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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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Eyal, and Robertson report on mentally refreshing breaks.  Among other material, they share that “Research shows that nature exposure is restorative for the mind.  One study reported better working memory scores after a walk in a natural environment, but not in an urban setting. . . . If you are stuck indoors, research shows that just looking at some photos of nature can help. . . . Every 20 minutes, stare at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.  This type of break is restorative, Gazzaley and Rosen [authors of The Distracted Mind:  Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World] explain because it ‘requires blood flow to brain areas that are not related to sustained attention.’”

Nir Eyal and Chelsea Robertson.  2022.   “How to Take a Better Break.”  Psychology Today, vol. 55, no. 1, pp. 57-58.

Pic and Han evaluated how children play indoors and outside.  They report that their “study explored peer conflict among preschoolers during indoor and outdoor free play in a nature-based preschool.  We collected data through observations and video recordings. . . . The findings revealed differences in primary conflict catalysts between indoor and outdoor settings.  Play ideas was the main conflict catalyst in the outdoor setting, while distribution of resources was the primary conflict catalyst in the indoor setting.  The implications of the study suggest that outdoor nature environments seem to provide children more meaningful conflict situations around play ideas rather than the mere possession of material.”

Annette Pic and Myae Han.  2021.  “Meaning Conflicts n Nature?  Exploring Peer Conflict in a Nature Preschool During Outdoor and Indoor Play.”  Children, Youth and Environments, vol. 31, no. 2, pp. 116-136,

Researchers confirmed that nudges, including design-based nudges, can influence behavior in intended ways.  A team lead by Mertens determined via a meta-analysis that  By making small changes in our environment, these interventions [nudges] aim to encourage changes in our behaviour, while preserving our freedom of choice. From adding informative labels to reorganising the food offer in a cafeteria, the overall effectiveness of these interventions has now been demonstrated by a scientific team from the University of Geneva (UNIGE). Their results can be found in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. . . .  the theory behind ‘nudging’ theory is based on the principle that our choices are not only determined by our ability to reason, but are also influenced by certain biases such as our emotions, our memories, the opinions of others or the configuration of our environment. Focusing on these elements can therefore be more effective in getting us to change certain behaviours than a ban or an awareness-raising campaign.”

“Inciting Instead of Coercing, ‘Nudges’ Prove Their Effectiveness.”  2022.  Press release, Universite de Geneve,

Research linked creativity and walking some time ago.  Murali and Handel build on prior studies and report that “Creativity, specifically divergent thinking, has been shown to benefit from unrestrained walking. . . .  [during the Murali/Handel project, creativity test] scores were higher during walking than sitting. . . .  participants either walked freely or in a restricted path, or sat freely or fixated on a screen. . . . similar to unrestrained [or free] walking, unrestrained sitting also improves divergent thinking. . . . Since most online teaching involves fixating on a computer screen, the amount of free body movements, including head and eye movements, are greatly reduced compared to a normal classroom set up. . . . introducing periods of free movements in between sessions of online teaching, even during sitting, can improve the flow of ideas and aid in the learning process.”  Murali and Handel found that unconstrained movement, whether sitting or standing, can boost creativity.

Supriya Murali and Barbara Handel.  2022.  “Motor Restrictions Impair Divergent Thinking During Walking and During Walking and During Sitting.”  Psychological Research,

The groundbreaking urban research of William H. is reported in American Urbanist:  How William H. Whyte’s Unconventional Wisdom Reshaped Public Life, by Richard Rein.  The text not only reviews Whyte’s process but also conclusions drawn from data collected.

Richard Rein. 2022.  American Urbanist:  How William H. Whyte’s Unconventional Wisdom Reshaped Public Life.  Island Press, Washington, DC.

Hunter and colleagues studied how neighborhood design influences resident actions.  They report that “Parents . . . with preschoolers . . . living in Edmonton, Canada were recruited from each of Edmonton’s council wards. Parents reported demographic information and the importance of several neighborhood features (destinations, design, social, safety, esthetics) for their child’s active play, their own active recreation, and their coactivity. . . . The majority of parents reported that 23 of the 32 neighborhood features were perceived as being relevant for all activity domains. These included destinations (parks, playgrounds, arenas, schools, sport fields, arenas/ice rinks, river valley/ravine), design features (quiet streets, trails, sidewalks), social features (friends/family, child’s friends, other children playing outside, knowing neighbors, trusting neighbors), safety features (street lighting, crime, traffic, daylight, sidewalk maintenance, crosswalks), and esthetic features (cleanliness, natural features).”

Stephen Hunter, Scott Leatherdale, John Spence, and Valerie Carson.  “Perceived Relevance of Neighborhood Features for Encouraging Preschoolers’ Active Play, Parents’ Active Recreation, and Parent-Child Coactivity.”  Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, in press,

Steele and Rash evaluated how use of the color red on dishes influences eating.  They report that that two previously published “articles hypothesized that exposure to the color red would induce a state of avoidance motivation and reported that snack food consumption was decreased when the food was served on red plates, relative to white and blue plates. The current experiment combined their procedures and approximately tripled their group sizes. Participants were provided with pretzels on red, white, or blue plates in a mock sensory analysis task. The results indicated that more pretzels were consumed when presented on red plates, in direct contradiction of previous results. Alternative explanations, such as group differences in hunger or preference for pretzels, could not account for the results. The facilitation effect of red indicates that the color red does not always reduce snack food consumption and suggests that the reported inhibitory effect of red on snack consumption may not be reliable.”

Kenneth Steele and Laura Rash.  2021.  “Is the Suppression Effect of the Color Red on Snack Food Consumption Reliable?  Experimental Psychology, vol. 68, no. 4, pp. 214-220,

Berger, Rocklage, and Packard studied the implications of communicating in different ways; their findings are broadly useful, for example, to people doing programming research.  The researchers report that “Consumers often communicate their attitudes and opinions with others, and such word of mouth has an important impact on what others think, buy, and do. . . . Six studies, conducted in the laboratory and field, demonstrate that compared to speaking, writing leads consumers to express less emotional attitudes.  The effect is driven by deliberation.  Writing offers more time to deliberate about what to say, which reduces emotionality.  The studies also demonstrate a downstream consequence of this effect:  by shaping the attitudes expressed, the modality consumers communicate through can influence the impact of their communication.”

Jonah Berger, Matthew Rocklage, and Grant Packard.  “Expression Modalities:  How Speaking Versus Writing Shape Word of Mouth.”  Journal of Consumer Research, in press,

Chang and Kim studied how different sorts of background music in movies influences the thoughts of audience members.  They report that “Films in general, and background music in particular, have the capacity to create positive emotional responses with consumers. While the study centers on social enterprises, as prosocial marketing becomes increasingly important to mainstream companies, the implications of our findings can be more broadly relevant to the latter, especially those that communicate via a film. Through two experiments, this study tests whether the valence (inspiring vs. sad) of the background music in a corporate social responsibility film influences viewers’ perceived para-social interaction, their attitudes toward the diversity protagonist, and their attitudes toward the social enterprise brand. We find that inspiring music leads to increased para-social interaction levels of its subcomponents of empathy, closeness, and elevation. In contrast, no such effect arises when sad music is used. Instead, the only para-social interaction subcomponent that is promoted is consumer feelings of pity.”

Dae Chang and Qurie Kim.  2022.  “A Study on the Effects of Background Film Music Valence on Para-Social Interaction and Consumer Attitudes Toward Social Enterprises.”  Journal of Business Research, vol. 142, pp. 165-175,


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