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Research conducted by Threadgold and colleagues indicates the dangers of listening to music while attempting to think creatively.  The Threadgold-lead group reports that they “investigated the impact of background music on performance of Compound Remote Associate Tasks (CRATs), which are widely thought to tap creativity. Background music with foreign (unfamiliar) lyrics . . . instrumental music without lyrics . . . and music with familiar lyrics . . . all significantly impaired CRAT performance in comparison with quiet background conditions.” A CRAT is described: it “involves a participant being shown three words (e.g., dress, dial, and flower), with the requirement being to find a single associated word (in this case ‘sun’) that can be combined with each presented word . . . to make a common word or phrase (i.e., sundress, sundial, and sunflower . . .).”  Creative performance in the “quiet” condition was similar to performance in a “library” noise condition, and the library noise condition was described: “library noise consisted of distant (nonintelligible) speech, photocopier noise, typing, and rustling of papers.”

Emma Threadgold, John Marsh, Neil McLatchie, and Linden Ball. 2019. “Background Music Stints Creativity: Evidence from Compound Remote Associate Tasks.”  Applied Cognitive Psychology,

Research by Soiland and Hansen again indicates that multiple factors influence how spaces are used. As Soiland and Hansen report, “Flexible office concepts offer organisations the ability to adapt quickly to changes, and provide users with possibilities to work flexibly. Ideas about flexible working shape the design concepts employed in office design, and have consequences for users’ everyday work practices. . . . The paper draws on data from a case study in a Norwegian public organisation. Our findings suggest that flexible architecture on its own does not produce flexible workers. Rather, flexibility can be co-produced by users and architecture through emergent practices of appropriation and negotiation. Enhancing flexible work for users requires an understanding of what flexibility entails in their particular context, and adjusting strategies to their needs over time. Users should able to actively engage with and adapt architecture to their specific needs, which may require less standardisation in office design.”

Elisabeth Soiland and Geir Hansen.  “Ideas or Reality?  Flexible Space – Flexible People?”  Intelligent Buildings International, in press,

Yuen and Jenkins link time spent in parks and higher feelings of wellbeing.  The team learned that “visitors from three urban parks completed a short questionnaire evaluating SWB [subjective well-being] (with two components: affect [emotion] and life satisfaction) immediately before and after their park visit. . . . Results indicated a significant improvement in SWB, affect, and life satisfaction scores of park visitor participants from before and after their visit. Duration of park visit was . . . associated with SWB scores, and . . . with the improvement in life satisfaction scores, controlling for parks and age, after the visit; a 20.5-min park visit predicted the highest overall accuracy (64%) improvement in life satisfaction. It is recommended that design of the park space should attract visitors to stay for at least 20 min in the park.” An important definition: “Urban green space is defined as publicly accessible open areas covered with natural vegetation, a definition that includes parks within city boundaries.”The changes in SWB, etc., were not related to level of activity during park visits, so a range of users, engaging in an assortment of pastimes, should experience the effects found.

Hon Yuen and Gavin Jenkins. “Factors Associated with Changes in Subjective Well-Being Immediately After Urban Park Visit.”  International Journal of Environmental Health Research, in press,

Recently published research highlights links between culture and memories; these findings may be useful to people researching users’ experiences, for instance.  Wang, Hou, Koh, Song, and Yang’s research focused on “Episodic memory [which] supports our sense of self, enabling us to recall specific past experiences that make up our personal history . . . In a set of four studies. . . [the researchers] found that the benefits previously attributed to maintaining detailed episodic memories may in fact be dependent on a person’s culture. . . . Prioritizing memories of distinct personal experiences does appear to increase wellbeing for those in WEIRD (Western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic) cultural contexts that tend to emphasize creating a unique, independent personal identity. . . . Many cultures in East Asia, however, emphasize a more relational, interdependent sense of self. In line with the person-culture-fit framework, Wang said, having detailed memories of one’s own experiences may not hold the same value but even work against the cultural expectation for fitting-in in an East Asian context, resulting in minimal or even negative wellbeing effects.”  This Wang-lead study was published in Clinical Psychological Science.

“The Culturally Specific Role of Specific Episodic Memory.”  2019. Press release, Association for Psychological Science,

An Engemann-lead team determined that growing up in greener areas has lifelong benefits.  The investigators found that “Green space presence was assessed at the individual level using high-resolution satellite data to calculate the normalized difference vegetation index within a 210 × 210 m square around each person’s place of residence (∼1 million people [in Denmark]) from birth to the age of 10. . . . high levels of green space presence during childhood are associated with lower risk of a wide spectrum of psychiatric disorders later in life. Risk for subsequent mental illness for those who lived with the lowest level of green space during childhood was up to 55% higher across various disorders compared with those who lived with the highest level of green space. The association remained even after adjusting for urbanization, socioeconomic factors, parental history of mental illness, and parental age. . . . [study findings support] efforts to better integrate natural environments into urban planning.”

Kristine Engemann, Carsten Pedersen, Lars Arge, Constantinos Tsirogiannis, Preben Mortensen, and Jens-Christian Svenning.   “Residential Green Space in Childhood Is Associated with Lower Risk of Psychiatric Disorders from Adolescence into Adulthood.”  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, in press,

Berthelsen and colleagues investigated the implications of transitioning university staff from cell offices to an activity-based workplace.  The researchers studied, via a survey, “how staff at a large Swedish university experienced the . . . work environment before and after moving to activity-based offices.. . . In the new premises, a vast majority (86 per cent) always occupied the same place when possible, and worked also more often from home. The social community at work had declined and social support from colleagues and supervisors was perceived to have decreased. The participants reported a lower job satisfaction after the relocation and were more likely to seek new jobs. No aspects in the physical or psychosocial work environment were found to have improved after the relocation.. . .  The risk that staff cannot concentrate on their work in activity-based university workplaces and lose their sense of community with colleagues are factors, which in the long run may lead to decreased efficiency, more conflicts and poorer well-being.”

Hanne Berthelsen, Tuija Muhonen, and Susanna Toivanen.  2018. “What Happens to the Physical and Psychosocial Work Environment When Activity-Based Offices Are Introduced Into Academia?”  Journal of Corporate Real Estate, vol. 20, no. 4, pp. 230-243,

Kareklas and colleagues determined that the color red is linked to independence and that blue is associated with interdependence with others.  As they report, “we demonstrate that red is associated with independence-focused words. . . . Participants exhibited a significant automatic association between red geometric shapes and independence-focused words, and between blue geometric shapes and interdependence-focused words. . . . the color red was associated more closely with independence . . . while the color blue was associated more closely with interdependence.”  

Ioannis Kareklas, Darrel Muehling, and Skyler King.  2019.  “The Effect of Color and Self-View Priming in Persuasive Communications.”  Journal of Business Research, vol. 98, pp. 33-49,

Liu, Choi, and Mattila researched behavioral responses to typefaces.  They found that “Healthy restaurants using handwritten (vs. machine-written) typeface will generate more favorable attitudes toward the menu, perceived healthiness, and social media engagement. . . . handwritten typeface creates a competitive advantage by conveying a sense of human touch, which subsequently induces the perception that love is symbolically imbued in the restaurant's offerings. The belief that ‘menu contains love’ leads to a wide range of favorable consumer responses including positive attitudes toward the menu, enhanced perceived healthiness of  the brand, and higher social media engagement. The results show that these positive effects occur only when the restaurant brand is health-focused.”

Stephanie Liu, Sungwoo Choi, and Anna Mattila.  2019. “Love Is in the Menu:  Leveraging Healthy Restaurant Brands with Handwritten Typeface.”  Journal of Business Research, vol. 98, pp. 289-298,

Research conducted by Biswas and Szocslinks scents and eating in intriguing ways.  The duo learned that “Managers are using ambient scent as an important strategic element in various service settings, with food-related scents being especially common. This research examines the effects of food-related ambient scents on children’s and adults’ food purchases/choices. The results of a series of experiments, including field studies at a supermarket and at a middle school cafeteria, show that extended exposure (of more than two minutes) to an indulgent food–related ambient scent (e.g., cookie scent) leads to lower purchases of unhealthy foods compared with no ambient scent or a nonindulgent food–related ambient scent (e.g., strawberry scent). The effects seem to be driven by cross-modal sensory compensation, whereby prolonged exposure to an indulgent/rewarding food scent induces pleasure in the reward circuitry, which in turn diminishes the desire for actual consumption of indulgent foods. Notably, the effects reverse with brief (<30 seconds) exposure to the scent.”

Dipavan Biswas and Courtney Szocs.  “The Smell of Healthy Choices:  Cross-Modal Sensory Compensation Effects of Ambient Scent on Food Purchases.”  Journal of Marketing Research, in press,

Research indicates that the stripes on zebras tend to reduce the likelihood that the animals will be bitten by horse flies; designers can apply this finding when selecting patterns for vertical surfaces.  Caro and teammates determined that “Averting attack by biting flies is increasingly regarded as the evolutionary driver of zebra stripes. . . . We examined the behaviour of tabanids (horse flies) in the vicinity of captive plains zebras and uniformly coloured domestic horses living on a horse farm in Britain. Observations showed that fewer tabanids landed on zebras than on horses per unit time. . . . In an experiment in which horses sequentially wore cloth coats of different colours, those wearing a striped pattern suffered far lower rates of tabanid touching and landing on coats than the same horses wearing black or white, yet there were no differences in attack rates to their naked heads. . . . Taken together, these findings indicate that, up close, striped surfaces prevented flies from making a controlled landing but did not influence tabanid behaviour at a distance.”

Tim Caro, Yvette Argueta, Emmanuelle Briolat, Joren Bruggink, Maurice Kasprowsky, Jai Lake, Matthew Mitchell, Sara Richardson, and Martin How. 2019.  “Benefits of Zebra Stripes:  Behaviour of Tabanid Flies Around Zebras and Horses.”  PLoS One,


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