Latest Blog Posts

Chambers, Robertson, and Baker reviewed published studies of the various effects of using sit-stand desks (SSDs).  They integrated research findings related to “behavior (e.g. time sitting and standing), physiological, work performance, psychological, discomfort, and posture. . . . We conclude that SSDs effectively change behaviors, but these changes only mildly effect health outcomes. SSDs seem most effective for discomfort and least for productivity.  . . . Twenty-one of the studies included productivity outcomes, and only 8% found significant differences between sitting and standing or sitting and combination of sitting and standing. Four of the studies with significant differences in productivity reported that standing was superior to sitting . . . while two favored sitting. . . Additionally, others have found that standing did not reduce performance and resulted in improved mouse function. . . . modest cardiometabolic health benefits were noted when using SSDs. Generally, SSDs did not reduce work performance or improve psychological health. SSDs were most effective at reducing discomfort.”

April Chambers, Michelle Robertson, and Nancy Baker.  2019. “The Effect of Sit-Stand Desks on Office Worker Behavioral and Health Outcomes:  A Scoping Review.”  Applied Ergonomics, vol. 78, pp. 37-53,

Meier and his team have confirmed one of the repercussions of being in an area that feels spacious. The investigators found that “To assess the reliability of findings showing that an expansive driver seat space predicts parking violations, we replicated an original field study in a geographically and socio-culturally different location and included an additional covariate. After controlling for car length, brand status, and car price, driver seat space remained a positive predictor of illegal parking. This suggests that the spatial design of vehicle cockpits may indeed have an influence on driver behaviour . . . We replicate evidence showing that increasing physical space surrounding the driver relates to an increased probability of parking violations.”

Felix Meier, Markus Schobel, and Markus Feufel. 2018.  “Does Size Matter?  Spacious Car Cockpits May Increase the Probability of Parking Violations.”  Ergonomics, vol. 61, no. 12, pp. 1613-1618,

Design can influence mood; work by Engelmann and colleagues indicates that mood and trusting others are linked.  The researchers found that “Negative affect [mood] reduced trust, suppressed trust-specific activity in the left temporoparietal junction (TPJ) . . . .  Incidental aversive affect is a ubiquitous phenomenon that pervades many aspects of human behavior and human social interaction. Here, we investigated the behavioral and neural impact of incidental affect [mood] on trust decisions. We used an experimental technique that establishes aversive affect by inducing a prolonged expectation of unpredictable and aversive tactile stimulation. . . . [which]  significantly increased autonomic arousal during both social and NS [nonsocial] decision-making and was associated with consistent self-reports of the experience of aversive affect [mood]. We observed that aversive affect significantly reduced participants’ trust in their partners. . . . this result is consistent with a recent behavioral study that showed that acute stress reduces trust.” These effects of bad mood on trusting others were found even when the situation that generated that bad mood, for example, something in a physical environment, was unrelated to whomever potentially might have been trusted.  

Jan Engelmann, Friederike Meyer, Christian Ruff, and Ernst Fehr.  2019.   “The Neural Circuitry of Affect-Induced Distortions of Trust.”  Science Advances, vol. 5, no. 3, article 3413DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aau3413

Researchers at Boston University have developed a new system for soundproofing spaces.  A press release from Boston University reports that Zhang, Ghaffarivardavagh, Anderson, and Nikolajczyk determined that “Although noise-mitigating barricades, called sound baffles, can help drown out the whoosh of rush hour traffic or contain the symphony of music within concert hall walls, they are a clunky approach not well suited to situations where airflow is also critical. . . . the researchers argue that it’s quite possible to silence noise using an open, ringlike structure, created to mathematically perfect specifications, for cutting out sounds while maintaining airflow.” The ring is constructed from “a material with unusual and unnatural properties (known as a metamaterial’.”  The team reports that “The basic premise is that the metamaterial needs to be shaped in such a way that it sends incoming sounds back to where they came from. . . . Zhang says the possibilities are endless, since the noise mitigation method can be customized to suit nearly any environment: ‘The idea is that we can now mathematically design an object that can block the sounds of anything,’ she says.’” More details about this soundscaping breakthrough are available at the web address noted below.

Kat McAlpine. 2019.  “Making the World a Lot Quieter.”  Press release, Boston University,

Kapferer and Valette-Florence studied factors that encourage people to select luxury options.  They learned from “luxury buyers from six countries, both mature and emerging, Asian and Western. . . .  [that] self[-made]-success leads to a perception of luxury as a financial investment, whereas richness boosts the hedonistic [self-indulgent, pleasure related] function of luxury.”

Jean-Noel Kapferer and Pierre Valette-Florence. “How Self-Success Drives Luxury Demand: An Integrated Model of Luxury Growth and Country Comparisons.”  Journal of Business Research, in press,

Negami and colleagues investigated the psychological repercussions of urban design.  Their published study indicates that “the urban environment has great potential to shape residents’ experiences and social interactions, as well as to mitigate social isolation by promoting trust and sociability. The current study examines the effects of urban design interventions, such as colorful crosswalks and greenery, on participants’ mental well-being, sociability and feelings of environmental stewardship. Participants were led on walks of Vancouver’s West End neighborhood, stopping at six sites . . . [participants] indicate[d] their emotional response to and perception of the environment using a smartphone application. Spaces with greenery and spaces with a colorful, community-driven urban intervention were associated with higher levels of happiness, trust [of strangers], [environmental] stewardship and attraction to the sites than their more standard comparison sites. Our findings demonstrate that simple urban design interventions can increase subjective well-being and sociability among city residents.”

Hanna Negami, Robin Mazumder, Mitchell Reardon, and Colin Ellard.  “Field Analysis of Psychological Effects of Urban Design:  A Case Study in Vancouver.”  Cities and Health, in press,

Park probed factors linked to park use.  He reports that  “As the world becomes more urbanized, neighborhood parks are becoming an increasingly important venue where people engage in physical and social activities. Using park-use data collected by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the aim of this study is to account for park use in light of park attributes and neighborhood conditions. . . .  neighborhood park utilization is positively associated with park attributes (i.e., larger area, a playground, a creek/pond, quality maintenance, and organized activities) and neighborhood attributes (i.e., fewer minority/low-income population, higher density, more commercial and public uses, and a well-connected street network).”

Keunhyun Park. “Park and Neighborhood Attributes Associated With Park Use:  An Observational Study Using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.”  Environment and Behavior, in press,

McPhetres has identified another benefit of feeling awed, after inducing awe by showing study participants scenes from the natural world (for instance, of the aurora borealis). McPhetres states that “Results from four pre-registered studies . . . indicate that manipulating awe through online . . . and virtual reality . . . videos, led to greater awareness of knowledge gaps [things that are no known]. Awareness of knowledge gaps was consistently associated with greater science interest and to choosing tickets to a science museum over tickets to an art museum.”  Awe can also be induced via remarkable workmanship or large size in a designed space/object, for example.

Jonathon McPhetres. “Oh, The Things You Don’t Know: Awe Promotes Awareness of Knowledge Gaps and Science Interest.”  Cognition and Emotion, in press,

Research conducted by Choi and team confirms that experiencing cooler light is energizing. They “investigated physiological and subjective responses to morning light exposure of commercially available LED lighting with different correlated colour temperatures to predict how LED-based smart lighting employed in future learning environments will impact students. . . . university students underwent an hour of morning light exposure to both warm (3,500 K) and blue-enriched (6,500 K) white lights at recommended illuminance levels for classrooms and lecture halls (500 lux). The decline of melatonin levels was significantly greater after the exposure to blue-enriched white light. Exposure to blue-enriched white light significantly improved subjective perception of alertness, mood, and visual comfort. . . . Blue-enriched LED light seems to be a simple yet effective potential countermeasure for morning drowsiness and dozing off in class, particularly in schools with insufficient daylight.” People in the bluer light thus felt significantly more alert, etc., than those experiencing the warmer light.

Kyungah Choi, Cheong Shin, Taesu Kim, Hyun Chung, and Hyeon-Jeong Suk.  “Awakening Effects of Blue-Enriched Morning Light Exposure on University Students’ Physiological and Subjective Responses.”  Scientific Reports, vol. 9, article 345, DOI:10.1038/s41598-018-36791-5

Curry, Mullins, and Whitehouse determined that cooperation is valued worldwide, so supporting cooperation via design is generally desirable.  The researchers report that “The theory of ‘morality-as-cooperation’ argues that morality consists of a collection of biological and cultural solutions to the problems of cooperation recurrent in human social life. Morality-as-cooperation . . . predicts that specific forms of cooperative behavior—including helping kin, helping your group, reciprocating, being brave, deferring to superiors, dividing disputed resources, and respecting prior possession—will be considered morally good wherever they arise, in all cultures. . . . we investigated the moral valence of these even cooperative behaviors in the ethnographic records of 60 societies.  We find that the moral valence of these behaviors is uniformly positive, and the majority of these cooperative morals are observed in the majority of cultures, with equal frequency across all regions of the world.  We conclude that these seven cooperative behaviors are plausible candidates for universal moral rules.”

Oliver Curry, Daniel Mullins, and Harvey Whitehouse.  2019. “Is It Good to Cooperate?  Testing the Theory of Morality-As-Cooperation in 60 Societies.”  Current Anthropology, vol. 60, no. 1, pp. 47-69,


Subscribe to Latest Blog Posts