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A research team lead by Legendre found that we process significant amounts of sensory information while asleep, which has implications for the design of a range of spaces, from homes to healthcare facilities. The investigators report that “the sleeping brain continues generating neural responses to external events, revealing the preservation of cognitive processes ranging from the recognition of familiar stimuli to the formation of new memory representations.Why would sleepers continue processing external events and yet remain unresponsive? Here we hypothesized that sleepers enter a ‘standby mode’ in which they continue tracking relevant signals, finely balancing the need to stay inward for memory consolidation with the ability to rapidly awake when necessary. . . . we demonstrate that the sleeping brain amplifies meaningful speech compared to irrelevant signals. However, the amplification of relevant stimuli was transient and vanished during deep sleep. . . . the selection of relevant stimuli continues to operate during sleep but is strongly modulated by specific brain rhythms.”
Guillaume Legendre, Thomas Andrillon, Matthieu Koroma, and Sid Kouider. 2019. “Sleepers Track Informative Speech In a Multitalker Environment.” Nature Human Behavior, vol. 3, pp. 274-283, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-018-0502-5
Graziose and colleagues investigated how sound levels influence food consumed and their findings have implications, generally, for situations when designers want to encourage certain behaviors, particularly by children. The researchers report that “A digital photography method was used to assess FV [fruit and vegetable] consumption among [second and third grade] students across 40 days from 20 schools and environmental exposures, including the noise or sound pressure level of the cafeteria, were assessed during lunch. . . . . Combined FV [fruit and vegetable] consumption was negatively associated with noise exposure. . . Among young children eating in cafeterias, increased noise levels may decrease consumption of fruits and vegetables at the school lunch meal. We hypothesize that increased noise can work in two ways to decrease FV consumption: increased socializing (i.e., talking) and/or decreased hedonic [pleasure-related] enjoyment of the school lunch meal.”
Matthew Graziose, Pamela Koch, Randi Wolf, Heewon Gray, Raynika Trent, and Isobel Contento. 2019. “Cafeteria Noise Exposure and Fruit and Vegetable Consumption at School Lunch: A Cross-Sectional Study of Elementary Students.” Appetite, vol. 136, pp. 130-136, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2019.01.026
Hsieh and colleagues have found that the color of websites influences shopper opinions. The researchers determined that “online consumers' reactions to online merchandise prices vary according to website background colors. Participants who view blue or low-brightness backgrounds have high patronage intentions regardless of whether prices are high or low. Participants who view red or high-brightness backgrounds are sensitive to merchandise prices and react significantly negatively to high prices. . . . Blue backgrounds make consumers use high price as a sign of high quality rather than monetary sacrifice, but red or high-brightness backgrounds make consumers use high price as a sign of high monetary sacrifice rather than product quality.”
Yi-Ching Hsieh, Hung-Chang Chiu, Yun-Chia Tang, and Monle Lee. 2018. “Do Colors Change Realities in Online Shopping?” Journal of Interactive Marketing, vol. 41, pp. 14-27, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.intmar.2017.08.001
Research indicates that as lighting levels decrease, people drive more quickly. De Bellis and colleagues “examine[d] real-world speeding behavior and its interaction with illuminance, an environmental property defined as the luminous flux incident on a surface. Drawing on an analysis of 1.2 million vehicle movements, we show that reduced illuminance levels are associated with increased speeding. This relationship persists when we control for factors known to influence speeding (e.g., fluctuations in traffic volume) and consider proxies of illuminance (e.g., sight distance).”
Emanuel de Bellis, Michael Schulte-Mecklenbeck, Wernher Brucks, Andreas Hermann, and Ralph Hertwig. 2018. “Blind Haste: As Light Decreases, Speeding Increases.” PLoS ONE, vol. 13, no. 1, article e0188951, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0188951
Beck and teammates investigated how close cars are to bicycles being passed and their findings have implications for the design of not only roadways but also generally, for hallways within buildings, for example. The Beck-lead team found that when “Participants had a custom device installed on their bicycle and rode as per their usual cycling for one to two weeks. . . . on-road bicycle lanes and parked cars reduced passing distance [the distance cars were from the bicycles].” A press release issued by Monash University (available at https://www.monash.edu/news/articles/more-than-a-stripe-of-paint-needed-...) provides additional details: “marked on-road bicycle lanes and parked cars reduced the distance that motorists provide when passing cyclists. . . . ‘When the cyclist and driver share a lane, the driver is required to perform an overtaking manoeuvre. This is in contrast to roads with a marked bicycle lane, where the driver is not required to overtake. This suggests that there less of a conscious requirement for drivers to provide additional passing distance.’ [Quote attributed to Beck.] Dr. Beck said in order to improve safety and increase cycling participation, it is clear that far greater investment is needed in providing infrastructure that separates cyclists from motor vehicles by a physical barrier.” So, in summary, it seems that when bicycles are in a separate, marked lane, drivers do not maintain as great a distance from them as they do when the car drivers and bicyclists are in the same lane and the car drivers need to maneuver around the bicyclists to pass them.
Ben Beck, Derek Chong, Jake Olivier, Monica Perkins, Anthony Tsay, Adam Rushford, Lingxiao Li, Peter Cameron, Richard Fry, and Marilyn Johnson. “How Much Space Do Drivers Provide When Passing Cyclists? Understanding the Impact of Motor Vehicle and Infrastructure Characteristics on Passing Distance.” Accident Analysis and Prevention, in press, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aap/2019.03.007
Hunter and colleagues investigated the amount of time that people need to spend “anywhere outside that, in the opinion of the participant, included a sufficiency of natural elements to feel like a nature interaction” to reduce their stress levels. The research team reports that over an 8-week period “study participants are free to choose the time of day, duration, and the place of a NE [nature exposure]. . . . urban dwellers were asked to have a NE, defined as spending time in an outdoor place that brings a sense of contact with nature, at least three times a week for a duration of 10 min or more. . . . For salivary cortisol, an NE produced a 21.3%/hour drop. . . . The efficiency of a nature pill . . . was greatest between 20 and 30 min, after which benefits continued to accrue, but at a reduced rate. For salivary alpha-amylase, there was a 28.1%/h drop . . . but only for participants that were [at] least active sitting or sitting with some walking. Activity type did not influence cortisol response.” Salivary cortisol and alpha-amylase are stress biomarkers. Creating at-work, etc., outdoor areas where people would choose to spend 10 minutes three times a week may be feasible at many locations.
MaryCarol Hunter, Brenda Gillespie, and Sophie Chen. 2019. “Urban Nature Experiences Reduce Stress in the Context of Daily Life Based on Salivary Biomarkers.” Frontiers in Psychology, https://doi.org/10.10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00722
Research conducted by Gomez and Spielmann confirms that sensory evaluations are regularly more subjective than objective. The researchers found that “Associating food products with elite groups positively influences sensory taste perceptions.. . . .Taste enhancement occurs because of the transfer of unobservable elite properties to the food.. . . In four studies involving actual taste tests and online experiments, we show that associating a food product with an elite group increases taste perceptions within various food categories. This effect occurs because of belief in transferred essence (the belief that the product incorporates the unobservable properties of the social elite). The effect is also stronger among participants highly sensitive to disgust. Overall, our results suggest that a taste experience is improved when foods embody the characteristics of the social elite.”
Pierrick Gomez and Nathalie Spielmann. 2019. “A Taste of the Elite: The Effect of Pairing Food Products with Elite Groups on Taste Perceptions.” Journal of Business Research, vol. 100, pp. 175-183, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusres.2019.03.013
A research team headed by Bigman identified links between robot appearance and how responsible they are felt to be for their actions. These scientists report that “Even as roboticists create robots with more ‘objective’ autonomy, we note that ‘subjective’ autonomy may be more important. . . . People perceive the mind of machines based on their abilities and behaviors, but also on their appearance. The more human-like a machine looks, the more people perceive it as having a mind, a phenomenon called anthropomorphism. . . . Individuals vary in their tendency to anthropomorphize, but people consistently perceive more mind, and therefore more moral responsibility, in machines that look and act like humans. . . . We suggest that having human-like bodies, human-like voices, and human-like faces will all cause people to attribute more moral responsibility to machines.”
Yochanan Bigman, Adam Waytz, Ron Alterovitz, and Kurt Gray. “Holding Robots Responsible: The Elements of Machine Morality.” Trends in Cognitive Sciences, in press, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2019.02.008
A study to be published in Behavior Research Methodssheds light on relationships between sensory experiences. Cuskley, Dingemanse, Kirby and van Leeuwenanalyzed data collected from over 1,000 people and found that when study participants “chose colours for 16 spoken vowels. A large majority felt that ‘aa’ was more red than green, and ‘ee’ more light than dark. . . . According to Mark Dingemanse, one of the researchers, ‘There seems to be a logic to how we link sound and colour, and the structure of language has an important role in this process.’ . . . Earlier studies have found that colour associations are linked to the pitch of the sounds: the higher the pitch, the lighter the colour. But the new study shows that colour associations are driven to a greater degree by the vowel system of a language.”
“Associating Colours With Vowels? Almost All of Us Do!” 2019. Press release, Radboud University, https://www.ru.nl/english/news-agenda/news/vm/language-studies/linguisti...
Laboratory Lifestyles: The Construction of Scientific Fictions is packed with ideas that can be used to develop scientific laboratories as well as other professional workplaces. Laboratory Lifestyles’website states that “The past decade has seen an extraordinary laboratory-building boom. This new crop of laboratories features spectacular architecture and resort-like amenities. The buildings sprawl luxuriously on verdant campuses or sit sleekly in expensive urban neighborhoods. Designed to attract venture capital, generous philanthropy, and star scientists, these laboratories are meant to create the ideal conditions for scientific discovery. Yet there is little empirical evidence that shows if they do. Laboratory Lifestyles examines this new species of scientific laboratory from architectural, economic, social, and scientific perspectives.”
Sandra Kaji-O’Grady, Chris Smith, and Russell Hughes (eds.) 2019. Laboratory Lifestyles: The Construction of Scientific Fictions. MIT Press; Cambridge, MA.