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Hirst and Schabenland studied the effects of office design on employees’ psychological comfort.  A press release Anglia Ruskin University issued related to their research reports that the duo found that  Employees subconsciously act and dress differently in modern open-plan office environments. . . . [Hirst and Schabenland]over the course of three years analysed the behaviour of around 1,000 employees at a UK local authority that moved from six separate departmental buildings into a . . . building [that] made extensive use of glass and incorporated large, open-plan offices and collective spaces. . . .[Hirst] said: ‘When changing from a more closed, compartmentalised office space to a new open-plan, transparent and fluid working space, office workers were more conscious of their visibility and often found this unsettling rather than liberating. Women in particularly felt anxious about the idea of being constantly watched, and felt they had to dress in a certain way. . . .  [working] in an open space. . . .was seen by some as a chance to dress more smartly and fulfill a new identity.”

In their journal article, Hirst and Schabenland (2018) state that “the new office encourages an image of the ideal worker which brings together ways of acting and interacting that have been characterized as both masculine and feminine — active movement and spontaneous encounters, but also intensive face-to-face interaction and deep relationship-building.”

“New Offices Make Us More Image-Conscious.”  2018. Press release, Anglia Ruskin University,

Alison Hirst and Christina Schabenland.  2018. “Doing Gender in the ‘New Office.’” Gender, Work and Organization, vol. 25, no. 2, pp. 159-176,

Kelsey and colleagues investigated how design can influence donations to charities.  They “compared prosocial behavior in the presence of eyes versus inanimate objects as well as other human features. The study was conducted as a field experiment at a children’s museum. Each week, the donation signs were changed to show eyes, noses, mouths, or chairs. Total donation amount and number of patrons per week were recorded. Participants donated more when they were exposed to eyes than to inanimate objects (chairs). We thus replicated the previously reported watching-eyes effect. Moreover, more money was donated when individuals were exposed to eyes than to more general cues of human presence (nose and mouth). The current findings suggest that eyes play a special role in promoting cooperation in humans, likely by serving as cues of monitoring and thus eliciting reputation management behavior.”

Caroline Kelsey, Amrisha Vaish, and Tobias Grossman.  “Eyes, More Than Other Facial Features, Enhance Real-World Donation Behavior.”  Human Nature, in press,

If you’ll be in London between now and March 3, 2019, you can visit the Living with Buildings exhibit at the Wellcome Collection. It focuses on the question “We’re surrounded by buildings all the time, but how do they affect our physical and mental health?” There is more information about the exhibit at the web address below.

Research on the fascinating ways humans process sensory information continues.  Velasco and colleagues report that  “People map different sensory stimuli, and words that describe/refer to those stimuli, onto spatial dimensions in a manner that is non-arbitrary. . . . participants [in this Velasco-lead study] . . .  locate[d] the word ‘sweet’ higher in space than the word ‘bitter’. . . . participants also positioned products that are typically expected to be sweet (cupcake and honey) or bitter (beer and coffee) spatially. Overall, the sweet-tasting products were assigned to higher locations than were the bitter-tasting products. . . . participants evaluated the sweet products as looking more appetizing when presented in upper relative to lower shelf locations. In none of the three studies was an association found between tastes and positions along the horizontal axis.”

C. Velasco, C. Adams, O. Petit, and C. Spence.  2019.  “On the Localization of Tastes and Tasty Products in 2D Space.”  Food Quality and Preference, vol. 71, pp. 438-446,

Chraibi and colleagues investigated employee responses to dynamic workplace lighting that dims over a workstation when the person working there leaves their seat and brightens when someone returns to that workspace.  Installing dynamic lighting can be important because “Sensor-triggered control strategies can limit the energy consumption of lighting.” Via data collected in a mock-up office, the researchers learned that when  “the participants performed an office-based task [and] the luminaire above the actors’ desk was dimmed from approximately 550 lx to 350 lx (average horizontal illuminance), and vice versa. . . . the noticeability of light changes due to dimming, increases when fading times become shorter.  Dimming with a fading time of at least two seconds was experienced as acceptable by more than 70% of the participants.”  During the data gathering periods there was “dimming up when occupancy is detected and diming down when a desk becomes unoccupied.”  Of 6 lights in the test area, the intensity of only one varied, the light right above the workstation of a confederate of the researcher who entered or left the test area as instructed by the researchers. Data were collected from people sitting near that confederate and the lights remained on above the desks of the people answering the investigators’ questions. There was no natural light in the test area.

S. Chraibi, P. Creemers, C. Rosenkotter, E. van Loenen, M. Aries, and A. Rosemann. “Dimming Strategies for Open Office Lighting:  User Experience and Acceptance.”  Lighting Research and Technology, DOI: 10.1177/1477153518772154

MacNaughton and colleagues quantified some of the benefits of environmentally responsible design.  They “calculated year by year LEED . . . certification rates in six countries (the United States, China, India, Brazil, Germany, and Turkey) and then used data from the Green Building Information Gateway (GBIG) to estimate energy savings in each country each year. . . . LEED accounts for 32% of green-certified floor space and publically reports energy efficiency data. . . . Based on modeled energy use, LEED-certified buildings saved $7.5B in energy costs and averted 33MT of CO2, 51 kt of SO2, 38 kt of NOx, and 10 kt of PM2.5 from entering the atmosphere, which amounts to $5.8B (lower limit = $2.3B, upper limit = $9.1B) in climate and health co-benefits from 2000 to 2016 in the six countries investigated. The U.S. health benefits derive from avoiding an estimated 172–405 premature deaths, 171 hospital admissions, 11,000 asthma exacerbations, 54,000 respiratory symptoms, 21,000 lost days of work, and 16,000 lost days of school.”

P. MacNaughton, X. Cao, J. Buonocore, J. Cedeno-Laurent, J. Spengler, A. Bernstein, and J. Allen.  “Energy Savings, Emission Reductions, and Health Co-Benefits of the Green Building Movement.”  Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology, in press, doi: 10.1038/s41370-017-0014-9

Walker, Scallon, and Francis studied links between sensory experiences. They report that “Everyday language reveals how stimuli encoded in one sensory feature domain can possess qualities normally associated with a different domain (e.g., higher pitch sounds are brightlight in weightsharp, and thin). Such cross-sensory associations appear to reflect crosstalk among aligned (corresponding) feature dimensions, including brightness, heaviness, and sharpness. . . . When hidden objects varying independently in size and mass are lifted, objects that feel heavier are judged to be darker and to make lower pitch sounds than objects feeling less heavy.”

Peter Walker, Gabrielle Scallon, and Brian Francis. 2017.  “Cross-Sensory Correspondences:  Heaviness is Dark and Low-Pitched.”  Perception, vol. 46, no. 7, 772-792, 

The design of hospital emergency departments can have life-and-death implications, literally. Naccarella and colleagues investigated “design factors that influence informal interprofessional team-based communication within hospital emergency departments. . . . Three key factors influenced the extent to which ED workspaces facilitated informal communication: (1) staff perceptions of privacy, (2) staff perceptions of safety, and (3) staff perceptions of connectedness to ED activity.. . . Our research supports the proposition that ED physical environments influence informal team communication patterns. To facilitate effective team communication, ED workspace spatial designs need to provide visibility and connectedness, support and capture ‘case talk,’ enable privacy for ‘comfort talk,’ and optimize proximity to patients without compromising safety.”

Lucio Naccarella, Michelle Raggatt, and Bernie Redley.  “The Influence of Spatial Design on Team Communication in Hospital Emergency Departments.”  HERD:  Health Environments Research and Design Journal, in press,

Hooper and colleagues set out to learn more about the consequences of living in new urbanist communities.  They studied 36 suburban neighborhood developments in Perth and determined that “with each 10% increase in [new urbanist] policy compliance, residents odds of experiencing high sense of community increased by 21% . . . and low psychological distress increased by 14%. . . . These results add empirical input to the debate surrounding the rhetoric and purported social goals and benefits of the New Urbanism, indicating that implementation of its neo-traditionalist neighborhood design principles may help create the conditions for positive neighborhood sense of community and mental health.”

Paula Hooper, Sarah Foster, and Matthew Knuiman and Billie Gilles-Corti.  “Testing the Impact of a Planning Policy Based on New Urbanist Planning Principles on Residents’ Sense of Community and Mental Health in Perth, Western Australia.” Environment and Behavior, in press,


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