displayed on a red versus a white background. We show that married (vs. single) women perceive the color red as a threat cue which, in turn, evokes avoidance tendencies. Our studies indicated that married (vs. single) women became more risk averse . . . after exposure to an attractive male presented on a red (vs. white) background. . . . When married women were cognitively depleted [have fewer cognitive resources available], the effect of color was mitigated [reduced]. . . . the findings demonstrate that a subtle peripheral cue (e.g., red color) is sufficient to identify an attractive other as a threat, which activates a defensive strategy.”

Nicolas Pontes and JoAndrea Hoegg.  2020. “The Red-Derogation Effect:  How the Color Red Affects Married Women’s Ratings of Male Attractiveness.”  Journal of Experimental Psychology:  Applied, vol. 26, no. 5, pp. 551-565,

Fosgaard and colleagues investigated how being viewed by others influences our behavior.  They determined that “when behavior is anonymous, uncertainty about which [social] norm guides partners reduces aggregate norm compliance. However, when others can observe behavior, introducing a small degree of norm uncertainty increases aggregate norm compliance. This implies that norm uncertainty may actually facilitate interaction as long as behavior is observable and uncertainty is sufficiently small.”  

Toke Fosgaard, Lars Hansen, and Erik Wengstrom. 2020.  “Norm Compliance in an Uncertain World.”  IFRO Working Paper 2020/04, University of Copenhagen, Department of Food and Resource Economics,

A research team lead by Battal confirms that individuals with atypical sensory capabilities may process stimuli differently.  The investigators studied “auditory-localization abilities in 17 congenitally blind and 17 sighted individuals using a psychophysical minimum-audible-angle task that lacked sensorimotor confounds. Participants were asked to compare the relative position of two sound sources located in central and peripheral, horizontal and vertical, or frontal and rear spaces. We observed unequivocal enhancement of spatial-hearing abilities in congenitally blind people, irrespective of the field of space that was assessed. Our results conclusively demonstrate that visual experience is not a prerequisite for developing optimal spatial-hearing abilities and that, in striking contrast, the lack of vision leads to a general enhancement of auditory-spatial skills."

Ceren Battal, Valeria Occelli, Giorgia Bertonati, Federica Falagiarda, and Olivier Collignon. “General Enhancement of Spatial Hearing in Congenitally Blind People.”  Psychological Science, in press,

The uncanny valley phenomenon has been studied for many years. In a recent study, Wang, Cheong, Dilks, and Rochat report that  “Human replicas highly resembling people tend to elicit eerie sensations—a phenomenon known as the uncanny valley. . . . [the Wang team’s] findings link perceived uncanniness in androids [robots with human type features] to the temporal dynamics of face animacy [how “alive” it seems to be] perception.”  The uncanny valley effect arises when a machine appears nearly lifelike but not exactly the same as a true human. The researchers found that this effect occurs not because people attribute a mind to the android but because humans come to view the “robot” as not having a mind after initial thoughts that it does.

Shensheng Wang, Yuk Cheong, Daniel Dilks, and Philippe Rochat.  “The Uncanny Valley Phenomenon and the Temporal Dynamics of Face Animacy Perception.”  Perception, in press,

The Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer is making available, at the web address noted below, an information-packed video that will be useful both to people designing lightscapes and also to anyone working from home.  At the source website, the LRC shares that it “has released a new video on how to maintain good sleep while working from home, or quarantining indoors, which is becoming more commonplace during the coronavirus pandemic. Good sleep is essential for good health, and may even have a protective effect against coronavirus because a healthy, regular sleep pattern promotes a strong immune system. The video features tips from LRC Director Dr. Mariana Figueiro about how to use the power of light to help you sleep better and feel better every day.”

“New Video:  Sleep Better and Feel Better While Working from Home.” 2020.  Lighting Research Center, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute,

Cox and colleagues’ work sheds new light on Stonehenge’s design and indicates the power of acoustic experiences.  The researchers determined that “this ancient monument in southern England created an acoustic space that amplified voices and improved the sound of any music being played for people standing within the massive circle of stones. . . . Because of how stones were placed, that speech or music would not have projected beyond Stonehenge into the surrounding countryside, or even to people standing near the stone circle.”  Findings were published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Bruce Bower.  2020. “Stonehenge Enhanced Sounds Like Voices or Music for People Inside the Monument.”  Science News,

Researchers have linked having an uncommon name to implementing uncommon strategies.  Zhang, Kang, and Zhu found that “If you’re looking for an unconventional approach to doing business, select a CEO with an uncommon name. . . . ‘Using 19 years of data on 1,172 public firms, we show that firms’ distinctive strategies are systematically linked to their CEOs’ uncommon names,’” wrote [the] co-authors. . . . . ‘This is consistent with findings from psychological research that successful professionals who have uncommon names tend to view themselves as more special, unique, interesting and creative,’ they wrote. Developing and implementing unique business strategies is ‘critical for firms to obtain competitive advantage and achieve superior performance,’ according to the authors.”

Avery Franklin. 2020. “Study:  CEOs with Uncommon Names Tend to Implement Unconventional Strategies.” Press release, Rice University,

Research indicates, again, the value of carefully managing laptop and phone use during in-person discussions.  Lindvig, Hermann, and Asgaard found, in the context of discussion-based classes in university classrooms, that when “all screens” were banned “‘Students felt compelled to be present — and liked it. When it suddenly became impossible to Google their way to an answer or more knowledge about a particular theorist, they needed to interact and, through shared reflection, develop as a group. It heightened their engagement and presence,’ explains Katrine Lindvig. . . . a more analog approach can lead to deeper learning, where one doesn’t just memorize things only to see them vanish immediately after an exam. . . . ‘there is no denying that conversation improves when people look into each other’s eyes rather than down at a screen,’ Lindvig says.”

“Lecturer Takes Laptops and Smart Phones Away and Musters Student Presence.”  2020.  Press release, University of Copenhagen,


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