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Research indicates that the stripes on zebras tend to reduce the likelihood that the animals will be bitten by horse flies; designers can apply this finding when selecting patterns for vertical surfaces.  Caro and teammates determined that “Averting attack by biting flies is increasingly regarded as the evolutionary driver of zebra stripes. . . . We examined the behaviour of tabanids (horse flies) in the vicinity of captive plains zebras and uniformly coloured domestic horses living on a horse farm in Britain. Observations showed that fewer tabanids landed on zebras than on horses per unit time. . . . In an experiment in which horses sequentially wore cloth coats of different colours, those wearing a striped pattern suffered far lower rates of tabanid touching and landing on coats than the same horses wearing black or white, yet there were no differences in attack rates to their naked heads. . . . Taken together, these findings indicate that, up close, striped surfaces prevented flies from making a controlled landing but did not influence tabanid behaviour at a distance.”

Tim Caro, Yvette Argueta, Emmanuelle Briolat, Joren Bruggink, Maurice Kasprowsky, Jai Lake, Matthew Mitchell, Sara Richardson, and Martin How. 2019.  “Benefits of Zebra Stripes:  Behaviour of Tabanid Flies Around Zebras and Horses.”  PLoS One,

Wu and colleagues determined that working in groups of different sizes often has different outcomes. Their results confirm the value of design that supports teams of various sizes. The investigators found that when they analyzed “more than 65 million papers, patents and software products that span the period 1954-2014 . . . smaller teams have tended to disrupt science and technology with new ideas and opportunities, whereas larger teams have tended to develop existing ones. . . . These results demonstrate that both small and large teams are essential to a flourishing ecology of science and technology. . . . These results support the hypothesis that large teams may be better designed or incentivized to develop current science and technology, and that small teams disrupt science and technology with new problems and opportunities.”  In an article reporting on the Wu, Wang, and Evans study published in the New York Times (Benedict Carey, February 13, 2019, “Can Science Be Too Big?”), Evans was quoted: “’You might ask what is large, and what is small. . . . Well, the answer is that this relationship holds no matter where you cut the number: between one person and two, between ten and twenty, between 25 and 26.’”

Lingfei Wu, Dashun Wang, and James Evans.  2019.  “Large Teams Develop and Small Teams Disrupt Science and Technology.”  Nature, Research Letter,

Sui and colleagues researched the effects of workspace design on performance.  They found via a literature review that among studies “that met the inclusion criteria: 45 examined a productivity outcome (i.e., typing, mouse, work-related tasks, and absenteeism), 38 examined a performance outcome (i.e., memory, reading comprehension, mathematics, executive function, creativity, psychomotor function, and psychobiological factors), and 30 examined a self-reported productivity/performance outcome (i.e., presenteeism or other self-reported outcome). Overall, standing interventions do not appear to impact productivity/performance outcomes, whereas walking and cycling interventions demonstrate mixed null/negative associations for productivity outcomes. Hence, standing interventions to reduce occupational sedentary behaviour could be implemented without negatively impacting productivity/performance outcomes.”

Wuyou Sui, Siobhan Smith,Matthew Fagan, Scott Rollo, and Harry Prapavessis.  2019.  “The Effects of Sedentary Behaviour Interventions on Work-Related Productivity and Performance Outcomes in Real and Simulated Office Work:  A Systematic Review.”  Applied Ergonomics, vol. 75, pp. 27-73,

D’Acci reports on our experiences traveling through a space.  He reports that “It is widely recognized that most people are attracted to curvy paths rather than straight ones.”  

Luca D’Acci. “Orientational Versus Esthetical Urban Street Morphology Parameterization in Space Syntax.”  Spatial Cognition and Computation, in press,

Hellinga, Mehta, and Mehran investigated how the experiences of bikers differ when there are and are not bike lanes for them to travel in.  Their data, “Collected using sensors and a handlebar camera as researchers cycled hundreds of kilometres in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario . . . showed bike lanes virtually eliminate vehicles getting too close to cyclists when they pass them. . . . On two-lane roads without bike lanes, passing motorists got within a metre of cyclists 12 per cent of the time. With bike lanes, that number dropped to just .2 per cent.  On four-lane roads, unsafe passing dropped from almost six per cent with no bike lanes to .5 per cent with bikes lanes. . . .  In addition to improving safety, he [Hellinga] said bike lanes make cyclists more comfortable and therefore more likely to cycle.”

“Research Will Help Urban Planners Prioritize Bike Lanes.”  2019.  Press release, University of Waterloo,

A Konig-lead team confirms the important links between culture and the experience of place.  The researchers report that “The living environment plays a critical role in healthy aging. . . . The aim of this study was to shed light on older adults’ (. . .ages 70+) living situations and their demands on the neighborhood in two countries, the United States . . . and Germany. . . . Differences between countries were more pronounced than differences between age groups or living areas, indicating that cultural influence is a key aspect of needs assessment for neighborhood design. . . . As opposed to Americans, Germans had higher expectations of their immediate neighborhood to fulfill their local (e.g., public transportation) and social needs (e.g., family nearby), but countries did not differ regarding global needs such as safety. Our findings suggest that successful aging in place can be supported by a neighborhood that meets people’s needs, but also takes their cultural background into consideration.”

Katharina Konig, Martina Raue, Lisa D’Ambrosio, and Joseph Coughlin.  “Physical and Emotional Support of the Neighborhood for Older Adults: A Comparison of the United States and Germany.”  Journal of Environmental Psychology, in press,

A new app makes it easier to function in the world as a color blind person and also for people with color vision to understand how color blind people experience the world. More information about the app is available here:

The website for the app reports on its functionality: “Color Blind Pal . . . helps people who are color blind see the colors around them. It also lets people with normal vision see what it's like to be color blind. . . . Use the Color Filter to shift colors that are hard to distinguish toward colors that you can easily distinguish. . . . The Color Filter can also simulate any type of color blindness.”  The app, which is useful for living with/understanding a variety of types of color blindness, can also be used to identify colors present by “Common names, Scientific names, and Colloquial names (like ‘beige’). . . . See the color's hue, saturation, and value, as well as its exact RGB color code.”

Neill and colleagues have confirmed that there are benefits to spending even short amounts of time in nature.  They conducted “Two studies . . . with university students to examine whether the duration of nature contact influences the magnitude of benefits for both hedonic (positive and negative affect [emotions]) and self-transcendent emotions. Study 1 investigated whether 5 minutes of sedentary nature contact influenced both emotion types, and Study 2 examined whether mood improvements are sensitive to the duration of nature contact (5 vs. 15 minutes). Results indicate that brief nature contact reliably improved both hedonic and self-transcendent emotions, and that the duration of contact in the range tested had no impact on this improvement.”

Calum Neill, Janelle Gerard, and Katherine Arbuthnott.  “Nature Contact and Mood Benefits:  Contact Duration and Mood Type.”  Journal of Positive Psychology, in press,

Gaab, Kossowsky, Ehlert, and Locher found that colors can have a placebo effect.  Via their study, published in Scientific Reports, they determined that “Placebos can . . . have effects when specific psychological effects are attributed to them. . . . The accompanying explanation – the narrative – played a key role when dispensing the placebos, as did the relationship between the researchers and the participants. The researchers used the color green as the placebo in the video experiments, examining it both with and without a psychological narrative (‘green is calming because it activates early conditioned emotional schemata’), as well as in the context of a neutral or a friendly relationship.  After viewing the videos, the participants assessed their subjective condition with questionnaires over several days. The results showed that the placebo had a positive effect on the participants’ well-being when it was prescribed together with a psychological narrative and in the context of a friendly relationship. The observed effect was strongest after administering the placebo but remained evident for up to one week.”

“Even Psychological Placebos Have An Effect.”  2019.  Press release, University of Basel,

Research by a Gable-lead team indicates the value of supporting opportunities for mind wandering, for example, via art in workplaces or greenery-enhanced walkways inside or outdoors.  The investigators found that when during “two studies . . . professional writers and physicists reported on their most creative idea of the day. . . . Participants reported that one fifth of their most significant ideas of the day were formed during spontaneous task-independent mind wandering—operationalized here as (a) engaging in an activity other than working and (b) thinking about something unrelated to the generated idea. There were no differences between ratings of the creativity or importance of ideas that occurred during mind wandering and those that occurred on task. However, ideas that occurred during mind wandering were more likely to be associated with overcoming an impasse on a problem and to be experienced as ‘aha’ moments, compared with ideas generated while on task.”

Shelly Gable, Elizabeth Hopper, and Jonathan Schooler.  “When the Muses Strike:  Creative Ideas of Physicists and Writers Routinely Occur During Mind Wandering.”  Psychological Science, in press,


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