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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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Workplace design solutions regularly support employee telecommuting.  Golden and Gajendran investigated the job performance implications of telecommuting, finding via the analysis of data collected in  “an organization with a voluntary telecommuting program. . . . that for telecommuters who held complex jobs, for those in jobs involving low levels of interdependence and for those in jobs with low levels of social support, the extent of telecommuting had a positive association with job performance.”  Managers rated the performance of employees reporting to them as higher when those people telecommuted more and were doing work that was complex, didn’t require too much interaction with others, or if the employee had low levels of social support at work.  People with complex jobs were seen as doing their jobs better when they telecommuted more, which the researchers suggest may be because people working outside the office encounter fewer interruptions as they work.  Among people with less complex jobs, the performance of frequent telecommuters, infrequent telecommuters, and people who worked only in company offices were comparable.  Data were collected from employees at a large firm working in a range of divisions, from marketing to accounting to engineering/programming.

Timothy Golden and Ravi Gajendran.  “Unpacking the Role of a Telecommuter’s Job in Their Performance:  Examining Job Complexity, Problem Solving, Interdependence, and Social Support.”  Journal of Business Psychology, in press,

Research by Naylor and Sanchez has generated insights that should influence the size of screens on which information is presented; its further implications for the design of tools/etc. that people use to process information in the real world are intriguing. During the Naylor/Sanchez study  “Participants read a news article on either a small or a large smartphone display and rated their attitudes toward the material before and after reading. . . . although participants remembered information equally well across the different smartphone displays, the larger smartphone display did produce a larger change in attitude toward the material. These results suggest that characteristics of smartphone design can impact perceptions of the content being viewed, fundamentally changing how one views some information that has been gathered on these mobile devices.”  The researchers report that information was presented “in a 16:9 portrait ratio with either a smaller mobile screen size (4 in. diagonally) or a larger mobile screen size (5.5 in. diagonally).”

Jamie Naylor and Christopher Sanchez. 2018. “Smartphone Display Size Influences Attitudes Toward Information Consumed on Small Devices.”  Social Science Computer Review, vol. 36, no. 2, pp. 251-260,

Rolfo and her colleagues studied the experiences of a company moving from an open-plan to an activity-based workplace.  They state that “Many companies move from open-plan offices (OPO) to activity-based workplaces (ABWs). . . . The aim of this study was to explore . . . a company’s relocation from an OPO to an ABW. . . . Results showed that satisfaction with auditory privacy, background noise, air quality, outdoor view and aesthetics increased significantly after relocation. Negative outcomes, such as lack of communication within teams, were perceived as being due to the high people-to-workstation ratio and lack of rules. Overall satisfaction with the physical work environment increased in the ABW compared to the OPO. Perceived performance did not change significantly.”  Data were collected at “a large Swedish insurance company that relocated two departments from an OPO to an ABW.”

Linda Rolfo, Jorgen Eklund, and Helena Jahncke. 2017.  “Perceptions of Performance and Satisfaction After Relocation to an Activity-Based Office.”  Ergonomics, vol. 61, no. 5, pp. 644-657,

The order in which assessments are made influences the resulting evaluations.  O’Connor and Cheema share that “Sequential evaluation is the hallmark of fair review: The same raters assess the merits of applicants, athletes, art, and more using standard criteria. We investigated one important potential contaminant in such ubiquitous decisions: Evaluations become more positive when conducted later in a sequence. In four studies, (a) judges’ ratings of professional dance competitors rose across 20 seasons of a popular television series, (b) university professors gave higher grades when the same course was offered multiple times, and (c) in an experimental test of our hypotheses, evaluations of randomly ordered short stories became more positive over a 2-week sequence.”  This effect seems to arise because as more evaluations are made, each is easier to complete and more positive ratings result.  Designers and their clients often need to make a series of evaluations over time; O’Connor and Cheema’s insights lead to more effective assessments of data gathered.

Kieran O’Connor and Amar Cheema.  “Do Evaluations Rise With Experience?” Psychological Science, in press.

Corcoran and her colleagues learned that thinking about spaces influences how we assess our future.  They report that they measured “self-reported psychological mechanisms thought to underpin mental health and well-being before and after participants briefly contemplated urban/rural or desirable/undesirable residential images. Our findings demonstrate that even brief contemplation of places change how we consider our futures and that places deemed relatively undesirable appear to promote . . . threat-focused [thinking about the future]. Importantly, these changes were . . . associated with . . . perceived desirability of place.”

Rhiannon Corcoran, Rosie Mansfield, Trina Giokas, Amy Hawkins, Lauren Bamford, and Graham Marshall. 2017.  “Place Change Minds:  Exploring the Psychology of Urbanicity Using a Brief Contemplation Method.”  Sage Open, DOI:  10.1177/2158244017707004

Lehmuskallio and colleagues studied the ability of photographers and photo editors to distinguish photographs from photorealistic computer-generated images when they were viewed on a screen.  The investigators found that study participants were “unable to distinguish one from another, suggesting that it is increasingly difficult to make this distinction, particularly since most viewers are not as experienced in photography as those studied.”  

Asko Lehmuskallio, Jukka Hakkinen, and Janne Seppanen.  “Photorealistic Computer-Generated Images Are Difficult to Distinguish from Digital Photographs:  A Case Study with Professional Photographers and Photo-Editors.” Visual Communication, in press.

Research linking listening to music while exercising with spending more time exercising has implications for soundscaping generally.  The American College of Cardiology reports that “a study being presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 67th Annual Scientific Session [lead author Waseem Shami] suggests listening to music during a standard cardiac stress test can help extend the time someone is able to perform the test. . . . On average, people who listened to music during the test were able to exercise for almost one minute longer than those who didn’t have tunes playing in their ears.” During the reported study “patients (53 years of age on average) were randomly assigned to either listen to up-tempo music (mostly Latin-inspired music) or have no music playing during their stress tests. . . . Aside from introducing headphones to the test environment, the stress test was conducted as usual in the clinic.” According to Shami,  “’After six minutes, you feel like you are running up a mountain, so even being able to go 50 seconds longer means a lot.’”. . . Although the maximum duration for a stress test is 20 minutes, Shami said most healthy people usually last for seven to eight minutes. . . . ‘Our findings reinforce the idea that upbeat music has a synergistic effect in terms of making you want to exercise longer and stick with a daily exercise routine,’ he [Shami] said. “’When doctors are recommending exercise, they might suggest listening to music too.’”

“Music Boosts Exercise Time During Cardiac Stress Testing.”  2018.  Press release, American College of Cardiology,

Synesthesia is relatively common, and new research is shedding light on why some people experience it and others don’t.  As a recent press release from the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics reports, “1 in 25 people have synaesthesia, perceiving the world in unusual ways. An experience with one sense automatically leads to perception in another sense: for example, seeing colours when listening to music. . . . researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics and the University of Cambridge. . . . studied families with synaesthesia, and describe genetic changes that might contribute to their differences in sensory experience.”  More details on synesthesia, “Some people with synaesthesia may see sounds, while others may taste them or feel them as shapes. This kind of sensory cross-talk comes in many forms, and develops during early childhood.”  Simon Fisher is the lead author on the study reporting these findings, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Seeing Sounds:  Researchers Uncover Molecular Clues for Synaesthesia.”  2018.  Press release, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics,

Breslin studied links between types of work breaks and creativity.  What he learned can be applied by designers as they work (for example, as they brainstorm); Breslin’s findings can also inform the development of spaces that support creative thinking.  Breslin “investigates the effect of off-task breaks, where individuals engage in a collective off-task activity, on group creativity.”  He found that “When compared to the no‐break case, it is seen that off‐task breaks, in which all individuals participate in the group activity, lead to more original ideas being generated post‐break. On the other hand, individual incubation breaks and self‐organizing group breaks, lead to lower levels of post‐break idea originality when compared with the no‐break case. This research thus highlights the positive benefits of off‐task breaks involving full member participation, on the creative process in groups.”

Dermot Breslin.  “Off-Task Social Breaks and Group Creativity.”  The Journal of Creative Behavior, in press,


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