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How do virtual reality experiences stack up against those in the real world?  Jin and colleagues report that they “investigated how participant perceptions of a single interior environment varied among a real-world space (R) and two surrogate VR spaces (one made with 360° spherical photography and one made with 360° spherical digital rendering). A total of 42 undergraduate, interior design students were randomly assigned to one of two experiments, resulting in two groups of 21 students. Each participant completed a visual acuity task and evaluated perceived brightness, glare, and spaciousness within the real-world space and one of the two surrogate VR environments. Participants reported acceptable baseline levels of perceived realism in both VR environments. There was no significant difference between the rendered-VR simulation and real-world space for brightness, glare, and spaciousness, while the photographed-VR simulation was seen as significantly brighter and glaring. Performance on the visual acuity task was significantly lower in both VR simulations than in the real-world-approximating the difference between 20/20 and 20/60 vision.”

Xu Jin, Jason Meneely, and Nam-Kyu Park.  “Virtual Reality Versus Real-World Space:  Comparing Perceptions of Brightness, Glare, Spaciousness, and Visual Acuity.”  Journal of Interior Design, in press,

Research completed by Roghanizad and Bohns confirms the value of face-to-face communication in particular situations.  Roghanizad and Bohns report that Research has found that people are much more likely to agree to help requests made in-person than those made via text-based media, but that help-seekers underestimate the relative advantage of asking for help face-to-face. It remains unknown what help-seekers’ intuitions about the effectiveness of richer media channels incorporating audio and video features might be, or how these intuitions would compare to the actual effectiveness of face-to-face or email versus rich media requests. In two behavioral and two supplemental vignette experiments, participants expected differences in the effectiveness of seeking help through various communication channels to be quite small, or nonexistent. However, when participants actually made requests, the differences were quite large. Ultimately, help-seekers underestimated the relative advantage of asking for help face-to-face compared to asking through any mediated channel. Help-seekers also underestimated the relative advantage of asking through richer media channels compared to email.”

M. Roghanizad and Vanessa Bohns.  “Should I Ask Over Zoom, Phone, or In-Person?  Communication Channel and Predicted vs. Actual Compliance.”  Social Psychological and Personality Science, in press,

Kim and colleagues looked closely at how the number of humans in a restaurant influences products consumed.  They report that they studied “beverage consumption patterns in a real bar setting. Specifically, we examined (a) the effect of visual elements (i.e., consumption-inducing text messages on coasters), (b) the effect of social density, and (c) the joint effect of visual elements and social density. We manipulated coaster type (visual consumption-inducing messages either present or absent), measured social density, and collected sales data. The results show that visual elements have a significant effect on beverage consumption, but social density does not. . . . the effect of visual elements is higher when social density is low.”

Min Kim, Hyunjoo Yang, and Anna Mattila.  “Effects of Visual Cues and Social Density on Beverage Consumption:  A Field Experiment in a Bar.” Cornell Hospitality Quarterly, in press,

A Batool-lead team confirms that people prefer natural views.  They report that “When looking out of a window, natural views are usually associated with restorative qualities and are given a higher preference than urban scenes. Previous research has shown that gaze behaviour might differ based on the natural or urban content of views. A lower number of fixations has been associated with the aesthetic evaluation of natural scenes while, when looking at an urban environment, a high preference has been correlated with more exploratory gaze behaviours. . . . results confirm that natural scenes are more preferred than urban views and that gaze behaviours depend on view type and preference. Observing natural scenes was characterised by lower numbers of fixations and saccades, and longer fixation durations, compared to urban views. However, for both view types, most preferred scenes led to more fixations and saccades.”

A. Batool, P. Rutherford, P. McGraw, T. Ledgeway, and S. Altomonte.  “Gaze Correlates of View Preference:  Comparing Natural and Urban Scenes.”  Lighting Research and Technology, in press,

Williams and colleagues report on potential links between Citizen Science and health.  They share that “NEs [natural environments] take a number of forms, ranging from pristine, modified, to built NEs, which are common in many urban areas. NEs may include nature-based solutions, such as introducing nature elements and biological processes into cities that are used to solve problems created by urbanisation. Whilst urbanisation has negative impacts on human health, impacting mental and physical wellbeing. . . exposure to NEs may improve human health and wellbeing. Here, we review the mechanisms by which health can be improved by exposure to NEs. . . . Such exposures may have physiological and immunological benefits. . . . Citizen Science, which often causes exposure to NEs and social activity, is being increasingly used to not only collect scientific data but also to engage individuals and communities. . . .  Citizen Science programs that facilitate exposure to NEs in urban areas may represent an important public health policy advance.”

Craig Williams, Sophie Burnell, Michelle Rogers, Emily Flies, and Katherine Baldock. 2022.  “Nature-Based Citizen Science as a Mechanism to Improve Human Health in Urban Areas.”  International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 19, no. 1, p. 68,

Designing to support healing has been top-of-mind for many recently and a current exhibit at the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum focuses on just that topic (  The exhibit is described on its website: “This exhibition, curated by MASS Design Group and Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, was organized during the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic revealed what some have known for a long time: breathing is spatial. This fact has implications at the scale of the body, building, city, and planet. Everyone on Earth has been affected by the pandemic. Unequal access to housing, jobs, and health care ensured that COVID-19 hit marginalized communities harder than others.  This exhibition presents architectural case studies and historical narratives alongside creative design responses to COVID-19. Every designer, artist, doctor, engineer, or neighbor featured in the exhibition asked, “How can I help?” They used open-source collaboration, rapid-response prototyping, product hacking, and social activism to create medical devices, protective gear, infographics, political posters, architecture, and community services—all with the shared aspiration to reduce structural barriers that keep us from accessing the care we all deserve.”

Researchers have learned that as the forms of cities evolve the personalities of likely residents are different, which has design implications.  A team lead by Gotz (study published in American Psychologist) reports that “Rising house prices may change the personality make-up of US cities within a few years, with residents becoming increasingly open-minded – not just as wealthier people move in, but also among longer-term locals. This is according to a University of Cambridge-led study of almost two million people in the US living across 199 cities. Psychologists tracked annual personality scores over nine years (2006 to 2014). . . . just a $50 rise in a city’s average housing prices saw the characteristic of “openness” increase significantly. . . . Openness is one of five major personality traits, and captures levels of curiosity and creativity. . . . . The trait of ‘Openness’ is strongly associated with liberal votes and attitudes as well as entrepreneurial activity. It is also linked to socioeconomic status: the desire and freedom to explore new experiences can be a side effect of sufficient wealth and security.”

“Gentrification Changes the Personality Make-Up of Cities in Just a Few Years.”  2021.  University of Cambridge, Press release,

Button investigated responses to car design options, but his findings are applicable much more broadly.  Button reports that “Eye tracking methods and measurements were employed to empirically examine if attention can predict consumer judgements and behavioral outcomes. . . .     Findings reveal the importance of the grille as a feature that consumers rely on to recognize and make judgements about a vehicle's design. This study also confirms Mandler's hypothesis (1989) that a moderate level of prototypicality is preferred by consumers when evaluating vehicles, suggesting that a vehicle's design elements should be moderately unique so that they are memorable, while also consistent relative to the product category's typicality to alleviate confusion.”    

Q. Button.  2020.  “The Influence of Exterior Design Attributes on Consumer Preferences for Electric Vehicles.”  Dissertation Abstracts International:  Section B:  The Sciences and Engineering, 81 (9-B).

Bae and Asojo evaluated the experiences of people in long-term care units. Residents of several LTC units were interviewed and data analyses indicated “the importance of perceived control, social support, and positive distraction in the environment. The most frequently mentioned interior environment that the residents liked was ‘window and view,’ followed by ‘pictures and photos’ and ‘TV,’ while they wanted ‘bigger room and space,’ followed by ‘improved privacy’ and ‘more options for food.’”

Suyeon Bae and Abimbola Asojo.  “Interior Environments in Long-Term Care Unites from the Theory of Supportive Design.”  HERD:  Health Environments Research and Design Journal, in press,

Johnson, Zimmermann, and Bird investigated links between workplace design and employee performance via data collected at Microsoft using surveys and interviews.  They identified “factors that were considered as important for work environments: personalization, social norms and signals, room composition and atmosphere, work-related environment affordances, work area and furniture, and productivity strategies. We built statistical models for satisfaction with the work environment and perceived productivity of software engineers and compared them to models for employees in the Program Management, IT Operations, Marketing, and Business Program & Operations disciplines. In the satisfaction models, the ability to work privately with no interruptions and the ability to communicate with the team and leads were important factors among all disciplines. In the productivity models, the overall satisfaction with the work environment and the ability to work privately with no interruptions were important factors among all disciplines. For software engineers, another important factor for perceived productivity was the ability to communicate with the team and leads.”  For all, “private offices were linked to higher perceived productivity.”

Brittany Johnson, Thomas Zimmermann, and Christian Bird. “The Effect of Work Environments on Productivity and Satisfaction of Software Engineers.”  Microsoft Research,


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