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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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Van den Bogerd and colleagues studied the effects of having plants in a university and secondary school classrooms.  They report that after students attended one lecture in a classroom with plants in it that “Perceived environmental quality of classrooms with (rather than without) indoor nature was consistently rated more favourably. Secondary education students also reported greater attention, lecture evaluation, and teacher evaluation after one lecture in classrooms with indoor nature compared to the classroom without.”

Nicole van den Bogerd, S. Dijkstra, Karin Tanja-Dijkstra, Michiel de Boer, Jacob Seidell,  Sander Koole, and Jolanda Maas. 2020.  “Greening the Classroom:  Three Field Experiments on the Effects of Indoor Nature on Students’ Attention, Well-Being, and Perceived Environmental Quality.”  Building and Environment, vol. 171, 106675,

Ko and colleagues evaluated how windows influence space user experiences.  They report that they “assessed the influence of having a window with a view [of nature] on thermal and emotional responses as well as on cognitive performance. . . . The chamber kept the air and window surface temperature at 28 °C, a slightly warm condition. . . . In the space with versus without windows, the thermal sensation was significantly cooler ( . . .  equivalent to 0.74 °C lower), and 12% more participants were thermally comfortable. Positive emotions (e.g., happy, satisfied) were higher and negative emotions (e.g., sad, drowsy) were lower for the participants in the window versus the windowless condition. Working memory and the ability to concentrate were higher for participants in the space with versus without windows, but there were no significant differences in short-term memory, planning, and creativity performance.”

Won Ko, Stefano Schiavon, Hui Zhang, Lindsay Graham, Gail Brager, Iris Mauss, and Yu-Wen Lin. 2020. “The Impact of a View from a Window on Thermal Comfort, Emotion, and Cognitive Performance.” Building and Environment, vol. 175, 106779,

Peeters, Smolders, and de Kort report on variations in lighting experiences among people working in the same office.  The researchers report that when they “tracked office workers’ personal exposure during two three-week field intervention studies, one in winter, one in late spring. . . .  the person-based data revealed large differences between - and within - participants in terms of light received at the eye. . . . When designing the lighting plan for a space, the location and placement of light fixtures is a factor that should be considered. Furthermore, large differences occur depending on distance from a window, with individuals being situated further away from a window receiving less light. . . .  one could consider paying more attention to the qualities of views outside as a way to stimulate gaze directions towards the window or designing spaces in such a way that it influences the behavior of occupants, encouraging them to move towards lighter spaces during breaks and other activities that do not require desk work.”

S. Peeters, K. Smolders, and Y. de Kort.  “What You Set Is (Not) What You Get:  How a Light Intervention in the Field Translates to Personal Light Exposure.”  Building and Environment, in press,

Researchers investigated responses to social distancing tools.  Taylor lead a team that determined that in restaurant dining rooms “consumer perceptions of the dining room that utilized partitions [to enforce social distancing rules] were significantly greater than those that used mannequins. . . . ‘Results of the current study suggest that consumers have differing perceptions of the cleanliness of the two socially distant servicescapes that were assessed,’ Taylor reported.  ‘However, it was not just cleanliness that was found to be perceived significantly differently between the two servicescapes, as respondents indicated that the dining room that has partitions between tables was more visually attractive, cleaner looking, more welcoming, safer looking, more entertaining, more sanitary and more comfortable than the dining room with mannequins.’” This study of responses to servicescapes is published in the Internal Journal of Hospitality Management.

Chris Stipes. 2020.  “Customers Prefer Partitions Over Mannequins in Socially-Distanced Dining Rooms.”  Press release, University of Houston,

People on the autism spectrum seem to have tactile experiences that are different from those of individuals not on the autism spectrum.  This has implications for the design of spaces that are likely to be used by these individuals.  A study published in Neurology reports that “‘More than 70% of people with autism have differences in their sensory perception,’ said study author Sung-Tsang Hsieh. . . .   53% of the people with autism had reduced nerve fiber density. . . . People who had reduced nerve fiber density also were more likely to report feeling pain from the heat stimulus at a higher temperature than the control group. . . . response to touch in people with autism differed according to whether or not they had nerve fiber damage. People who had normal nerves were more likely to say they disliked being touched and were uncomfortable with some textures, while people with nerve fiber damage were more likely to say they preferred going barefoot and could be unaware that they had gotten scratched or bruised.”  

“Nerves That Sense Touch May Play Role in Autism.”  2020. Press release, American Academy of Neurology,

We seem to have a special ability to remember the locations of high-calorie foods—no wonder our society is tubbier than it should be. De Vries and colleagues “explored whether human spatial cognition is enhanced for high-calorie foods, in a large multisensory experiment that covertly tested the location memory of people who navigated a maze-like food setting. We found that individuals incidentally learned and more accurately recalled locations of high-calorie foods – regardless of explicit hedonic [pleasure-related] valuations or personal familiarity with foods. In addition, the high-calorie bias in human spatial memory already became evident within a limited sensory environment, where solely odor information was available. These results suggest that human minds continue to house a cognitive system optimized for energy-efficient foraging within erratic food habitats of the past.”

Rachelle de Vries, Paulina Morquecho-Campos, Emely de Vet, Marielle de Rijk, Elbrich Postma, Kees de Graaf, Bas Engel, and Sanne Boesveldt. 2020.   “Human Spatial Memory Implicitly Prioritizes High-Calorie Foods.” Scientific Reports, vol. 10, no. 15174,

Investigators have found that varying lighting in nursing homes during the course of the day, so that light intensity and color mimics lighting conditions outdoors, supports better sleep among residents. Baier, Miller,  McCreedy, Uth, Wetle, Noell-Waggoner, Stringer, and Gifford, used data collected from study participants with an average age of 88 to better understand sleep related issues among nursing home residents: “Nursing home residents tend to fall asleep at all hours of the day, and during the night, their sleep may be interrupted by periods of wakefulness. . . .  [at] one California nursing home. . . . [in a dynamic lighting condition] the facility installed interior [LED] lighting fixtures that change color and intensity over the course of the day and night [to mimic natural light]. . . . The tuned lighting brightened corridor lighting in the day and dimmed it during the night. The static condition mimicked the fluorescent lighting in place at the facility prior to installation of the tunable fixtures.  . . . The study found that, on average, the residents experienced 3.6 nighttime sleep disturbances with static lighting compared to 1.8 with tuned lighting.”  Findings are published in Seniors Housing and Care Journal.

Janine Weisman. 2020.  “Tuned Lighting Helps Nursing Home Residents Get Better Sleep, Study Finds.”  Press release, Brown University,

Huang and Liu, via a study published in the International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management,investigated how the alignment of fonts used with messages presented influences the success of charity appeals.  The researchers “asked prospective donors to consider whether and how much to give to a local food bank to help fight hunger during the coronavirus pandemic . . . donors were more likely to give when heartfelt messages were written in typefaces that looked like handwriting, and when messages that talked about the power of an organization were written in typeface that looked more business-like. . . . When the message was a warm one, with a tone that played up the emotions of what the fundraising organization could do, donors were more likely to give when the message was written in font that looked like handwriting. . . . When the message was focused on the competency of the organization, on its efficiency and on its power, donors were more likely to give when the message was written in a font that was clearly generated by a computer.”

Laura Arenschield. 2020.  “Donors More Likely to Give to COVID Causes When Font Matches Message.” Press release, The Ohio State University,

Vaez and colleagues studied how people using different wayfinding tools traveled through a place they had never been before. Researchers worked with  “three groups of participants who used different navigational aids: a group with a paper map, a group with the Google Maps app, and a group relying on local signage only. . . .  participants who had never visited Brisbane, Australia. . . . undertook a two-hour pedestrian wayfinding task. . . . The GPS group preferred to follow the suggested route by their navigator, most of them ‘locking in’ as digital navigators throughout the task. By contrast, the local-signage-only group used a diverse range of strategies to wayfind. Local-signage-only and paper map users tried to locate their position in the city by using piloting or path integration strategies, the GPS group just passively followed the guidance line showed by their device. On completion of the task the digital navigators recognized less spatial information. Surprisingly, the digital navigators did not feel less anxious compared with the two other groups.”

Sima Vaez, Matthew Burke, and Rongrong Yu. 2020.  “Visitors’ Wayfinding Strategies and Navigational Aids in Unfamiliar Urban Environment.”  Tourism Geographies, vol. 22, no. 4-5, pp. 832-847,


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