Latest Blog Posts

Wood and colleagues explored how the species in a space influence mental refreshment.  The team found that “there is very good reason to expect that variations in ecological ‘quality’ (number of species, integrity of ecological processes) may influence the link between access to green space and benefits to human health and well-being. We test the relationship between green space quality and restorative benefit in an inner city urban population in Bradford, United Kingdom. We selected 12 urban parks for study where we carried out botanical and faunal surveys to quantify biodiversity. . . . We also [surveyed] park users to quantify psychological restoration based on four self-reported measure of general restoration, attention-grabbing distractions, being away from everyday life, and site preference. . . . restorative benefit is predicted by biodiversity, which explained 43% of the variance in restorative benefit across the parks, with minimal input from other variables.”

Emma Wood, Alice Harsant, Martin Dallimer, Anna de Chavez, Rosemary McEachan, and Christopher Hassall.  2018. “Not All Green Space is Created Equal: Biodiversity Predicts Psychological Restorative Benefits from Urban Green Space.”  Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 9, article 2320,

Grewal and colleagues investigated responses to options thought to be unattractive.  The team learned that “Five experiments demonstrate that consumers devalue unattractive produce [fruits and vegetables] because of altered self-perceptions: merely imagining the consumption of unattractive produce negatively affects how consumers view themselves, lowering their willingness to pay for unattractive produce relative to equivalently safe but more attractive alternatives.”

Lauren Grewal, Jillian Hmurovic, Cait Lamberton, and Rebecca Reczek.  2019.  “The Self-Perception Connections:  Why Consumers Devalue Unattractive Produce.”  Journal of Marketing, vol. 83no. 1, pp. 89-107,

New research further links sensory experiences, specifically vision and taste. Gil-Perez and colleagues report that “Both pointy shapes and spiciness are perceived as aggressive stimuli. . . . the interpretation of a fire icon (spicy vs roasted) can be modulated by manipulating its shape (angular vs rounded). . . .  bags of nuts depicting pointy fire icons were categorised more quickly as being spicy than as being roasted, while the opposite was true for the bags of nuts displaying rounded fire icons. . . . the pointy fire icons were judged as being more aggressive than the rounded fire icons, which in turn raised spiciness expectations.”

Ignacio Gil-Perez, Ruben Rebollar, Ivan Lidon, Javier Martin, Hans van Trijp, and Betina Piqueras-Fiszman.  2019.  “Hot or Not? Conveying Sensory Information on Food Packaging Through the Spiciness-Shape Correspondence.”  Food Quality and Preference, vol. 71, pp. 197-208,

Thornock and colleagues studied links between home design and the experience of living in a home.  They determined that “though actual elements of the home (i.e., density) affect family functioning outcomes, perceptions of the home environment (e.g., crowding and distance) were especially influential. . . . Findings suggest that how individuals perceive their home environment has more of an effect on family functioning than actual home characteristics.”

Carly Thornock, Larry Nelson, Chris Porter, and Cortney Evans.  “There’s No Place Like Home:  The Associations Between Residential Attributes and Family Functioning.”  Journal of Environmental Psychology, in press,

Research conducted at the University of Michigan indicates that people may decide to travel by car more frequently if they are using self-driving cars instead of human-piloted ones.  This increase in cars on the road, etc., is likely to have urban planning implications.  The University of Michigan team learned that “The benefits of self-driving cars will likely induce vehicle owners to drive more. . . . [researchers] used economic theory and U.S. travel survey data to model travel behavior and to forecast the effects of vehicle automation on travel decisions and energy use. . . .  .Traditionally, time spent driving has been viewed as a cost to the driver. But the ability to pursue other activities in an autonomous vehicle is expected to lower this ‘perceived travel time cost’ considerably, which will likely spur additional travel.”

“U-M Study:  ‘Induced’ Driving Miles Could Overwhelm Potential Energy-Saving Benefits of Self-Driving Cars.”  2019. Press release, University of Michigan,

Simms, Zelazny, Williams, and Bernsteinstudied the optimal number of Likert scale responses options to provide to people answering survey questions. Information on Likert scales was detailed in a press release related to Simms and team’s work; these scales follow a statement and include “response options of varying intensity and attitude. . . . strongly disagree, disagree, neither agree nor disagree, agree or strongly agree.” Likert scales are frequently used in the course of design-related research projects.  The press release issued for work done by the Simms group reports their findings “Would doubling the number of response options improve accuracy?  What about providing fewer options? ‘Six appears to be the magic number,’ says Simms. . . . ‘I’m doubtful that there would be evidence that responses beyond six would be that helpful.’ Part of the utility in . . . an even number of options rather than an odd number, is the elimination of a middle choice. . . . Simms says some respondents use the middle number for reasons not relevant to the trait that’s being measured. . . . ‘Respondents often don’t know what to say or they’re not sure how they feel or they don’t care to say how they feel or they might be lazy. To be done with it, they pick the middle number’” [quote attributed to Simms].

“Strongly Agree:  The Number of Response Options Matter When Using a Likert Scale.” 2019.  Press release, University at Buffalo,

Bacevice and colleagues continue to study the experiences of people working at co-working locations. In their newest work, the researchers determined via survey data collected in 2017 and 2018 from WeWork members in the United States that “members strongly identify with their work organizations . . . even after working in the WeWork office for a long period of time. . . . people experience positive outcomes when their work environment aligns with their company’s brand messaging and values. When we organized the comments that describe how WeWork positively shapes professional identity, we found .  . . .Coworking spaces give some members a sense of professionalism and credibility that traditional remote working does not. . . . Workers with company-subsidized memberships feel that their employers take their needs seriously — regardless of where they are located. . . . Coworking spaces help new businesses make a positive impression on potential clientele.”  An important definition:  the researchers defined “identity” as “the extent to which one feels emotionally, psychologically, and subjectively bound to an employer (or any other platform they work for).”

Peter Bacevice, Gretchen Spreitzer, Hilary Hendricks, and Daniel Davis.  2019. “How Coworking Spaces Affect Employees; Professional Identities.”  Harvard Business Review,

Research by Sayette and team confirms the value of adding pleasant scents to spaces and objects.  The investigators “investigated the strategic use of OCs [olfactory cues] to reduce cigarette craving. . . . smokers . . . initially sampled and rated a series of OCs. Participants then were exposed to . . . smoking cues, which produced robust cigarette cravings. During peak craving, they were randomly assigned to sniff one of three types of OCs (all of which they had previously sampled) while their craving, and a set of responses thought to be associated with craving, were assessed. OCs that a participant had rated as pleasant reduced craving more than did exposure to odor blank (i.e., neutral) or tobacco-related OCs. This effect persisted over the course of 5 min.”   Previous research has linked smelling pleasant scents to being in a more positive mood and lower stress levels.

Michael Sayette, Mary Marchetti, Rachel Herz, Lea Martin, and Molly Bowdring.  “Pleasant Olfactory Cues Can Reduce Cigarette Craving.”  Journal of Abnormal Psychology, in press,

Smith’s book sheds light on the ways that cities have, can, and will support human beings as they pursue fundamental goals and motivations.  The functionalities and design patterns that archeologist Smith identifies in ancient cities are still relevant today and urban planners and interested others can gain useful insights into urban design best practices by reading Cities:  The First 6,000 Years.

Monica Smith. 2019.  Cities:  The First 6,000 Years.Viking:  New York.

Basu and Savani reviewed research on ways to present options to individuals; specifically, whether it’s best to detail choices simultaneously (for example, all on a single webpage) or one at a time (for instance, on webpages presented in sequentially).  The duo found that “When choosing among multiple options, people can view the options either one at a time or all together. . . .we review an emerging stream of research that examines the ways in which viewing options sequentially as opposed to simultaneously influences people’s decisions. Multiple studies support the idea that viewing options simultaneously encourages people to compare the options and to focus on the ways in which the options differ from each other. In contrast, viewing options sequentially encourages people to process each option holistically by comparing the option with previously encountered options or a subjective reference point.”  So, we are likely to make better choices when options are presented simultaneously.

Shankha Basu and Krishna Savani. 2019.  “Choosing Among Options Presented Sequentially or Simultaneously.” Current Directions in Psychological Science, vol. 28, no. 1, pp. 97-101,


Subscribe to Latest Blog Posts