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McDougall and colleagues investigated the best sorts of sounds to use as medical alarms.  They conducted “two experiments, with nonclinical participants, alarm sets which relied on similarities to environmental sounds (concrete alarms, such as a heartbeat sound to indicate ‘check cardiovascular function’) were compared to alarms using abstract tones to represent functions on medical devices. The extent to which alarms were acoustically diverse was also examined: alarm sets were either acoustically different or acoustically similar within each set. . . . concrete alarm sets, which were also acoustically different, were learned more quickly than abstract alarms which were acoustically similar. Importantly, the abstract similar alarms were devised using guidelines from the current global medical device standard (International Electrotechnical Commission 60601–1–8, 2012). . . . eye tracking data showed that participants were most likely to fixate first on the correct medical devices in an operating theater scene when presented with concrete acoustically different alarms using real world sounds.”

Sine McDougall, Judy Edworthy, Deili Sinimeri, Jamie Goodliffe, Daniel Bradley, and James Foster.  “Searching for Meaning in Sound:  Learning and Interpreting Alarm Signals in Visual Environments.”  Journal of Experimental Psychology:  Applied, in press,

Roozen investigated how views of a store influence decisions to enter it. Her “results show that task-oriented female clothing shoppers have a higher store entry intention when the store entry is less crowded, and the window display has a creative complex composition. Recreational female clothing shoppers, on the other hand, prefer crowded complex window displays.”

Irene Roozen.  2019.  “The Influence of External Design Elements on Clothing Store Entry Intentions for Recreationally and Task-Oriented Female Clothing Shoppers.”  The International Review of Retail, Distribution and Consumer Research, vol. 29, no. 4, pp. 409-429,

What do children think is important at pediatric hospitals?  Researchers from Edith Cowan University collected information from school-aged children in Australia and New Zealand during hospital stays and determined that “Feeling safe and being able to get to sleep at night are the things that matter most to sick kids in hospital. . . .  The children surveyed identified their most important needs as:

1   ‘To know I am safe and will be looked after.’

2   ‘To get enough sleep at night.’

3   ‘That staff listen to me.’

4   ‘To have places my parents can go to for food and drinks.’

5   ‘To have my mum, dad or family help care for me.’”

 The findings of this study are published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing.

“What Do Sick Kids Really Need in Hospital?”  2019. Press release, Edith Cowan University,

Benita, Bansal, and Tuncer set out to learn more about the emotions people feel in public spaces. They specifically probed momentary subjective wellbeing (M-SWB).  During the data collection process, students (age 7 to 18) “wore a sensor for one week, and happy moments were captured as well as geospatial and environmental data throughout the country. This is a large-scale in-the-wild user study. The findings provide weak empirical evidence that visiting parks and community centers increase the probability of experiencing M-SWB compared with commercial areas. . . . On the other hand, immediate noise levels and air temperature were strongly associated with M-SWB. . . . Weak evidence supporting the positive link between proximity to green or blue spaces and momentary happiness [were found].”

Francisco Benita, Garvit Bansal, and Bige Tuncer. 2019.  “Public Spaces and Happiness:  Evidence from a Large-Scale Field Experiment.”  Health and Place, vol. 56, pp. 9-18,

Dunaway and Soroka probed how the size of the screen on which news is viewed influences how it is processed mentally.  They investigated “how mobile technology constrains cognitive engagement through a lab-experimental study of individuals’ psychophysiological responses to network news on screens the size of a typical laptop computer, versus a typical smartphone. We explore heart rate variability, skin conductance levels, and the connection between skin conductance and the tone of news content. Results suggest lower levels of cognitive access to video news content on a mobile-sized screen, which has potentially important consequences for public attention to current affairs in an increasingly mobile media environment.”  These findings indicate that people are less attentive to and engaged with news-type content when it is presented on a smaller screen than they are when it is shared on a larger one.

Johanna Dunaway and Stuart Soroka.  “Smartphone-Size Screens Constrain Cognitive Access to Video News Stories.”  Information, Communication and Society, in press,

Schertz and colleagues studied how seeing different sorts of lines influences human thoughts. They “experimentally manipulated exposure to specific visual features. . . . Results . . . showed a potential causal effect of . . . non-straight edges on thinking about topics related to “Spiritual & Life Journey”, with . . . non-straight edges having a positive relationship. . . .  These results have implications for the design of the built environment to influence human reflection and well-being.”  So, people were more likely to think about spirituality and life journey when looking at images with a larger number of nonstraight lines than they were when viewing with ones with more straight lines.

Kathryn Schertz, Sonya Sachdeva, Omid Kardan, Hiroki Kotabe, Kathleen Wolf, and Marc Berman. 2018. “A Thought in the Park:  The Influence of Naturalness and Low-Level Visual Features on Expressed Thoughts.”  Cognition, vol. 174, pp. 82-93,

New research sheds light on the uncanny valley phenomenon.  As a Rosenthal-von der Putten-lead team reports, “Artificial agents are becoming prevalent across human life domains. However, the neural mechanisms underlying human responses to these new, artificial social partners remain unclear. The Uncanny-Valley (UV) hypothesis predicts that humans prefer anthropomorphic agents but reject them if they become too human-like—the so-called UV reaction. Using functional MRI, we investigated neural activity when subjects evaluated artificial agents and made decisions about them. . . . . Our data suggest that human reactions toward artificial agents are governed by a neural mechanism that generates a selective, nonlinear valuation in response to a specific feature combination (human-likeness in nonhuman agents). . . . Our findings suggest a novel neurobiological conceptualization of human responses toward artificial agents: The Uncanny Valley reaction—a selective dislike of highly human-like agents—is based on nonlinear value-coding in VMPFC, a key component of the brain's reward system.”

Astrid Rosenthal-von der Putten, Nicole Kramer, Stefan Maderwald, Matthias Brand, and Fabian Grabenhorst.  “Neural Mechanisms for Accepting and Rejecting Artificial Social Partners in the Uncanny Valley.”  Journal of Neuroscience, in press,

Research by Pantzar and colleagues confirms the value of supporting employee efforts to exercise, via onsite exercise facilities, for example.  The investigators report that “Aerobic exercise influence cognition in elderly, children, and neuropsychiatric populations. . . . The sample consisted of . . .office workers. . . . A cognitive test battery (9 tests), assessed processing speed, working memory, executive functions and episodic memory. . . .  Groups of moderate . . . and high . . . fitness outperformed the group of low . . . fitness for inhibition and episodic recognition, whereas no significant differences between moderate and high fitness were observed. . . . This has implications on organizational and societal levels; where incentives to improve fitness levels from low to moderate could yield desirable cognitive and health benefits in adults.”

Alexandra Pantzar, Lars Jonasson, Orjan Ekblom, Carl-Johan Boraxbekk, and Maria Ekblom. 2018.  “Relationships Between Aerobic Fitness Levels and Cognitive Performance in Swedish Office Workers.”  Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 9, article 2612,

What colors are best for emergency signage? A research team lead by Kinateder determined that when study “Participants were immersed in a virtual room with two doors (left and right), and an illuminated sign with different colored vertical bars above each door. . . . On each trial, a fire alarm sounded, and participants walked to the door that they thought was the exit. . . .  Participants predominantly walked toward green signs, even though the exit signs in the local environment—including the building where the experiment took place—were red. However, in a post-experiment survey, most participants reported that exit signs should be red. The results demonstrated a dissociation between the way observers thought they would behave in emergency situations (red = exit) and the way they did behave in simulated emergencies (green = exit). These findings have implications for the design of evacuation systems.”

Max Kinateder, William Warren, and Karen Schloss.  2018. “What Color Are Emergency Exit Signs? Egress Behavior Differs from Verbal Report.”  Applied Ergonomics, vol. 75, pp. 155-160,

The professional implications of dynamic office workstations (DOWs) were evaluated by Schellewald, Kleinert, and Ellegast.  They conducted “a 12 week observational study, 36 employees were given free access to eight DOWs (cycling devices).  Characteristics of use (i.e., frequency, duration, speed, variation of speed) were self-determined but registered objectively for every event of use. . . . employees rated their well-being immediately before (pre) and after (post) using a DOW. . .  .we found significant relationships between positive changes in the dimensions recovery, calm, and mood on the one hand and specific characteristics of use (i.e. duration, speed and variation of speed) on the other hand.  Therefore it can be assumed, that there are possible dose-response relationships between characteristics of use of DOWs and positive changes of well-being.  The implementation of DOWs might be a way to contribute to workers’ psychological health.”

V. Schellewald, J. Kleinert, and R. Ellegast.  2019. “Evaluating Relationships Between the Use of Dynamic Office Workstations (DOWs) and well-being.”  Wellbeing at Work in a Changing World:  Challenges and Opportunities, Book of Abstracts, Paris, May 22-24, p. 135.


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