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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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Hian and colleagues used virtual reality to study the psychological implications of vertical (e.g., on the sides of buildings) greenery.  They report that they “examined the buffering effects of vertical greenery, an increasingly popular form of urban nature in high-density cities, by using VR to simulate the experience of walking through a noisy downtown area where buildings’ exteriors were covered with vertical greenery. Our results suggest that vertical greenery on city buildings can buffer against the negative psychophysiological consequences of stress. . . . Our findings have important practical implications for city planning and design, especially for high-density urban areas. It suggests that vertical greenery systems, and possibly even artificial plants, may provide buffering effects to minimize the detrimental consequences of stress. While our study focused on outdoor environments, it is possible that vertical greenery can be applied to indoor environments such as metro stations or shopping malls where spaces are limited.”

Sarah Hian, May Chan, Lin Qiu, Gianluca Esposito, and Ky Mai. 2021.  “Vertical Greenery Buffers Against Stress:  Evidence from Psychophysiological Responses in Virtual Reality.”  Landscape and Urban Planning, vol. 213, 104127,

Belanche and colleagues evaluated responses to robots providing services; their conclusions are can be applied to design robot waiters or robot concierges in workplaces, for example.  The investigators report that their  “study analyzes to what extent robots' perceived physical human-likeness, perceived competence, and perceived warmth affect customers' service value expectations and, subsequently, their loyalty intentions. . . . human-likeness positively affects four dimensions of service value expectations [functional, social, monetary, and emotional value]. Perceived competence of the robot influences mainly utilitarian expectations (i.e., functional and monetary value), while perceived warmth influences relational expectations (i.e., emotional value). . . When serving a customer base that has a high need for social interaction, the ideal robot looks human-like but warmth is less valued. . . . on a service level some contexts are more likely to attract customers with a need for social interaction (e.g., services that require advice, such as in travel agencies, financial services) than others (e.g., relatively standardized services, such as fast-food restaurants).”

Daniel Belanche, Luis Casalo, Jeroen Schepers, and Carlos Flavian.  2021.  “Examining the Effects of Robots’ Physical Appearance, Warmth, and Competence in Frontline Services:  The Humanness-Value-Loyalty Model.”  Psychology and Marketing,

Noble and Devlin studied patient experiences in psychotherapy waiting rooms.  They found via an online survey that “waiting rooms that were welcoming and comfortable as well as large and spacious rated higher for the quality of care and comfort in the environment anticipated by the participant; those that were cramped and crowded rated lower.”

Lilly Noble and Ann Devlin. 2021. “Perceptions of Psychotherapy Waiting Rooms:  Design Recommendations.”  HERD:  Health Environments Research and Design Journal, vol. 14, no. 3, pp. 140-154,

Wichrowski and research partners investigated how nature imagery influences rehabilitation patient experiences.  They share that “In settings where patients have high degrees of medical acuity and infection control is a major concern, exposure to the benefits of real nature may be precluded. . . . In these settings, the presence of nature imagery may provide benefits which positively impact patient experience. . . . physical rehabilitation patients on a medically complex/cardiopulmonary rehabilitation unit filled out questionnaires assessing their perceptions of their room and various indexes of patient satisfaction. . . . the presence of biophilic nature imagery in the hospital rooms had a significant effect on patients’ room ratings and positively influenced indexes of patient satisfaction.”

Matthew Wichrowski, John Corcoran, Fancois Haas, Greg Sweeney, and Arlene Mcgee.  2021. “Effects of Biophilic Nature Imagery on Indexes of Satisfaction in Medically Complex Physical Rehabilitation Patients:  An Exploratory Study.”   HERD:  Health Environments Research and Design Journal, vol. 14, no. 3, pp. 288-304,

Gola and teammates studied how 20-30 minutes of contact with nature influences wellbeing.  They learned that “The Scientific Community . . . has already demonstrated the importance of greenery and nature on the psychophysical well-being of people and, in a moment of emergency, contact with the nature can be therapeutic and quite influential on the mental health of staff subject to stress.During the lockdown, an Italian multidisciplinary working group promoted an experience-based survey . . .for measuring the psychophysical well-being of hospital staff.. . .   a short break in green spaces strongly influenced the mental and psychophysical well-being of hospital staff, emphasizing the importance of nearby green spaces in architectures for health. Even a brief break in nature can regenerate users, especially in times of a stressful health emergency.”

Marco Gola, Monica Botta, Anna D’Aniello, and Stefano Capolongo.  2021. “Influence of Nature at the Time of the Pandemic:  An Experience-Based Survey at the Time of SARS-CoV-2 to Demonstrate How Even a Short Break in Nature Can Reduce Stress for Healthcare Staff.” HERD: Health Environments Research and Design Journal, vol.14, no. 2, pp. 49-65,

Sander and colleagues studied the effects of open plan offices on worker experiences, coupling self-reports and physiological measures:  “Employing a simulated office setting, we compared the effects of a typical OPO [open-plan office] auditory environment to a quieter private office auditory environment on a range of objective and subjective measures of well-being and performance. . . . OPO noise . . . did reduce psychological well-being as evidenced by self-reports of mood, facial expressions of emotion, and physiological indicators of stress in the form of heartrate and skin conductivity. Our research highlights the importance of using a multimodal approach to assess the impact of workplace stressors such as noise.”  

Elizabeth Sander, Cecelia Marques, James Birt, Matthew Stead and Oliver Baumann.  “Open-Plan Office Noise is Stressful:  Multimodal Stress Detection in a Simulated Work Environment.”  Journal of Management and Organization, in press,

Lim and colleagues evaluated how the design of healthcare facilities influences perceptions of teamwork. They “measured teamwork perceptions of staff members and patients at four primary care clinics providing team-based care. Visual access to staff workstations from both staff and patient perspectives was analyzed using VisualPower tool (version 21). . . .the visual relationships among staff members and those between staff members and patients have significant associations with overall perceptions of teamwork. While clinics providing more visual connections between staff workstations reported higher teamwork perception of staff members, patient perceptions of staff teamwork were inversely [in reverse] related to the number of visual connections between patients and staff workstations.”

Lisa Lim, Ruth Kanfer, Robert Stroebel, and Craig Zimring.  2021. “The Representational Function of Clinic Design:  Staff and Patient Perceptions of Teamwork.”  HERD: Health Environments Research and Design Journal, vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 254-270,

Zhang and Park assessed behavior in underground malls.  They share that “a series of exit-finding tasks in virtual malls were simulated. . . . people have a right-turn preference during exit finding.”

Shaoqing Zhang and Soobeen Park.  “Study of Effective Corridor Design to Improve Wayfinding in Underground Malls.” Frontiers in Psychology, in press, doi:  10.3389/fpsyg.2021.631531

Heft, Schwimmer, and Edmunds studied the implications of using visual navigation systems, such as GPS. They report that “One group of participants drove a simulated car in VR along a designated path while relying on visual GPS guidance. It was expected that use of the GPS display would draw attention away from temporally continuous path information. A second group initially drove the same route without GPS guidance. Both groups drove the path a second time without navigational assistance. Overall, the percentage of correct actions taken at intersections (transitions) during the second trial were significantly lower for the first group who initially drove the route with visual GPS guidance as compared to those who initially traveled the route without it.”

Harry Heft, Kelsey Schwimmer, and Trenton Edmunds.  “Assessing the Effect of a Visual Navigational System on Route-Learning from an Ecological Perspective, Frontiers in Psychology,in press, doi:  10.3389/fpsyg.2021.645677


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