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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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Using the Outdoor Recreation Valuation Tool (ORVal), developed at the University of Exeter, researchers have determined the values of parks, beaches, and other green spaces in the United Kingdom.  The investigators found that “small parks deliver ‘pound for pound’ the highest recreation value, and that good access to quality green spaces, the weather and dog ownership are key drivers of increased outdoor recreation. . . . Large country parks and beaches are generally the most valuable green spaces. People from ethnic minority backgrounds and in less affluent socioeconomic groups are less likely to engage in outdoor recreation, even when given the same recreation opportunities. . . . Dog owners are 4 times (3.7) more likely to use recreation spaces but having children does not significantly impact recreation habits. . . . Key drivers of recreation include the proximity of the site, ease of travel, whether the park is a mix of grass and woodland and the availability of car parks and children’s play areas.”

“Parks and Green Spaces of England and Wales Valued at 25.6 Billion Pounds a Year.”  2022.  Press release, University of Exeter, https://www.exeter.ac.uk/research/leep/newsandevents/news/articles/parks...

Birman and Ferguson increase our understanding of the cognitive effects of listening to music.  They report that their study participantswere randomly assigned to four different groups: silence (no music), classical music, rock, and the final group could choose any genre they liked. The California Verbal Learning Test—Second Edition (CVLT-II) was administered to assess participant’s memory. Anxiety was also assessed before and after the memory test to see whether the music had any effect. Generally, results suggested that music presence or genre had little tangible effect on memory or anxiety.”

Anna Birman and Christopher Ferguson.  “Impact of Different Genres of Background Music on a Memory Task.”  Journal of Individual Differences, in press, https://doi.org/10.1027/1614-0001/a000371

Soininen and colleagues thoroughly investigated the repercussions of having green walls in Finnish offices.  They found that “air-circulating green walls may induce beneficial changes in a human microbiome. . . . The green walls (size 2 m × 1 m × 0.3 m) used in this study . . . circulate indoor air. They first absorb the indoor air through the plant roots and soilless substrate, then automated fans circulate the air back to the room. When the indoor air passes through the green wall, volatile organic compounds (VOC) are efficiently removed via biofiltration by microbes, plants and the growing medium. . . . Each green wall contains three plant taxa (heartleaf philodendron (Philodendron scandens), dragon tree (Dracaena sp.) and bird’s nest fern (Asplenium antiquum) growing altogether in 63 units. Each unit consists of two to four plant individuals. . . . Spending time in green wall rooms seems to be related to increasing abundance of health-supporting skin microbiota within a relatively short time period of two weeks.”  Previous research has identified positive cognitive and emotional effects of in-office green walls (and plants generally).

L. Soininen, M. Roslund, N. Nurminen, R. Puhakka, O. Laitinen, H. Hyoty, A. Sinkkonen, and ADELE Research Group.  2022. “Indoor Green Wall Affects Health-Associated Commensal Skin Microbiota and Enhances Immune Regulation:  A Randomized Trial Among Urban Office Workers.” Scientific Reports, vol. 12, 6518, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-10432-4

Jimenez and colleagues found a link between exposure to green space and higher levels of cognitive functioning. They report that, using data from 13,594 women (mean age 61), they determined that “increasing green space was associated with higher scores of overall cognition and psychomotor speed/attention. In contrast, there was no association between green space and learning/working memory. . . . Green space can decelerate cognitive decline by supporting physical activity, psychological restoration, or reducing exposure to air pollution. . . . Residential exposure to green space was assessed using the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index, a satellite-derived indicator of the quantity of ground vegetation. Landsat satellite data at 270-m and 1230-m buffers around each participants’ residential addresses in 2013 were used. . . . This difference in scores is similar to the difference observed in women 1 year apart in age in the data. . . . These findings suggest that increasing residential green space may be associated with modest benefits in cognition in middle-aged women.”

Marcia Jimenez, Elise Elliott, Nicole DeVille, Francine Laden, Jaime Hart, Jennifer Weuve, Francine Grodstein, and Peter James.  2022. “Residential Green Space and Cognitive Function in a Large Cohort of Middle-Aged Women.”  JAMA Network Open, vol. 5, no. 4, e229306, https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2791565

Macaulay lead a team that investigated mindfulness in nature settings.  The researchers report that “Before and after a 20-minute outdoor experience, participants . . . completed surveys. . . . Participants were randomly allocated to one of four engagement intervention groups: mindful engagement, directed engagement, mind wandering, and an unguided control group. . . . the unguided control group had the greatest level of attention restoration. . . . . Performance on the post-test attention task demonstrated that the unguided control group had the highest level of attention restoration during the nature experience, and that the directed engagement group had the lowest level of attention restoration. . . . the unguided control group did not have to use their phone during the outdoor experience: previous research shows that engaging with technology during an outdoor break is detrimental to attention restoration.”

Rose Macaulay, Katherine Johnson, Kate Lee, and Kathryn Williams.  “Comparing the Effect of Mindful and Other Engagement Interventions in Nature on Attention Restoration, Nature Connection, and Mood.”  Journal of Environmental Psychology, in press, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2022.101813

What factors influence how we integrate information from multiple sources?  Scheller and Sui found that “When interacting with the environment, humans exhibit robust biases toward information that pertains to themselves: Self-relevant information is processed faster and yields more accurate responses than information linked to others. . . . the present findings suggest that social relevance can influence multisensory processing at both perceptual and postperceptual stages.”

Meike Scheller and Jie Sui.  “Social Relevance Modulates Multisensory Integration.”  Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, in press, https://doi.org/10.1037/xhp000103

Grabalov and Nordh investigated future roles for current cemeteries.  They share that “the role of cemeteries in cities under densification pressure, such as Oslo and Copenhagen, is shifting. . . . cemeteries have the potential to become more public in the future. Based on the empirical material, we expect the cemeteries in these cities to maintain their spiritual dimension while becoming . . . more multifunctional and more multicultural. Over time, their role could become more diversified. . . . We demonstrate the potential of cemeteries’ contribution to the urban environment as multifunctional public spaces – the trajectory envisioned by Oslo and Copenhagen’s municipalities. . . . the case of urban cemeteries demonstrates that public space can also accommodate spirituality and facilitate reflections and contemplations – necessary and often neglected qualities in contemporary cities under densification pressure. This case exemplifies the need for diverse public spaces and recognition of various urban lifestyles and choices”

Pavel Grabalov and Helena Nordh. 2022. “The Future of Urban Cemeteries as Public Spaces:  Insights from Oslo and Copenhagen.”  Planning Theory and Practice, vol. 23, no. 1, pp. 81-98, https://doi.org/10.1080/14649357.2021.1993973

Beeler and colleagues set out to learn more about how opinions are formed.  They focused on judgments of digital assistant technologies, but what they learned can no doubt be extrapolated to other contexts.  The investigators determined that “ability assessments are dependent upon both the use context (i.e., automation versus augmentation; disclosure of automation) and individual characteristics (i.e., consumer mood state and consumer preference for human interaction). . . . some consumers simply prefer people over technology, regardless of the technological capabilities of the digital assistant. Managers should consider offering a variety of potential customer interactions, as opposed to forcing customers to use digital assistants, as frustration can ensue from a failed technological interaction when no other alternatives (e.g., human interactions) are available. . . . companies should consider contexts in which negative moods may be likely. For example, a consumer employing the use of a digital assistant to play music in a high stress situation, such as rush hour traffic or when feeding a baby, may lead to more negative perceptions of the digital assistant’s ability.”

Lisa Beeler, Alex Zablah, and Adam Rapp.  2022. “Ability Is In the Eye of the Beholder:  How Context and Individual Factors Shape Consumer Perceptions of Digital Assistant Ability.”  Journal of Business Research, vol. 148, pp. 33-46, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusres.2022.04.045

Huang, Wang, and Chan investigated how image sizes on packages influence assessments of contents; their findings may be applicable more broadly.  The investigators learned that “larger (vs. smaller) food images on food packages can positively influence consumers' initial product attitudes toward the food (i.e., purchase likelihood). . . . Compared with smaller food images, larger ones improve purchase likelihood. . . . this effect is only observed for vice (vs. virtue) foods.”

Jingya Huang, Liangyan Wang, and Eugene Chan.  2022. “Larger=More Attractive?  Image Size on Food Packages Influences Purchase Likelihood.”  Psychology and Marketing, vol. 39, no. 6, pp. 1257-1266, https://doi.org/10.1002/mar.21644

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