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How smart buildings should communicate with their users was investigated by Khashe, Gratch, Gratch, and Becerik-Gerber.  They determined that “people connect better with a computer-generated avatar that represents building management. . . . social banter between machine and people gets better results.  The findings underscore how personal connections and social interactions key to human relations also foster cooperation between people and machines. . . . subjects were exposed to an office setting using virtual reality, followed by a real office setting for a smaller group of participants. The researchers crafted pro-environmental messages for a virtual assistant . . . to ask questions, such as ‘If I open the blinds for you to have natural light, would you please dim or turn off the artificial lights?’ . . . people responded better when Ellie, the virtual human, acted on behalf of the building manager, rather than when she performed as a personification of the building.. . . . The scientists noted similar results whether study participants operated in an actual office or virtual reality simulation.”  The Khashe lead study was published in the International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction. 

“How to Improve Communication Between People and Smart Buildings.”  2019.  Press release, University of Southern California,

The types of foods present nearby influence eating options selected.  A study completed by Huettel and Sullivan and published in Psychological Sciencedetermined that “the nearby presence of an indulgent treat can cause more people to opt for a healthy food. . . . ‘When people choose foods, they don’t simply reach into their memory and pick the most-preferred food. Instead, how much we prefer something actually depends on what other options are available,’ Huettel said. ‘If you see one healthy food and one unhealthy food, most people will choose the indulgent food,” he said. “But if you add more unhealthy foods, it seems, suddenly the healthy food stands out.’ . . . ‘When people see a wall of cabbage and broccoli, that may not encourage people to choose it,’ Sullivan said. ‘Right now, food items are very segregated: here’s the produce, here are the candy bars,’ she said. ‘Yet maybe if we put something healthy in the middle of the snack food section, perhaps that might encourage people to choose it.’”

“Context Shapes Choice of Healthy Foods.”  2019.  Press release, Association for Psychological Science,

Research recently published in Current Biologyindicates that men and women respond to places associated with chronic pain differently.  These findings may be applicable to other life experiences. Mogil and Martin report that  “Scientists increasingly believe that one of the driving forces in chronic pain—the number one health problem in both prevalence and burden—appears to be the memory of earlier pain. . . .  there may be variations, based on sex, in the way that pain is remembered in . . . humans.  The research team . . . found that men . . . remembered earlier painful experiences clearly. As a result, they were stressed and hypersensitive to later pain when returned to the location in which it had earlier been experienced. Women . . . did not seem to be stressed by their earlier experiences of pain.”  The women studied were not hypersensitive to later pain when they returned to a location where pain had previously been experienced.

“Men and Women Remember Pain Differently.”  2019.  Press release, McGill University,

Design can inspire awe, via size or skill in execution/workmanship, for example.  New research by Rudd and her team builds on previous studies detailing the benefits of feeling awed: “this research explores how the emotion of awe might motivate a consumer to partake . . . in experiential creation (i.e., activities in which they actively produce an outcome) by enhancing their willingness to learn. Across eight experiments, experiencing awe . . . increases people’s likelihood of choosing an experiential creation gift (vs. one not involving experiential creation), willingness to pay for experiential creation products (vs. comparable ready-made products), likelihood of creating a bespoke snack (vs. taking a premade one), preference for experiential creation solutions (vs. solutions without experiential creation), likelihood of purchasing a product when it is framed as high (vs. low) in experiential creation, preference for high (vs. low) experiential creation meals, and likelihood of creating a knickknack (vs. taking a premade one).”

Melanie Rudd, Christian Hildebrand, and Kathleen Vohs. 2018.  “Inspired to Create:  Awe Enhances Openness to Learning and the Desire for Experiential Creation.”  Journal of Marketing Research, vol. 55, no. 5, pp. 766-781,

Leung and colleagues studied individuals’ responses to automation.  They determined that  “Automation often provides obvious consumption benefits, but six studies spanning a variety of product categories show that automation may not be desirable when identity motives are important drivers of consumption. Using both correlational and experimental designs, these studies demonstrate that people who strongly identify with a particular social category resist automated features that hinder the attribution of identity-relevant consumption outcomes to themselves.”  For more on identity, review this webpage:

Eugina Leung, Gabriele Paolacci, and Stefano Puntoni. 2018.  “Man Versus Machine:  Resisting Automation in Identity-Based Consumer Behavior.”  Journal of Marketing Research, vol. 55, no. 6, pp. 818-831,

There are clear advantages to exercising in green environments.  Wooller and colleagues determined that when “Fifty participants were randomly assigned to one of five groups: REST [sitting quietly on a cycle ergometer in front of a gray screen], exercise, exercise with nature sounds, exercise withnature visual and exercise with nature sound and visual. . . . Results showed that green exercise improved mood and stress scores more than exercise alone or REST. For both TMD [total mood disturbance] and perceived stress, improvements in all simulated nature conditions were significantly improved compared to REST or exercise alone immediately post intervention.”

John Wooller, Mike Rogerson, Jo Barton, Dominic Micklewright, and Valerie Gladwell. 2018.  “Can Simulated Green Exercise Improve Recovery from Acute Mental Stress?”  Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 9, article 2167,

Zolch and colleagues studied how the presence of plants influences comfort in public squares, and their findings are applicable in many outdoor spaces.  The team learned that “At daytime designs with a maximum shaded area provide best thermal conditions. . . . At night unhindered air flow and reduced heat storage in meadows performed best.”  More details on the Zolch-lead study: “The present study assessed typical greening designs of rectangular public squares and their microclimatic influences during a hot summer day both during day and night-time conditions. . . . for a comfortable thermal situation a climate adapted design has to include trees to maximize the shaded surface areas, while the main wind channel is kept free from trees, but planted with grass to minimize the heat storage. The number of trees and their placement together with the extent and placement of grass areas can thus serve as indicators for designing climate adapted public squares.”

Teresa Zolch, Mohammad Rahman, Elisabeth Pfleiderer, Georg Wagner, and Stephan Pauleit.  “Designing Public Squares with Green Infrastructure to Optimize Human Thermal Comfort.”  Building and Environment, in press,


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