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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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Anyone who’s puzzled over similarities and differences between online and physical privacy issues will be intrigued by research done by Shariff and colleagues.  This team reports that “Although people report grave concern over their data privacy, they take little care to protect it. We suggest that this privacy paradox can be understood in part as the consequence of an evolutionary mismatch: Privacy intuitions evolved in an environment that was radically different from the one found online. This evolved privacy psychology leaves people disconnected from the consequence of online privacy threats. . . . Human privacy intuitions emerged in an ancestral environment that differed radically from the digital environment in which those intuitions are now being tested. . . . . In this current environment, online interfaces befuddle intuitions that have otherwise allowed people to adaptively decide what to share, how much, and with whom.”  The interesting points made by the Shariff team, linking primordial and current privacy concepts, are available, without charge, in the article at the web address noted below.

Azim Shariff, Joe Green, and William Jettinghoff.  “The Privacy Mismatch:  Evolved Intuitions in a Digital World.”  Current Directions in Psychological Science, in press,

Devlin and colleagues evaluated how classroom images seen by prospective college students influence their opinions of colleges and universities.  Their findings are likely applicable both in this context and others. The Devlin-lead team found that when “participants read a scenario about a college too far away to visit and viewed a website picture of a seminar room (unrenovated or renovated) before responding to measures of classroom satisfaction and college academic life more broadly (e.g., student retention).. . . . Classroom status . . . significantly influenced estimates of first-year student retention . . . with higher estimates of retention for the renovated classroom.. . . images of the classroom environment can affect judgments beyond the classroom itself, including estimates of student retention and the quality of the faculty at the institution.”  The Devlin group also shared that architects knowledgeable about the renovation reported that “‘the original arrangement consisted of mismatched tables with one row of plastic chairs around the tables and another at the perimeter of the room. . . . The new configuration consists of a large oval seminar table surrounded by comfortable, flexible chairs.’” The Devlin team also shares that Douglas and Gifford in 2001 reported that three classroom design elements seem to drive classroom evaluations “a view to the outdoors, seating comfort, and seating arrangement.”

Ann Devlin, Alaina Anderson, Sarah Hession-Kunz, and Amy Zou. “Is a Picture Always Worth 1000 Words? Website Images of Classrooms and Perceptions of the Institution.”  Learning Environments Research, in press,

Researchers have assessed bird photos, looking for clues about preferred images and report that people prefer birds that are blue, just as they prefer blue in other contexts.  Thommes and Hayn-Leichsenring share that they “collected over 20,000 photos of birds from the photo-sharing platform Instagram with their corresponding liking data. . . . The colors of the depicted bird . . . significantly affected the liking behavior of the online community, replicating and generalizing previously found human color preferences. . . . There is a solid body of research on human color preferences indicating that blueish objects are generally preferred over objects with yellowish hues. . . . This has been explained by ecological valence, for example, blue being linked to good things such as clear sky and clean water, whereas potentially harmful objects such as rotten food are often yellow (Palmer & Schloss, 2020). . . . results closely correspond with . . . color preferences that were previously reported for colored squares, but also for objects like furniture and clothing (Schloss et al., 2013).”    

Katja Thommes and Gregor Hayn-Leichsenring.  2021. “What Instagram Can Teach Us About Bird Photography: The Most Photogenic Bird and Color Preferences.”  i-Perception, vol. 12, no. 2,

Adding augmented reality experiences can increase sales.  Tan, Chandukala, and Reddy report, in a study published in the Journal of Marketing,that “AR transforms static objects into interactive, animated three-dimensional objects, helping marketers create fresh experiences that captivate and entertain customers. . . . . AR is also an effective medium to deliver content and information to customers. . . . AR can also be used to provide in-store wayfinding and product support. . . . AR also helps users visualize how products would appear in their actual consumption contexts to assess product fit more accurately prior to purchase. . . . Retailers selling premium products may also leverage AR to improve decision comfort and reduce customers’ hesitation in the purchase process.”

“Press Release from the Journal of Marketing: Augmented Reality in Retail and Its Impact on Sales.”  2021. Press release, American Marketing Association,

Research completed by Bekiroglu and teammates indicates the value of incorporating opportunities for flexibility and movement into higher-education classrooms.  The team report that their research determined that “(a) flexible room layout and movable furniture enabled participants to create settings that could support students’ group interactions; (b) flexible room layout and movable tools enabled people to move around to enhance student–to–student and teacher–to–student interaction; and (c) through the movement of furniture and tools and movement of people, participants were able to easily transition between different activities. The easy movement of tools and furniture widens the range of available classroom configurations to optimize engagement opportunities. Similarly, the flexibility of the classroom allows for the relatively easy movement of people. Our data suggest that such flexibility can facilitate interaction and engagement among students and instructors to create opportunities to promote both cognitive and emotional engagement.”

Saliha Bekiroglu, Crystal Ramsay, and Jenay Robert. “Movement and Engagement in Flexible, Technology-Enhanced Classrooms:  Investigating Cognitive and Emotional Engagement from the Faculty Perspective.” Learning and Environments Research, in press,

Zhou and colleagues studied work groups’ adjacency preferences.  They investigated “a large company’s spatial adjacency planning with an in-depth analysis of its formal organizational structure and collaboration network. A sample of 183 managers was surveyed regarding groups with whom they want to be spatially adjacent and groups with whom they mostly interact. . . . .  The results suggest that department affiliation and collaboration relations are significantly correlated to adjacency preferences. The authors did not find evidence supporting the notion that a workgroup’s prestige affects the preference. Among the three factors, collaboration relation best predicts the preference, which echoes Pena et al.’s (1977) argument that space planners should look into how groups function, rather than merely following the organizational chart.”

Yaoyi Zhou, Chiara Tagliaro, and Ying Hua. 2021.   “Networked ‘Bubbles’:  Study Workgroups’ Spatial Adjacency Preference Using Social Network Analysis Methods.”  Journal of Corporate Real Estate, vol. 23, no. 2, pp. 87-105,

Hao, Barnes, and Jing investigated the effects of college level active learning on educational outcomes; classroom layouts and furnishings can provide more or less support for active learning.  The researchers determined that “Active learning environments were found to have little influence, whereas active learning and teaching were found to have a significantly-positive influence on student achievements. . . . Active learning classrooms, characterised by open learning spaces, movable tables and seats, and learning technologies, are designed to better support effective learning. . . . In contrast to prior studies, this research revealed that active learning and teaching has a significantly beneficial influence on computer science students’ academic achievements, but active learning environments do not. The findings of this study . . . invite more debate on the important question of whether investment in active learning classrooms is worthwhile.”

Qiang Hao, Bradley Barnes, and Mengguo Jing. 2021. “Quantifying the Effects of Active Learning Environments:  Separating Physical Learning Classrooms from Pedagogical Approaches.”  Learning Environments Research, vol. 24, pp. 109-122,

Klotz, Adams, and Converse studied human problem solving; their findings are relevant wherever and whenever humans act. A press release related to the trio’s work (recently published in Nature) reports that “When considering two broad possibilities for why people systematically default to addition — either they generate ideas for both possibilities and disproportionately discard subtractive solutions or they overlook subtractive ideas altogether — the researchers focused on the latter. ‘Additive ideas come to mind quickly and easily, but subtractive ideas require more cognitive effort,’ Converse said. . . . The researchers think there may be a self-reinforcing effect. ‘The more often people rely on additive strategies, the more cognitively accessible they become,’ Adams said. ‘Over time, the habit of looking for additive ideas may get stronger and stronger, and in the long run, we end up missing out on many opportunities to improve the world by subtraction.’ . . . ‘I think our research has tremendous implications across contexts, but especially in engineering to improve how we design technology to benefit humanity,’ Klotz said.”

Jennifer McManamay.2021.  “Why Our Brains Miss Opportunities to Improve Through Subtraction.”  Press release, University of Virginia,

Recently released research confirms which music tempos are relaxing.  A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society indicates that “listening to music can help older adults sleep better. . .  People who were treated with music listened to either calming or rhythmic music for 30 minutes to one hour, over a period ranging from two days to three months.  (Calming music has slow tempo of 60 to 80 beats per minute and a smooth melody, while rhythmic music is faster and louder.) . . . Listening to calming music at bedtime improved sleep quality in older adults, and calming music was much better at improving sleep quality than rhythmic music.”

“Does Listening to Calming Music At Bedtime Actually Help You Sleep?”  2021. Health in Aging,


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