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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,

Levitan, Winfield, and Sherman evaluated responses to representational visual art and found, not surprisingly, that people prefer paintings whose subject matter they like.  The Levitan team reports that “Prior research has demonstrated that color preferences are driven by preferences for objects associated with those colors (e.g., that the sky is blue or that feces are brown influences preferences for blue and brown; Palmer & Schloss, 2010). . . . Our work demonstrates that, despite the seeming subjectivity of art preferences, subject matter significantly influences the formation of preferences. . . . art preferences can be, at least partially, predicted by one’s preferences for the objects depicted in the art.”  

Carmel Levitan, Emily Winfield, and Aleksandra Sherman.  “Grumpy Toddlers and Dead Pheasants:  Visual Art Preferences Are Predicted by Preferences for the Depicted Objects.”  Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, in press,

A research team lead by Legendre found that we process significant amounts of sensory information while asleep, which has implications for the design of a range of spaces, from homes to healthcare facilities.  The investigators report that “the sleeping brain continues generating neural responses to external events, revealing the preservation of cognitive processes ranging from the recognition of familiar stimuli to the formation of new memory representations.Why would sleepers continue processing external events and yet remain unresponsive? Here we hypothesized that sleepers enter a ‘standby mode’ in which they continue tracking relevant signals, finely balancing the need to stay inward for memory consolidation with the ability to rapidly awake when necessary. . . . we demonstrate that the sleeping brain amplifies meaningful speech compared to irrelevant signals. However, the amplification of relevant stimuli was transient and vanished during deep sleep. . . . the selection of relevant stimuli continues to operate during sleep but is strongly modulated by specific brain rhythms.”

Guillaume Legendre, Thomas Andrillon, Matthieu Koroma, and Sid Kouider. 2019.  “Sleepers Track Informative Speech In a Multitalker Environment.”  Nature Human Behavior, vol. 3, pp. 274-283,

Graziose and colleagues investigated how sound levels influence food consumed and their findings have implications, generally, for situations when designers want to encourage certain behaviors, particularly by children.  The researchers report that “A digital photography method was used to assess FV [fruit and vegetable] consumption among [second and third grade] students across 40 days from 20 schools and environmental exposures, including the noise or sound pressure level of the cafeteria, were assessed during lunch. . . . . Combined FV [fruit and vegetable] consumption was negatively associated with noise exposure. . . Among young children eating in cafeterias, increased noise levels may decrease consumption of fruits and vegetables at the school lunch meal. We hypothesize that increased noise can work in two ways to decrease FV consumption: increased socializing (i.e., talking) and/or decreased hedonic [pleasure-related] enjoyment of the school lunch meal.”

Matthew Graziose, Pamela Koch, Randi Wolf, Heewon Gray, Raynika Trent, and Isobel Contento.  2019. “Cafeteria Noise Exposure and Fruit and Vegetable Consumption at School Lunch:  A Cross-Sectional Study of Elementary Students.”  Appetite, vol. 136, pp. 130-136,


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