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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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Crossan and Salmoni’s work confirms previous studies which have determined that nature experiences are mentally refreshing.  The research team reports that “Attention restoration theory (ART) predicts that top-down processing during everyday activities can cause attentional fatigue and that bottom-up processing that occurs when people experience nature will be restorative. This study exposed participants to three different conditions . . . : a control condition during which participants walked on a typical treadmill; a nature condition during which participants walked on the same treadmill, experiencing a simulated nature walk; and a perturbation condition that included the same simulated nature scene but also required top-down processing during the walk. The findings supported ART predictions. . . . . top-down processing [note the description of this sort of mental work, above] in a simulated natural environment nullified the restorative effects and the nature condition produced a significant improvement in directed attention performance compared to the control and perturbation conditions after a 10-min walk.”

Corey Crossan and Alan Salmoni.  “A Simulated Walk in Nature:  Testing Predictions from the Attention Restoration Theory.”  Environment and Behavior, in press, https://doi.org/10.1177/0013916519882775

A press release from Drexel indicates that plants may not be as effective at cleaning indoor air as thought.   This finding does not relate to plants’ ability to support cognitive refreshment, professional performance, and creativity, for example, as reported previously by Research Design Connections.  The Drexel team (Waring and Cummings) found that “Plants can help spruce up a home or office space, but claims about their ability to improve the air quality are vastly overstated. . . . A closer look at decades of research suggesting that potted plants can improve the air in homes and offices reveals that natural ventilation far outpaces plants when it comes to cleaning the air.‘This has been a common misconception for some time. Plants are great, but they don’t actually clean indoor air quickly enough to have an effect on the air quality of your home or office environment,’ said [Waring]. . . . according to Waring and Cummings’s calculations, it would take between 100 and 1,000 plants per square meter of floor space to compete with the air cleaning capacity of a building’s air handling system or even just a couple open windows in a house.” The Waring/Cummings study was published in the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology.

“Study:  Actually, Potted Plants Don’t Improve Air Quality.”  2019.  Press release, Drexel University, https://drexel.edu/now/archive/2019/November/potted-plants-do-not-improv...

Research conducted at the University of California, Davis, indicates that the temperature and air quality in K-12 classrooms may be degrading students’ ability to learn.  A press release from Davis, reporting on a study from UC Davis and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) published in Building and Environment,states that “Roughly 85 percent of recently installed HVAC systems in K-12 classrooms investigated in California did not provide adequate ventilation. . . . researchers visited 104 classrooms . . . that had been retrofitted with new heating, ventilation and air conditioning, or HVAC, units in the past three years. . . . ‘Previous research has shown that under-ventilation of classrooms is common and negatively impacts student health and learning,’ [quote attributed to Rengie Chan from Berkeley Lab]. . . .ASHRAE, a global professional society that sets standards for building performance, specifies a minimum ventilation rate for classrooms of 15 cubic feet per minute per person. . . .researchers found only about 15 percent of classrooms met the ventilation standard.. . . thermal comfort impacts student performance. . . . about 60 percent of the classrooms were warmer than the recommended average maximum temperature range of 73 F.”  

“Are Students Getting Enough Air?  Many California Classrooms Don’t Have Sufficient Ventilation.”  2019.  Press release, University of California Davis, https://www.ucdavis.edu/news/are-students-getting-enough-air

Recently completed research confirms that humans are indeed fascinating creatures and that their sensory systems work in intriguing ways.  Murugesu states that “The olfactory bulb, a structure at the very front of the brain, plays a vital role in our ability to smell. Or, at least, so we thought. A research team has now discovered a handful of women who have a perfectly normal sense of smell but who seem to lack olfactory bulbs – completely altering our long-held views about smell.”  The study reporting these findings is published in Neuron and written by Weiss, Soroka, Gorodisky, Shushan, Snitz, Weissgross, Furman-Haran, Dhollander, and Sobel.

Jason Murugesu.  2019. “Some Women Lack Odour-Detecting Part of Brain But Still Sense Smells.” New Scientist, https://www.newscientist.com/article/2222618-some-women-lack-odour-detec...

Crede and team evaluated how effective different sorts of landmarks are at helping people find their way through a space.  They define global landmarks as visible throughout a trip while local landmarks can be seen at specific points and not continuously.  Local landmarks are “sequentially visible” while global landmarks are “simultaneously visible.”  The investigators lreport that “our results have direct practical implications for the design of future digital navigation assistance systems that would support survey knowledge acquisition even while a navigator is multi-tasking. . . .  Our results suggest that it is important to emphasize global landmarks dynamically on digital navigation systems to prevent disorientation and support spatial knowledge acquisition.”  

Sascha Crede, Tyler Thrash, Christoph Holscher, and Sara Fabrikant. “The Advantage of Globally Visible Landmarks for Spatial Learning.”  Journal of Environmental Psychology, in press, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envp.2019.101369

A Glaveanu-lead team has studied the implications of working with others or alone on creative and practical thinking.  Their findings have implications for the sorts of spaces (individual/for use by two people/etc.) provided in a variety of settings, for example, and also for managing the design process, for instance.  The researchers report that “the aim of this article is to examine the creative process in the case of individuals and dyads in relation to the originality and practicality of their ideas. . . . [data gathered] suggested that people working together might prefer practical ideas. This preliminary evidence of a possible ‘practicality effect,’ we speculate, has something to do with the fact that practical ideas are easier to communicate and validate when collaborating. As such, creativity is not necessarily hindered by working with other people but takes on a different orientation (i.e., toward the feasible).“

Vlad Glaveanu, Alex Gillespie, and Marciej Kanwowski.  2019. “Are People Working Together Incline Towards Practicality?  A Process Analysis of Creative Ideation in Individuals and Dyads.”  Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, vol. 13, no. 4, pp. 388-401, http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/aca0000171

Gray and team have linked the perceived presence of different sorts of spirits to particular sorts of spaces—which provides interesting insights into how certain locations are thought about.  The researchers determined that “Evil spirits are perceived to haunt houses and dense forests, whereas good spirits are perceived in expansive locations such as mountaintops.”

Kurt Gray, Stephen Anderson, Cameron Doyle, Neil Hester, Peter Schmitt, Andrew Vonasch, Scott Allison, and Joshua Jackson.  2018. “To Be Immortal, Do Good or Evil.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, vol. 44, no. 6, pp. 868-880, https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167217754068

Weijs-Perree lead a team that investigated how university employees and students use spaces for face-to-face interactions.  They determined via data collected at a building at a Dutch university that “students more often interacted in meeting rooms than teaching staff, and support staff interacted less in eat/drink areas and the hallways than other users. . . . it is important that sufficient meeting rooms and concentration rooms for students are designed, as this user group uses these spaces more often compared to employees, who have more interactions at their workplace. It is also important that the more informal areas (e.g. canteen/café) are also made attractive for employees, so that spontaneous encounters between students and employees and different departments are promoted. . . .the original workplace concept of the . . . building [where data were collected] was based on the ABO [activity-based office] concept. However, in practice, the building is still used in a traditional way (i.e., fixed workplaces) by part of its users (i.e., some of the academic staff).”    

Minou Weijs-Perree, Lorell Buck, Rianne Appel-Meulenbroek, and Theo Arentze.  2019.  “Location Choices of Face-to-Face Interactions in Academic Buildings:  An Experience Sampling Approach.”  Ergonomics, vol. 62, no. 12, pp. 1499-1514, https://doi.org/10.1080/00140139.2019.1660419

Maille and colleagues probed product “graspability.”  The team reports that “People like graspable objects more when the objects are located on the dominant-hand side of their body or when the handles point toward their dominant-hand side. However, many products do not have handles or are not graspable (e.g., services, objects hanging on the wall). Can nongraspable products nevertheless benefit from the effects of appealing to viewers’ dominant hands? The present research shows that, yes, consumers respond more positively to nongraspable products if a haptic cue (an object that is graspable or suggestive of hand action) is located within the same visual field as the target and is positioned to appeal to the viewer’s dominant hand. This result is driven by the creation and transfer of perceived ownership from cue to target.”

Virginie Maille, Maureen Morrin, and Ryann Reynolds-McIlnay.  “On the Other Hand . . . :  Enhancing Promotional Effectiveness with Haptic Cues.” Journal of Marketing Research, in press, https://doi.org/10.1177/0022243719878390

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