Latest Blog Posts

A new study confirms how powerful visual cues can be. Chan and Maglio determined that “Just looking at something that reminds us of coffee can cause our minds to become more alert and attentive. . . . Across four separate studies and using a mix of participants from Western and Eastern cultures, they [the researchers] compared coffee- and tea-related cues. They found that participants exposed to coffee-related cues perceived time as shorter and thought in more concrete, precise terms. . . . the effect was not as strong among participants who grew up in Eastern cultures. Maglio speculates that the association between coffee and arousal is not as strong in less coffee-dominated cultures.”  The Chan/Maglio study is published in Consciousness and Cognition.

Don Campbell/Press release, University of Toronto, Scarborough. 2019.  “Just Seeing Reminders of Coffee Can Stimulate the Brain, UTSC Study Reveals,”

Weir reviews research in the field of neurogastronomy.  The field is defined in her article as “combining the molecular biology of olfaction, the biochemistry of food preparation and the neuroscience of sensation and perception.” Weir reports, for example that when someone is tasting something “The process starts even before you take a bite. You smell the food’s aroma and see its shape and color, as well as the appearance of the plate or bowl. . . . aroma from the food is carried through the inside of the mouth up into the nose . . . which has a big effect on flavor. . . . Spence’s [Spence is a professor of experimental psychology at the University of Oxford] research reveals how input from our ears, eyes and fingertips influences the taste of foods. He’s shown that yogurt, for example, is perceived as denser and more expensive when tasted with a light plastic spoon rather than a weighty metal one . . . and eating chocolate while listening to musical compositions with soft, smooth notes makes the chocolate seem creamier.”

Kirsten Weir.  2019.  “A Matter of Taste.”  Monitor on Psychology, vol. 50, no. 4, pp. 60-64.

Miller and Hubner found that individuals are pretty good at determining if other people will like a particular piece of art. The duo reports that “Aesthetic preferences vary strongly between people. Yet, it can be essential to infer what other people aesthetically prefer. Therefore, we investigated lay people’s ability to infer aesthetic preferences. . . . about half of the participants produced a significant medium to high correlation between their other assessments and the mean others′ self-assessment. . . . our results indicate that many individuals are able to infer aesthetic preferences.”

Chantal Miller and Ronald Hubner.  “Two Routes to Aesthetic Preference, One Route to Aesthetic Inference.”  Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, in press,

On March 22, at the Outcome of Design (OOD) conference organized by the American Society of Interior Designers, OOD  award winning projects were reviewed.  One of the awarded projects is a waiting area at Unity Health Care Brentwood, redesigned by Gensler in partnership with others, including Sunbrella.  The new space was developed using data collected via surveys, observations, behavioral mapping, and community outreach.  The printed agenda for the Outcome of Design conference indicated that in the new waiting room “wider seat selections and increased spacing between seats resulted in increased utilization.  In the original design, patients spread out into two to three seats to define their personal space.  In the new design, patients utilized one to two seats.”

Just, Nichols, and Dunn evaluated indoor climates across the United States.  They studied “indoor climate data from homes . . . across the USA. We then compared these data to recent global terrestrial climate data (0.5° grid cells, n = 67 420) using a climate dissimilarity index. . . .  On average, our study homes were most similar in climate to the outdoor conditions of west central Kenya. . . . Overall, we identified the geographical distribution of the global outdoor climate that is most similar to the interiors of our study homes and summarized study home indoor climate preferences. . . . the temperature people prefer overlaps with much of the geographical area in which key events in hominid evolution and, for that matter, early civilization occurred. . . . We hypothesize that natural selection favoured human preferences and thermal traits that allowed human ancestors to live in those climates.”  Insights drawn from this work by Just and colleagues can inform future design decisions that influence the “climates” experienced by space users.

Michael Just, Lauren Nichols, and Robert Dunn.  2019.  “Human Indoor Climate Preferences Approximate Specific Geographies.”  Royal Society Open Science,

Calder reports on the unspoken messages sent via design in an article that is of note primarily because a significant segment of its readers are business people whose careers are not focused on design-related issues.  Calder states that “good brand design mainly influences consumers on an unconscious level. . . . Establishing associations in the consumer’s mind that lead the consumer to recognize and interpret the brand without cognitive effort creates a perception that is consistent and supportive of the brand’s positioning concept. . . . the brand positioning of Coca-Cola for targeted consumers is something like this: Coca-Cola is a thirst-quenching cola with a refreshing taste that brings joy to everyone. . . . [in the Coca-Cola logo] The flowing ribbon . .  . captures the dynamically changing quality of a fast-moving lifestyle. . . .  The flowing Spenserian script of the name cues both timelessness and movement. This is reinforced by the dynamic contour ribbon that mimics the shape of the bottle laid on its side.  The basic red color is celebratory.”

Bobby Calder. 2019. “Good Brand Design Appeals to Consumers on an Unconscious Level.”  KelloggInsight,

Wang and colleagues determined that humans sense magnetic fields.  The researchers share that “Although many migrating and homing animals are sensitive to Earth’s magnetic field, most humans are not consciously aware of the geomagnetic stimuli that we encounter in everyday life. . . . We found two classes of ecologically-relevant rotations of Earth-strength magnetic fields that produce strong, specific and repeatable effects on human brainwave activity in the EEG alpha band (8-13 Hz); EEG discriminates in response to different geomagnetic field stimuli.”  

Connie Wang, Isaac Hilburn, Daw-An Wu, Yuki Mizuhara, Christopher Couste, Jacob Abrahams, Sam Bernstein, Ayumu Matani, Shinsuke Shimojo, and Joseph Kirschvink.  “Transduction of the Geomagnetic Field as Evidenced From Alpha-Bank Activity in the Human Brain.”  eNeuro, in press,

Henao and Marshall investigated changing needs for parking spaces.  They found that their “study uses ethnographic methods—complemented with passenger surveys collected when driving for Uber and Lyft in the Denver, Colorado, region—to gather quantitative and qualitative data on ride-hailing and analyze the impacts of ride-hailing on parking, including changes in parking demand and parking as a reason to deter driving. The study also examines relationships between parking time and cost. . . . The results suggest that: i) ride-hailing is replacing driving trips and could reduce parking demand, particularly at land uses such as airports, event venues, restaurants, and bars; ii) parking stress [for example, related to the need to find a parking space] is a key reason respondents chose not to drive; and iii) respondents are generally willing to pay more for reduced parking time and distance. Conversely, parking supply, time, and cost can all influence travel behavior and ride-hailing use.”  A little more than a quarter of the Uber/Lyft riders from whom data were collected indicated that they would have driven themselves to their destination and needed to park there if Uber/Lyft had not been available.

Alejandro Henao and Wesley Marshall.  2019. “The Impact of Ride Hailing on Parking (And Vice Versa).”  The Journal of Transport and Land Use, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 127-147, DOI:

An interview with Alan Kingstone and Andrew Gallup sheds light on “how basic human behaviors differ between the real world and simulated environments.”  They report that  “By demonstrating that yawning is just as contagious within VR [virtual reality] as it is in traditional laboratory settings, we show that people are indeed responsive to imbedded social cues in VR.” In addition, Kingstone and Gallup found that the sites in which VR research is done influence the data collected: “The fact that the mere presence of another person in real-life [in the physical room where people are wearing VR goggles, for instance] can dramatically alter behavioural responses in VR has profound implications for the use of this technology in psychological and cognitive science. . . . this study suggests that subtle features of the testing environment can have a big impact on even simple and reflexive responses such as contagious yawning.”

“Experiments in Different ‘Worlds’.”  2019.  Observer, vol. 32, no. 3, p. 45.

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,


Subscribe to Latest Blog Posts