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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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Finnish researchers studied how seasonal sunlight variations influence mood.  Their findings, published in The Journal of Neuroscience,are useful in a variety of contexts, for example, for better understanding research data collected.  The investigators report that “the length of daylight affects the opioid receptors, which in turn regulates the mood we experience. Seasons have an impact on our emotions and social life. Negative emotions are more subdued in the summer, whereas seasonal affective disorder rates peak during the darker winter months. Opioids regulate both mood and sociability in the brain. In the study conducted at the Turku PET Centre, Finland, researchers compared how the length of daylight hours affected the opioid receptors in humans and rats. . . . On the basis of the results, the duration of daylight is a particularly critical factor in the seasonal variation of opioid receptors.”

“Seasonal Variation in Daylight Influences Brain Function.”  2021.  Press release, University of Turku.https://www.utu.fi/en/news/press-release/seasonal-variation-in-daylight-...

Research has shown that how human-like a robot appears to be influences how we think about what those robots do.  Researchers lead by Laakasuo determined that when “study participants read short narratives where either a robot, a somewhat humanoid robot known as iRobot, a robot with a strong humanoid appearance called iClooney or a human being encounters a moral problem along the lines of the trolley dilemma, making a specific decision. The participants were also shown images of these agents, after which they assessed the morality of their decisions. . . . The trolley dilemma is a problem where a person sees a trolley careening on the tracks, without anyone in control, towards five people. The person can either do nothing or turn the trolley onto another track, saving the five people but killing another individual on the other track. According to the study, people consider the choice made by the humanoid iRobot and iClooney less ethically sound than the same decision made by a human and a robot with a traditional robot-like appearance.”

Michael Laakasuo, Tuire Korvuo, and Niina Niskanen.  2021. “The Appearance of Robots Affects Our Perception of the Morality of Their Decisions.”  Press release, University of Helsinki, https://www.helsinki.fi/en/news/language-culture/the-appearance-of-robot...

Pontes and Williams found that seeing the color red influences gambling behavior.  They report that “In general, people make more risk averse choices, gambling less and less often when primed with [shown] the color red over other colors. . . . when participants feel lucky or are from Asian Chinese backgrounds the effect is reversed and they take more risks when primed with the color red.”

Nicolas Pontes and Laura Williams.  2021. “Feeling Red Lucky?  The Interplay Between Color and Luck in Gambling Settings.” Psychology and Marketing, vol. 38, no. 1, pp. 43-55, https://doi.org/10.1002/mar.21408

Park and colleagues link particular gaze directions in advertisements to assessments of the products presented.  The team investigated “the influence of the face orientation of a human model on the perception of their attractiveness and its downstream consequences on product evaluation. Across five experiments, we first demonstrate that consumers tend to perceive a model's face showing his or her left cheek as more attractive than when showing the right cheek, even when the images are otherwise identical. More importantly, we demonstrate the downstream influence of face orientation on the evaluation of advertised products whereby the leftward (vs. rightward) model's face increases the evaluation of the advertised product through perceived model attractiveness. . . .  consumers perceive those faces showing their left (vs. right) cheek as more prototypical, and that this perception of prototypicality elicits an aesthetic preference for the model's leftward face which in turn carries over to influence product evaluation.”

Jaewoo Park, Charles Spence, Hiroaki Ishii, and Taku Togawa.  2021.  “Turning the Other Cheek:  Facial Orientation Influences Both Model Attractiveness and Product Evaluation.”  Psychology and Marketing, vol. 38, no. 1, pp. 7-20, https://doi.org/10.1002/mar.21398

Reinoso-Carvalho and associates link music heard to experiencing specific sorts of tastes. The team found that “chocolate was liked more, rated as sweeter, and the purchase intent was higher, when tasted while listening to music that conveyed positive, as compared to negative, emotion. By contrast, the same chocolate was mostly rated as tasting more bitter with the negative music, as compared to the positive music. . .. . Based on the score proposed by PANAS [Positive and Negative Affect Schedule], the positive music was significantly evoking positive emotions, and the negative was also significantly evoking negative emotions.”

Felipe Reinoso-Carvalho, Laura Gunn, German Molina, Takuji Narumi, Charles Spence, Yuji Suzuki, Enrique ter Horst, and Johan Wagemans.  2020“A Sprinkle of Emotions Vs. a Pinch of Crossmodality:  Towards Globally Meaningful Sonic Seasoning Strategies for Enhanced Multisensory Tasting Experiences.”  Journal of Business Research, vol. 117., pp. 389-399, https:/doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusres.2020.04.055

Cotneilio and colleagues studied relationships between sense of agency and scents.  Sense of agency (SoA) is described as “ the feeling of ‘I did that’ as opposed to ‘the system did that’ supporting a feeling of being in control.”  The team “investigated, for the first time, the effect of smell-induced emotions on the SoA. . . . participants were exposed to three scents with different valence (pleasant, unpleasant, neutral).  Our results show that participants’ SoA increased with a pleasant scent compared to neutral and unpleasant scents.”      

Patricia Cotnelio, Emanuela Maggioni, Giada Brianza, Sriram Subramanian, and Marianna Obrist. 2020. “SmellControl:  The Study of the Sense of Agency in Smell.”  Proceedings of the 3030 International Conference in Mutltimodal Interaction, pp. 470-480, https://doi.org/10.1145/3382507.3418810

Gupta and Hagtvedt have done intriguing research related to the spacing between letters.  Their “research demonstrates that interstitial space in textual brand logos—that is, spacious (vs. compact) arrangement of letters—unfavorably influences brand attitude by reducing product safety perceptions. When potential threats are salient, the effect tends to occur within tight (but not loose) cultures, characterized by sensitivity to threats and a need for rigid social structures. When threats are not salient, the effect appears to occur across cultures. Five studies, including lab and field experiments, as well as archival dataset analysis, provide supportive evidence.”  Tight and loose cultures are described here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michele_J._Gelfand#Cultural_tightness–looseness

Tanvi Gupta and Henrik Hagtvedt.  “Safe Together, Vulnerable Apart:  How Interstitial Space in Text Logos Impacts Brand Attitudes in Tight Versus Loose Cultures.”  Journal of Consumer Research, in press, https://doi.org/10.1093/jcr/ucab006

Investigators have identified several reasons for Zoom fatigue that are consistent with research previously done by environmental psychologists. Bailenson and colleagues, via a study published in Technology, Mind and Behavior, have determined, for example, that “Excessive amounts of close-up eye contact is highly intense. . . . everyone is looking at everyone, all the time. . . . depending on your monitor size and whether you’re using an external monitor, faces on videoconferencing calls can appear too large for comfort. . . .  When someone’s face is that close to ours in real life, our brains interpret it as an intense situation that is either going to lead to mating or to conflict. . . . Most video platforms show a square of what you look like on camera during a chat. . . . when you see a reflection of yourself, you are more critical of yourself. . . . Movement is limited in ways that are not natural. ‘There’s a growing research now that says when people are moving, they’re performing better cognitively,’ Bailenson said.” Environmental psychologists have extensively researched eye contact, personal space, mirror use, and the cognitive implications of movement.

Vignesh Ramachandran. 2021.  “Stanford Researchers Identify Four Causes for ‘Zoom Fatigue’ and Their Simple Fixes.”  Press release, Stanford University, https://news.stanford.edu/2021/02/23/four-causes-zoom-fatigue-solutions/

Research completed by Jiang and colleagues indicates that plant scents can augment wellbeing. The Jiang lead team describe their research: “Non-fragrant Primula malacoides Franchwas used as a control stimulus, and Primula forbesii Franch, which has a floral fragrance, was used as an experimental stimulus. . . . We found that mean blood pressure and pulse rate decreased significantly after the experiment in both conditions. . . .  the vitality (V) subscale and total emotional state scores were significantly better in the experimental vs. control condition. . . . the sense of relaxation and comfort were significantly higher in the experimental vs. control condition. Compared with the non-fragrant Primula, the fragrant Primula induced relatively better physiological and psychological effects. . . .  Primula is very popular among indoor ornamental plants. It is one of the top-selling indoor potted flowering plants in Europe, America, and East Asia because of it produces colorful flowers early in the season.”

Songlin Jiang, Li Deng, Hao Luo, Xi Li, Baimeng Guo, Mingyan Jiang, Yin Jia, Jun Ma, Lingxia Sun, and Zhuo Huang.  2021.  “Effect of Fragrant Primula Flowers on Physiology and Psychology in Female College Students: An Empirical Study.”  Frontiers in Psychology, https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.607876

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