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Researchers have learned that as the forms of cities evolve the personalities of likely residents are different, which has design implications.  A team lead by Gotz (study published in American Psychologist) reports that “Rising house prices may change the personality make-up of US cities within a few years, with residents becoming increasingly open-minded – not just as wealthier people move in, but also among longer-term locals. This is according to a University of Cambridge-led study of almost two million people in the US living across 199 cities. Psychologists tracked annual personality scores over nine years (2006 to 2014). . . . just a $50 rise in a city’s average housing prices saw the characteristic of “openness” increase significantly. . . . Openness is one of five major personality traits, and captures levels of curiosity and creativity. . . . . The trait of ‘Openness’ is strongly associated with liberal votes and attitudes as well as entrepreneurial activity. It is also linked to socioeconomic status: the desire and freedom to explore new experiences can be a side effect of sufficient wealth and security.”

“Gentrification Changes the Personality Make-Up of Cities in Just a Few Years.”  2021.  University of Cambridge, Press release,

Button investigated responses to car design options, but his findings are applicable much more broadly.  Button reports that “Eye tracking methods and measurements were employed to empirically examine if attention can predict consumer judgements and behavioral outcomes. . . .     Findings reveal the importance of the grille as a feature that consumers rely on to recognize and make judgements about a vehicle's design. This study also confirms Mandler's hypothesis (1989) that a moderate level of prototypicality is preferred by consumers when evaluating vehicles, suggesting that a vehicle's design elements should be moderately unique so that they are memorable, while also consistent relative to the product category's typicality to alleviate confusion.”    

Q. Button.  2020.  “The Influence of Exterior Design Attributes on Consumer Preferences for Electric Vehicles.”  Dissertation Abstracts International:  Section B:  The Sciences and Engineering, 81 (9-B).

Bae and Asojo evaluated the experiences of people in long-term care units. Residents of several LTC units were interviewed and data analyses indicated “the importance of perceived control, social support, and positive distraction in the environment. The most frequently mentioned interior environment that the residents liked was ‘window and view,’ followed by ‘pictures and photos’ and ‘TV,’ while they wanted ‘bigger room and space,’ followed by ‘improved privacy’ and ‘more options for food.’”

Suyeon Bae and Abimbola Asojo.  “Interior Environments in Long-Term Care Unites from the Theory of Supportive Design.”  HERD:  Health Environments Research and Design Journal, in press,

Johnson, Zimmermann, and Bird investigated links between workplace design and employee performance via data collected at Microsoft using surveys and interviews.  They identified “factors that were considered as important for work environments: personalization, social norms and signals, room composition and atmosphere, work-related environment affordances, work area and furniture, and productivity strategies. We built statistical models for satisfaction with the work environment and perceived productivity of software engineers and compared them to models for employees in the Program Management, IT Operations, Marketing, and Business Program & Operations disciplines. In the satisfaction models, the ability to work privately with no interruptions and the ability to communicate with the team and leads were important factors among all disciplines. In the productivity models, the overall satisfaction with the work environment and the ability to work privately with no interruptions were important factors among all disciplines. For software engineers, another important factor for perceived productivity was the ability to communicate with the team and leads.”  For all, “private offices were linked to higher perceived productivity.”

Brittany Johnson, Thomas Zimmermann, and Christian Bird. “The Effect of Work Environments on Productivity and Satisfaction of Software Engineers.”  Microsoft Research,

Schetter’s Master’s Thesis reports on the case study of a relocation to an activity-based workplace.  Schetter reports that she “investigated the perception of employees at one small tech company in the Midwest area of the United States. . . . The office environment experiences were compared with a follow-up assessment of their current remote working conditions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. . . . seven characteristics [were considered]: the amount of space, proximity to colleagues, Indoor Environmental/Air Quality, choices of spaces, quality of the workspace, light, and furniture. . . . Results indicate workers’ preferences, the ability to choose where to work and a desired ability to control their work environments. Other major findings include a desire for natural daylight, adjustable lighting, and an overwhelming desire for greater acoustical privacy in areas for high concentration.”

Julia Schetter.  2021.  “Developing Typologies Toward Balanced Workplace Design:  A Case for the Five Modes of Work.”  Master’s Thesis, Iowa State University, Interior Design,

Robin Mazumder investigates links between urban design and mental wellbeing.  He reports that during his dissertation research “participants were brought into an urban environment, in the real world, but also via virtual reality, through the use of 360-degree videos of cityscapes.”  Data collected via surveys and from physiological measurements indicated that “tall buildings make people uncomfortable when they’re surrounded by them. Conversely, people have less of a stress response when they’re in environments that are built at what’s considered ‘human scale,’ or the European model where buildings tend to top out at five storeys. . . . [Mazumdar] says cities are ‘where human potential is on display.’ And when we get them right, they can be vibrant ecosystems filled with public art, architecture that doesn’t feel oppressive, cycling infrastructure, accessible green space for all and affordable housing.”

Michael Kissinger.  2021.  “Stress and the City.”  UVic (University of Victoria) News,

A recent study (published in Cognitive Research:  Principles and Implications) focused on how easy or difficult it is to understand someone wearing a face mask, produced some interesting results, particularly for tests conducted when background noise was present.  A research team lead by Brown determined via data collected from people with normal hearing that “cotton masks with filter inserts and masks with a transparent plastic panel were linked to/associated with the worst performance when it came to understanding what the wearer was saying. While they were surprised that listeners did not do better with transparent masks, the authors pointed out that the clear panels hurt the audibility of the speech signal more than other mask materials and that the panels often fog up, making it difficult to see the talker’s mouth.” Masks tested included surgical masks, cloth masks with and without filters and a mask with a clear plastic insert so the speaker’s mouth could be seen.  Also, there were three possible levels of background sound: none, moderate, and high: “Once a bit of background noise was added, however, the masks started to make a difference. And, when the loudest noise was added, the differences became even clearer. When Brown spoke while wearing a surgical mask, participants could still make out over 50% of what she was saying. But when she donned the cloth mask with a filter or the transparent mask, accuracy dropped to about 30%.”

“Which Mask is Easier on the Ears?”  2021.  Press release, Washington University in St. Louis,

Ugail and 12 others have developed a tool (more information currently available to all at the web address noted below) that can be used to redesign spaces to support pandemic-related social distancing.  The team reports that “manually enhanced ad-hoc solutions have helped the physical space designers and decision makers to cope with the dynamic nature of space planning. . . .  we propose a design optimization methodology which takes the dimensions, as well as the constraints and other necessary requirements of a given physical space to yield optimal redesign  solutions. . . . The resulting optimization problem is solved subject to a given set of parameters and constraints – corresponding to the requirements on the social distancing criteria between people and the imposed constraints on the physical spaces such as the position of doors, windows, walkways and the variables related to the indoor airflow patterns. . . . given the dimensions of a physical space and other essential requirements, the solution resulting from the automated optimization algorithm can suggest an optimal set of redesign solutions from which a user can pick the most feasible option.”

Hassan Ugail and 12 others.2021.  “Social Distancing Enhanced Automated Optimal Design of Physical Spaces in the Wake of COVID-19 Pandemic.”  Sustainable Cities and Society, vol. 68, 102791,

Fornara, Mosca, Bosco, and 13 others studied how home design influenced resident stress levels during the 2020 lockdown in Italy.  Their study “examined the relationship between the ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ dimensions of the home, measured in terms of objective home crowding and satisfaction with the space at home, in relation to perceived stress and the perceived risk of COVID-19 infection during the lockdown. . . . perceived stress is influenced by objective home crowding through . . . satisfaction with the space at home. These associations were more pronounced in younger generations. The negative association between satisfaction with the space at home and perceived stress was higher, the lower the perceived COVID-19 risk. . . . Satisfaction with the space at home increases when Objective home crowding decreases.”

Ferdinando Fornara, Oriana Mosca, Andrea Bosco, and 13 others. “Space at Home and Psychological Distress During the Covid-19 Lockdown in Italy.”  Journal of Environmental Psychology, in press, 101747,

Wilmot and Ones link particular personality factors to success in certain sorts of jobs and their findings are useful to designers aligning design with personality, which is regularly discussed in Research Design Connections.  The investigators found that when they studied ties between personality “and occupational performance (i.e., supervisory ratings of overall job performance or objective performance outcomes). . . . for 9 major occupational groups (clerical, customer service, healthcare, law enforcement, management, military, professional, sales, and skilled/semiskilled). . . . [that] Conscientiousness predicts across all groups, but other traits have higher validities when they are more relevant to occupational requirements: agreeableness for healthcare; emotional stability for skilled/semiskilled, law enforcement, and military; extraversion for sales and management; and openness for professional. . . .  When groups are ranked by [occupational] complexity, multiple correlations generally follow an inverse-U shaped pattern, which suggests that moderate complexity levels may be a ‘goldilocks range’ for personality prediction.”

Michel Wilmot and Deniz Ones. 2021.  “Occupational Characteristics Moderate Personality-Performance Relations in Major Occupational Groups.”  Journal of Vocational Behavior vol. 131, 103655,


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