Latest Blog Posts

A research team lead by Aryani confirms that humans link particular shapes and sounds.  Aryani and colleagues report that “Prior investigations have demonstrated that people tend to link pseudowords such as bouba to rounded shapes and kiki to spiky shapes, but the cognitive processes underlying this matching bias have remained controversial. . . .  we found that kiki-like pseudowords and spiky shapes, compared with bouba-like pseudowords and rounded shapes, consistently elicit higher levels of affective [emotional] arousal.”

Arash Aryani, Erin Isbilen, and Morten Christiansen. 2020.  “Affective Arousal Links Sound to Meaning.” Psychological Science, vol. 31, no. 8, pp. 978-986,

Yoon, Kim, and Kang investigated people’s changing experiences with products over the time products are owned.  The team reports that “five attributes of positive user experience were adopted in the study: aesthetics; instrumentality; association; self-focused identification; and relationship-focused identification. . . . results indicate that the critical attributes of positive user experiences differed to a large extent according to the phase of product usage. . . . these differences were not significant in terms of gender and age. Among the five attributes, instrumentality played a main role in positive experiences throughout the product usage life cycle, while the importance of the other attributes tended to decrease after first-time usage. The findings highlight implications for design practice that can aid the process of designing for long-lasting positive user experience throughout the product usage life cycle.” The Yoon, Kim, and Kang article is available to all at the web address noted below.

Jung Yoon, Chajoong Kim, and Raesung Kang.  2020.  “Positive User Experience Over Product Usage Life Cycle and the Influence of Demographic Factors.”  International Journal of Design, vol. 14, no. 2,

Research completed by Cormiea and Fischer indicates that we think about odors differently when we know their names.  Cormiea and Fischer found that “learning the label seems to transform an odor – to snap its perceptual features into sharper focus. . . . sixteen unlabeled odors from common foods (e.g. onion, carrot, grapefruit, vanilla), [were] delivered in opaque squeeze bottles. Subjects sniffed the odors and then arranged the icons on the screen, placing icons for similar-smelling items close together. . . . In Session 2, participants performed the same task, but this time with labels on the bottles identifying the odors. In Session 3, participants performed the arrangement task based on labels alone. . . . the addition of labels in Session 2 altered the perceptual space in a reliable way. . . . we found improved discrimination in an odor mixture classification task with the application of labels . . . These results suggest a reliable olfactory perceptual space that is systematically remapped with the application of labels.”

Sarah Cormiea and Jason Fischer.  2020.  “Mapping and Remapping the Human Olfactory Perceptual Space.”  International Symposium on Olfaction and Taste, virtual meeting, August 3-7

Scott, Rozin, and Small investigated when people prefer natural products; their findings may be useful to people making materials recommendations, etc.  The team learned that “natural products are more strongly preferred when used to prevent a problem than when used to cure a problem. . . . this organizing principle explains variation in the preference for natural across distinct product categories (e.g., food vs. medicine), within product categories (e.g., between different types of medicines), and for the same product depending on how it is used (to prevent or to cure ailments). . . . Specifically (a) consumers hold lay beliefs that natural products are safer and less potent and (b) consumers care more about safety and less about potency when preventing as compared to when curing, which leads to a stronger preference for natural when preventing. Consistent with this explanation, when natural products are described asmorerisky and more potent, reversing the standard inferences about naturalness, then natural products become more preferred for curing than for preventing.”

Sydney Scott, Paul Rozin, and Deborah Small.  “Consumers Prefer ‘Natural’ More for Preventatives Than for Curatives.”  Journal of Consumer Research, in press,

How and colleagues build on earlier research that determined that biting flies are repelled by certain patterns on surfaces; their findings are useful to anyone picking fabrics for use in areas where flies might be a nuisance, for example.  The team learned that “Of all hypotheses advanced for why zebras have stripes, avoidance of biting fly attack receives by far the most support. . . . By recording and reconstructing tabanid fly behaviour around horses wearing differently patterned rugs, we could tease out these hypotheses using realistic target stimuli. We found that flies avoided landing on, flew faster near, and did not approach as close to striped and checked rugs compared to grey. Our observations that flies avoided checked patterns in a similar way to stripes refutes the hypothesis that stripes disrupt optic flow via the aperture effect. . . . Our data narrow the menu of fly-equid visual interactions that form the basis for the extraordinary colouration of zebras.”

Martin How, Dunia Gonzales, Alison Irwin, and Tim Caro. 2020.  “zebra Stripes, Tabanid Biting Flies and the Aperture Effect.”  Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Biological Sciences, vol. 287, no. 1933, 20201521,

Research by Cao and colleagues confirms and extends research previously published by Woolley and Fishbach (2019) on the psychological implications of sharing food, particularly reaching into the same bowl (or other container) repeatedly and eating food removed. Findings are relevant in the design of break areas and negotiation suites and the development of related food “policies,” for example.  The Cao-lead team reports that “Woolley and Fishbach (2019) empirically confirmed that shared eating leads to higher cooperation than separate eating. . . . we conducted two face-to-face negotiation experiments in which negotiators verbally and nonverbally communicated with each other and made decisions jointly.. . . The introduction of multiple issues . . . enabled us to explore the efficient integration of resources . . . known technically as Pareto efficiency. When a Pareto-efficient agreement is reached, ‘no [other] agreement is possible that would be preferred by both negotiators or would be preferred by one and to which the other would be indifferent’ (Tripp & Sondak, 1992, p. 279). . . . shared eating helped negotiators achieve higher Pareto efficiency in a multi-issue negotiation. . . Research suggests that rituals can increase cooperation. . . . the present findings suggest that breaking bread can lead to bigger negotiation pies.”

Jiyin Cao, Dejun Kong, and Adam Galinsky.  “Breaking Bread Produces Bigger Pies:  An Empirical Extension of Shared Eating to Negotiations and a Commentary on Woolley and Fishbach (2019).”  Psychological Science, in press, DOI:  10.1177/0956797620939532

Hietanen, Peltola, and Hietanen studied the experience of being looked at by others.  They report that “Another person's gaze directed to oneself elicits autonomic arousal and facial reactions indicating positive affect [mood] in its observer. . . . We measured psychophysiological responses to another person's direct versus averted gaze in three conditions: live interaction, bidirectional video call, and watching a mere video. . . .  In the live and video call conditions, but not in the mere video condition, direct gaze increased autonomic arousal in comparison to averted gaze. In all three conditions, however, direct gaze elicited positive affective facial reactions. . . . the present study shows is that this energetic power of eye contact is so strong that it may even overcome the constraints of physical distance.” So, data were collected when people were either both in the same place, when they were simultaneously participating in a video call (think: Zoom) or when a person was watching a video of another person (the mere video condition).  When the participant was watching a (mere) video of another person, they knew that they were watching a video. When they were watching the (mere) video, study participants were aware that no one could be looking back at them; in the other two conditions they knew another person could be looking at them.  During the video call and (mere) video conditions cameras and computer screens were carefully placed so that the impression of eye contact was created during direct gaze test periods.  

Jonne Hietanen, Mikko Peltola, and Jari Hietanen.  2020. “Psychophysiological Responses to Eye Contact in a Live Interaction and in Video Call.”  Psychophysiology, vol. 57, no. 6, e13587,

Delogu and colleagues explored relationships between sensory experiences. They share that “participants were asked to explore and rate the pleasantness of 6 tridimensional objects presented either haptically [by touch] or visually. In the second phase, participants explored with the other modality (vision or haptics) and rated the pleasantness of 12 objects, including the 6 previously explored with the other modality and 6 new ones. . . . for shapes that are explored twice, haptically and visually, the second exploration produces higher aesthetic ratings, independently from the sensory modalities. . . . correlational analysis indicate that previous visual experience is a predictor of haptic aesthetic experience but not vice versa. . . . Our findings support the idea that aesthetic responses are multisensory experiences in which stimulation from different modalities is able to influence appreciation rates and, possibly, to contribute to a multimodal representation of the overall aesthetic experience.”

F. Delogu, M. Gravina, X. Dong, M. Frolka, D. Kuhn, and N. Yu.  “Tactile Beauty Is In the Hand, But Also in the Eye of the Beholder:  Interaction Between Haptic and Visual Experiences in Aesthetic Judgment.”  Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, in press,

A new article, available free at the web address noted below, indicates the value of rituals in our lives and confirms that design should support ritual behavior.  Gupta reports that“in the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic, people are being forced to renegotiate rituals large and small. . . . Even when rituals can be tweaked to fit the moment, such as virtual religious services or car parades in place of graduation ceremonies, the experiences don’t carry the same emotional heft as the real thing. That’s because the immutability of rituals — their fixed and often repetitive nature — is core to their definition. . . . So too is the symbolic meaning people attach to behaviors; doing the ritual ‘right’ can matter more than the outcome. . . . rituals help with emotional regulation, particularly during periods of uncertainty, when control over events is not within reach. Rituals also foster social cohesion. Engaging in rituals, in other words, could really help people and societies navigate this new and fraught global landscape.”

Sujata Gupta. 2020.  “Why Do We Miss the Rituals Put On Hold by the COVID-19 Pandemic?”  Science News,

Cai and associates investigated links between hearing road noise and obesity; their findings indicate the value of carefully managing the soundscapes in buildings near roads.  The researchers determined, using data from nearly 500,000 adults in three European regions, that “Environmental stressors such as transport noise may contribute to development of obesity through increased levels of stress hormones, sleep deprivation and endocrine disruption. . . . .The main analyses included 412,934 participants of UK Biobank, 61,032 of Lifelines [the Netherlands] and 30,305 of HUNT3 [Norway], with a mean age of 43–56 years and Lden [residential 24-hour road traffic noise] ranging 42–89 dB(A) across cohorts. In UK Biobank, per 10 dB(A) higher of Lden: BMI was higher by 0.14kg/m2 . . . waist circumference higher by 0.27 cm. . . . Associations were more pronounced among women, those with low physical activity, higher household income or hearing impairment. In HUNT3, associations were observed for obesity . . . among those exposed to Lden greater than 55 dB(A). In contrast, no or negative associations were observed in the Lifelines cohort.”

Yutong Cai, Wilma Zijlema, Elin Sorgjerd, Dany Doiron, Kees de Hoogh, Susan Hodgson, Bruce Wolffenbuttel, John Gulliver, Anna Hansell, Mark Nieuwenhuijsen, Kazem Rohimi, and Kirsti Kvaloy.  “Impact of Road Traffic Noise on Obesity Measures:  Observational Study of Three European Cohorts.”  Environmental Research, in press,


Subscribe to Latest Blog Posts