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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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Researchers have investigated the consequences of smelling the sorts of odors present in deserts when it rains.  Nabhan, Daugherty, and Hartung found that “Desert dwellers know it well: the smell of rain and the feeling of euphoria that comes when a storm washes over the parched earth. That feeling, and the health benefits that come with it, may be the result of oils and other chemicals released by desert plants after a good soaking. . . . ‘The Sonoran Desert flora is one of the richest in the world in plants that emit fragrant volatile oils, and many of those fragrances confer stress-reducing health benefits to humans, wildlife and the plants themselves,’ said Gary Nabhan. . . . ‘The fragrant volatile organic compounds from desert plants may in many ways contribute to improving sleep patterns, stabilizing emotional hormones, enhancing digestion, heightening mental clarity and reducing depression or anxiety,’ Nabhan said.”

“The Smell of Desert Rain May Be Good for Your Health.”  2022.  Press release, The University of Arizona,

It may be possible to apply research findings related to the implications of seeing oneself during Zoom calls to other contexts, for example, to seeing oneself in a mirrored surface during a conversation.  Researchers determined via a study published in Clinical Psychological Science that “the more a person stares at themself while talking with a partner in an online chat, the more their mood degrades over the course of the conversation. . . . the findings point to a potentially problematic role of online meeting platforms in exacerbating psychological problems like anxiety and depression. . . . participants answered questions about their emotional status before and after the online conversations. . . . Participants could see themselves and their conversation partners on a split-screen monitor. 

“Staring at Yourself During Virtual Chats May Worsen Your Mood, Research Finds.”  2022. Press release, University of Illinois,

Faur and Laursen link classroom seat locations and friendships via a study whose findings are consistent with much prior research.  Study participants were in grades 3-5.  The researchers found that “students sitting next to or nearby one another were more likely to . . . be involved in reciprocated friendships than students seated elsewhere in the classroom. Longitudinal analyses indicated that classroom seating proximity was associated with the formation of new friendships. . . . Seat assignments were not random. Most teachers indicated that students had no input in seat selection and all teachers indicated that friendship was not a factor.”

Sharon Faur and Brett Laursen.  2022. “Classroom Seat Proximity Predicts Friendship Formation.”  Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 13, 796002,

Zu, Jiang, and Zhao evaluated preferences for landscapes that varied by season.  They report  that “Seasonality is a typical feature of landscapes in temperate regions. Seasonality’s effects on visual aesthetic quality (VAQ) are widely recognised but not well understood. . . . 10 sample sites were selected to represent the diversity of urban green spaces in Xuzhou, eastern China, which has a typical temperate monsoon climate. Photographs of the 10 sites were acquired in eight typical months to capture seasonality. Online surveys were used to evaluate the VAQ of the photographs. . . . The results indicated that: (1) the autumn landscape was the most preferred, and the winter landscape was the least preferred; (2) there was a significantly inverted U-shaped relationship between year-round VAQ and seasonal diversity.”

Wenyan Zu, Bin Jiang, and Jingwei Zhao.  2022. “Effects of Seasonality on Visual Aesthetic Preference.”  Landscape Research, vol. 47, no. 2, pp. 388-399,

Patelaki and colleagues add to the body of knowledge related to walking’s cognitive implications.  They report that “Mobile brain/body imaging (M0BI) was used to record electroencephalographic (EEG) activity, 3-denstional (3D) gait kinematics and behavioral responses in the cognitive task, during sitting or walking on a treadmill.  In a cohort of 26 young adults, 14 participants improved in measures of cognitive task performance while walking compared with sitting. . . In contrast, 12 participants . . . did not improve.”

Eleni Patelaki, John Foxe, Kevin Mazurek, and Edward Freedman.  “Young Adults Who Improve Performance During Dual-Task Walking Show More Flexible Reallocation of Cognitive Resources:  A Mobile Brain-Body Imaging (MoBI) Study.”  Cerebral CORTEX, in press,

Obeidat and Jaradat found that it’s desirable to include human figures in digitally visualized architectural spaces.  More details: “The use of human figures throughout the design process enables designers to experience, communicate, and evaluate design concepts. . . . an experimental study was conducted with first-year architecture students, in which they experienced three architectural scenes (non-presence of VHR [virtual human representation], presence of idle VHR, and presence of animated VHR). Statistical analyses of the students’ self-assessments examined how the inclusion of VHRs in digitally visualized architectural spaces influenced the perceptions of these spaces. The study revealed that incorporating VHR into representations of architectural spaces positively affected the students’ sense of physical dimensions and of the spatial qualities.”

Bushra Obeidat and Esra’a Jaradat.  “The Influence of Virtual Human Representations on First-Year Architecture Students’ Perceptions of Digitally Designed Spaces: A Pilot Study.”  Business Research and Information, in press,

Nasim evaluated links between living conditions and children’s mental health.  The investigator reports that their “study explored the role of housing (and neighbourhood) quality in explaining differences in childhood mental and physical health between those living in social-rented flats and houses. . . . Evidence is found that poorer housing quality explained over 50% of the deficit in the mental health of children in flats compared with houses in the social-rented sector. The role of housing quality in accounting for the poorer mental health of children was not explained by observable differences in the level of household disadvantage. . . . [effects were] primarily explained by differences in levels of damp and mould as well as differences in the mother's satisfaction with her home, with a smaller role for the temperature of the home.” 

Bilal Nasim.  “Does Poor Quality Housing Impact on Child Health?  Evidence from the Social Housing Sector in Avon, UK.”  Journal of Environmental Psychology, in press, 101811,

Migliore, Rossi-Lamastra, and Tagliaro studied, via a literature review, gender issues in workplaces.  They conclude that “Within the broader context of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) matters, gender issues have attracted ample attention from scholars and policymakers. . . . The reviewed articles document a general convincement [conviction] shared by different scientific fields that the workspace affects women and men differently. The results show that space is a crucial element for enhancing gender equality in the workplace.”

Alessandra Migliore, Cristina Rossi-Lamastra, and Chiara Tagliaro.  “Are Workspaces Gender Neutral?  A Literature Review and a Research Agenda.”  Building Research and Information, in press,

Hoendervanger’s multi-method dissertation probes who can most effectively use activity-based workplaces (ABW).  He shares that “a clear profile arises of workers who best fit with ABW environments, i.e.: high task variety, job autonomy, external and internal mobility, social interaction . . . low need for privacy; few high-complexity tasks, many non-individual tasks; appropriately using open and closed work settings; frequently switching between work settings; relatively young age. Furthermore, lack of privacy for high-concentration work, due to the highly prevalent use of open work settings, appeared to be the single-most important issue in current ABW practice. The ABW concept is clearly not a one-size-fits-all solution and requires careful implementation to provide the right mix of work settings, and to stimulate workers to use them in accordance with their varying and changing needs.”

Jan Hoendervanger.  2021. “On Workers’ Fit with Activity-Based Work Environments.”  University of Groningen, Dissertation,


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