Latest Blog Posts

Dunaway and Soroka probed how the size of the screen on which news is viewed influences how it is processed mentally.  They investigated “how mobile technology constrains cognitive engagement through a lab-experimental study of individuals’ psychophysiological responses to network news on screens the size of a typical laptop computer, versus a typical smartphone. We explore heart rate variability, skin conductance levels, and the connection between skin conductance and the tone of news content. Results suggest lower levels of cognitive access to video news content on a mobile-sized screen, which has potentially important consequences for public attention to current affairs in an increasingly mobile media environment.”  These findings indicate that people are less attentive to and engaged with news-type content when it is presented on a smaller screen than they are when it is shared on a larger one.

Johanna Dunaway and Stuart Soroka.  “Smartphone-Size Screens Constrain Cognitive Access to Video News Stories.”  Information, Communication and Society, in press,

Schertz and colleagues studied how seeing different sorts of lines influences human thoughts. They “experimentally manipulated exposure to specific visual features. . . . Results . . . showed a potential causal effect of . . . non-straight edges on thinking about topics related to “Spiritual & Life Journey”, with . . . non-straight edges having a positive relationship. . . .  These results have implications for the design of the built environment to influence human reflection and well-being.”  So, people were more likely to think about spirituality and life journey when looking at images with a larger number of nonstraight lines than they were when viewing with ones with more straight lines.

Kathryn Schertz, Sonya Sachdeva, Omid Kardan, Hiroki Kotabe, Kathleen Wolf, and Marc Berman. 2018. “A Thought in the Park:  The Influence of Naturalness and Low-Level Visual Features on Expressed Thoughts.”  Cognition, vol. 174, pp. 82-93,

New research sheds light on the uncanny valley phenomenon.  As a Rosenthal-von der Putten-lead team reports, “Artificial agents are becoming prevalent across human life domains. However, the neural mechanisms underlying human responses to these new, artificial social partners remain unclear. The Uncanny-Valley (UV) hypothesis predicts that humans prefer anthropomorphic agents but reject them if they become too human-like—the so-called UV reaction. Using functional MRI, we investigated neural activity when subjects evaluated artificial agents and made decisions about them. . . . . Our data suggest that human reactions toward artificial agents are governed by a neural mechanism that generates a selective, nonlinear valuation in response to a specific feature combination (human-likeness in nonhuman agents). . . . Our findings suggest a novel neurobiological conceptualization of human responses toward artificial agents: The Uncanny Valley reaction—a selective dislike of highly human-like agents—is based on nonlinear value-coding in VMPFC, a key component of the brain's reward system.”

Astrid Rosenthal-von der Putten, Nicole Kramer, Stefan Maderwald, Matthias Brand, and Fabian Grabenhorst.  “Neural Mechanisms for Accepting and Rejecting Artificial Social Partners in the Uncanny Valley.”  Journal of Neuroscience, in press,

Research by Pantzar and colleagues confirms the value of supporting employee efforts to exercise, via onsite exercise facilities, for example.  The investigators report that “Aerobic exercise influence cognition in elderly, children, and neuropsychiatric populations. . . . The sample consisted of . . .office workers. . . . A cognitive test battery (9 tests), assessed processing speed, working memory, executive functions and episodic memory. . . .  Groups of moderate . . . and high . . . fitness outperformed the group of low . . . fitness for inhibition and episodic recognition, whereas no significant differences between moderate and high fitness were observed. . . . This has implications on organizational and societal levels; where incentives to improve fitness levels from low to moderate could yield desirable cognitive and health benefits in adults.”

Alexandra Pantzar, Lars Jonasson, Orjan Ekblom, Carl-Johan Boraxbekk, and Maria Ekblom. 2018.  “Relationships Between Aerobic Fitness Levels and Cognitive Performance in Swedish Office Workers.”  Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 9, article 2612,

What colors are best for emergency signage? A research team lead by Kinateder determined that when study “Participants were immersed in a virtual room with two doors (left and right), and an illuminated sign with different colored vertical bars above each door. . . . On each trial, a fire alarm sounded, and participants walked to the door that they thought was the exit. . . .  Participants predominantly walked toward green signs, even though the exit signs in the local environment—including the building where the experiment took place—were red. However, in a post-experiment survey, most participants reported that exit signs should be red. The results demonstrated a dissociation between the way observers thought they would behave in emergency situations (red = exit) and the way they did behave in simulated emergencies (green = exit). These findings have implications for the design of evacuation systems.”

Max Kinateder, William Warren, and Karen Schloss.  2018. “What Color Are Emergency Exit Signs? Egress Behavior Differs from Verbal Report.”  Applied Ergonomics, vol. 75, pp. 155-160,

The professional implications of dynamic office workstations (DOWs) were evaluated by Schellewald, Kleinert, and Ellegast.  They conducted “a 12 week observational study, 36 employees were given free access to eight DOWs (cycling devices).  Characteristics of use (i.e., frequency, duration, speed, variation of speed) were self-determined but registered objectively for every event of use. . . . employees rated their well-being immediately before (pre) and after (post) using a DOW. . .  .we found significant relationships between positive changes in the dimensions recovery, calm, and mood on the one hand and specific characteristics of use (i.e. duration, speed and variation of speed) on the other hand.  Therefore it can be assumed, that there are possible dose-response relationships between characteristics of use of DOWs and positive changes of well-being.  The implementation of DOWs might be a way to contribute to workers’ psychological health.”

V. Schellewald, J. Kleinert, and R. Ellegast.  2019. “Evaluating Relationships Between the Use of Dynamic Office Workstations (DOWs) and well-being.”  Wellbeing at Work in a Changing World:  Challenges and Opportunities, Book of Abstracts, Paris, May 22-24, p. 135.

Cajochen and colleagues investigated the effects of using LEDs that mimic daylight on user experience. They “tested an LED lighting solution mimicking a daylight spectrum. . . . young males twice spent 49 hours in the laboratory under a conventional-LED and under a daylight-LED condition. . . . volunteers had better visual comfort, felt more alert and happier in the morning and evening under daylight LED than conventional LED, while the diurnal melatonin profile, psychomotor vigilance and working memory performance were not significantly different.”  Details on the light sources:   “the spectral composition of the two LED types was different. . . . The blue peak in the conLED was more pronounced at 450 nm as compared to a smoother spectrum of the dayLED. The dayLED had a higher spectral irradiance below 440, between 460 and 520 and over 620 nm, so it was more closely matched to daylight.”

C. Cajochen, M. Freyburger, T. Basishvili, C. Garbazza, F. Rudzik, C. Renz, K. Kobayashi, Y. Shirakawa, O. Stefani, and J. Weibel.  “Effect of Daylight LED on Visual Comfort, Melatonin, Mood, Waking Performance and Sleep.” Lighting Research and Technology, in press,

Huang and colleagues studied preferences for different lighting conditions.  They investigated  “the correlation between the perceived whiteness of lighting and the corresponding colour preference of observers. . . . meta-analysis results confirm our former statement that people prefer whiter illumination. . . . it was further demonstrated that for the scenarios with multiple correlated colour temperatures ranging from 2500 K to 5500 K people indeed preferred perceptually whiter light chromaticities, while for correlated colour temperatures higher than 5500 K it seemed that they appeared too cold to be preferred.”

Z. Huang, Q. Liu, M. Luo, M. Pointer, B. Wu, and A. Liu. “The Whiteness of Lighting and Colour Preference, Part 2:  A Meta-Analysis of Psychophysical Data.”  Lighting Research and Technology, in press,

How are crime and the amount of walking done in that area related?  Foster and teammates found that  “Interrelationships between neighborhood walkability, area disadvantage, and crime may contribute to the inconsistent associations between crime and walking. . . . Participants . . . from 200 neighborhoods spanning the most and least disadvantaged in Brisbane, Australia, completed a questionnaire and objective measures were generated for the individual-level 1,000-m neighborhood. . . . High perceived crime was associated with reduced odds of transport walking, whereas high objective crime was associated with increased odds of transport walking. Patterns did not differ by neighborhood disadvantage.” Developing neighborhoods that encourage walking is often an important design goal.

Sarah Foster, Paula Hooper, Nicola Burton, Wendy Brown, Billie Giles-Corti, Jerome Rachele, and Gavin Turrell.  “Safe Habitats:  Does the Association Between Neighborhood Crime and Walking Differ By Neighborhood Disadvantage?” Environment and Behavior, in press,

Hubner and Fillinger investigated how the apparent balance and stability of elements in images influenced how much they were liked.  They determined that “for the multiple-element stimuli, there was a positive relation between balance/stability and liking. . . . each element in a picture has a certain visual ‘weight’ depending on its features like size, shape, and color (Arnheim, 1954). . . . a heavy weight located on one side of the fulcrum can be balanced by a lighter weight positioned further away on the other side. . . . Pierce (1894) observed that balance is mainly applied for the horizontal arrangement of elements, whereas for vertical arrangements stability plays a greater role. For instance, pictures were preferred when they had more weight in their lower part rather than in their upper half.. . . . pictures were rated as more balanced if the center of mass was closer to the geometric center of the picture.”  The authors point out that balance/stability are just two of the factors that can influence visual preference.

Ronald Hubner and Martin Fillinger.  “Perceptual Balance, Stability, and Aesthetic Appreciation:  Their Relations Depend on the Picture Type.”  i-Perception, in press, DOI: 10.1177/2041669519856040


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