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Zhu and colleagues conducted a literature review and report on how the design of the physical work environment, at three different scales, can boost physical activity (PA) among employees.  For example, “At the workstation scale, sit-stand desks, treadmill desks, and stationary high desks were found to reduce SB [sedentary behavior] and increase standing. Work building scale is relatively understudied, and reported correlates include staircase design, overall building design combining multiple PA-friendly strategies, and specific PA amenities (e.g., exercise facilities). On the work neighborhood scale, important correlates include work commute distance and corresponding route characteristics, parking availability and cost, and surrounding neighborhood environments.”

Xuemei Zhu, Aya Yoshikawa, Lingyi Qiu, Zhipeng Lu, Chanam Lee, and Marcia Ory.  2020.  “Healthy Workplaces, Active Employees:  A Systematic Literature Review on Impacts of Workplace Environments on Employees’ Physical Activity and Sedentary Behavior.”  Building and Environment, vol. 168, 206455, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.buildenv.2019.106455

Kolomatsky reviews a recent survey by the American Institute of Architects (of individual architects and custom-home building/renovation firms) regarding trends influencing home design.  As he reports, “special-function rooms and products that serve needs particular to the pandemic [are] rising in popularity. . . .  68 percent of respondents cited increasing client requests for home offices, and none reported a decrease. . . . enhanced or ‘task’ lighting, also gained popularity. . . . there were more requests for sunrooms or three-season porches (rooms that bring nature indoors) and mud rooms or ‘drop zones’ (areas to isolate contaminated items from the house at large). . . . products for improving indoor air quality were newly popular: 41 percent of respondents cited an increase for such requests . . .  Other new trends included exercise or yoga rooms and flexible spaces for home-schooling or other needs.”

Michael Kolomatsky. 2020.  “How Is the Pandemic Shaping Home Design?”  The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/22/realestate/pandemic-shaping-home-desi...

Gonzalez, Meyer, and Toldos identified links between gender and responses to online retail displays; it is possible that their findings can also be applied in other contexts.  The research trio report that their “study suggests a potential influence of rich contextual product displays, relative to plain white backgrounds. The results of five studies reveal that the product usage context influences purchase intentions among female customers. Women and men differ in their decision-making processes and evaluate different attributes and benefits prior to purchase. Displaying a product in a rich contextual setting appears to enhance women’s perceptions of emotional value, which heightens their purchase intentions. . . . Especially in sections or stores targeted at women, more contextual product displays likely can enhance conversion rates and overall sales. . . . both discount and luxury retailers can implement these tactics. . . . The contextual background should focus on actual product usage, including concrete, consistent and familiar elements which makes it easier for female customers to imagine its usage.”

Eva Gonzalez, Jan-Hinrich Meyer, and M. Toldos.  2021. “What Women Want?  How Contextual Product Displays Influence Women’s Online Shopping Behavior.”  Journal of Business Research, vol. 123, pp. 625-641, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusres.2020.10.002

Scents can enhance virtual experiences. Flavian and colleagues report that “Our experiences are constructed by the stimulation of all our senses. . . . This study analyzes how the addition of ambient scent to a VR experience affects digital pre-experiences in a service context (tourism). Results from a laboratory experiment confirmed that embodied VR devices, together with pleasant and congruent [consistent with experience] ambient scents, enhance sensory stimulation, which . . .influence affective [emotional] and behavioral reactions. . . . Using scents in closed, public spaces (e.g. exhibition centers, travel agencies) can be troublesome as the scents might mix with other odors in the environment. . . . A possible solution to these challenges could be to use isolated cabins for the entire multisensory experience. . . . In a nutshell, although a pleasant scent can improve the digital multisensory experience, congruency is key to fostering positive customer reactions.”

Carlos Flavian, Sergio Ibanez-Sanchez, and Carlos Orus.  2021. “The Influence of Scent on Virtual Reality Experiences:  The Role of Aroma-Content Congruence.”  Journal of Business Research, vol. 123, pp. 289-301, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusres.2020.09.036

Cowan and colleagues investigated the use of virtual reality while selling something.  Their work determined that “360-VR may help to communicate the brand story online, but the impact of this storytelling can be lost in store aisles due to cognitive competition. . . . 360-VR used online (versus in-store) favors consumers with lower product knowledge. Since consumers with lower product knowledge typically shop in supermarkets or discount stores rather than at specialty boutiques . . . there is opportunity to integrate personalized, digital experiences at each touchpoint for these types of retailers. . . .  when retailers are highly specialized, they should use videos and pictures to avoid competition of their online media with existing consumer knowledge. However, when retailers are more generalized, with a less knowledgeable clientele, 360-VR online will be more effective. . . . if retailers sell specialty products or have highly knowledgeable consumers, and would prefer to use 360-VR, they should include haptic cues online, in addition to 360-VR.”

Kirsten Cowan, Nathalie Spielmann, Esther Horn, and Clovis Griffart.  2021.  “Perception is Reality . . . How Digital Retail Environments Influence Brand Perceptions Through Presence.”  Journal of Business Research, vol. 123, pp. 86-96, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusres.2020.09.058

Meagher and Cheadle researched links between mental health and home design during the COID-19 outbreak. They determined that people who were attached to their homes are less stressed and anxious.  As the researchers report, “Many people are spending more time in their homes due to work from home arrangements, stay at home orders, and closures of businesses and public gathering spaces. . . . we explored how one’s attachment to their home may help to buffer their mental health during this stressful time.  Data were collected from a three-wave . . . sampling. . . . Predictors of home attachment included . . . restorative ambience. . . . In the midst of increased mental health concerns and limited resources due to COVID-19, the home may buffer individuals from depressive and anxiety-related symptoms by functioning as a source of refuge, security, and stability.”  The researchers share that qualities associated with restoration include  “tranquility, rejuvenation, privacy.”    

Benjamin Meagher and Alyssa Cheadle.  “Distant from Others, But Close to Home:  The Relationship Between Home Attachment and Mental Health During COVID-19.”  Journal of Environmental Psychology, in press, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2020.101516

Researchers have identified cross-cultural consistencies in responses to particular sounds and published their findings in Nature Human Behaviour.  A team affiliated with Harvard’s Music Lab reports that “American infants relaxed when played lullabies that were unfamiliar and in a foreign language. . . . Infants responded to universal elements of songs, despite the unfamiliarity of their melodies and words, and relaxed. . . . In the experiment, each infant watched an animated video of two characters singing either a lullaby or a non-lullaby. . . . Generally, the infants experienced a decrease in heart rate and pupil dilation, and attenuated electrodermal activity in response to the unfamiliar lullabies. . . . The 16 songs selected for the experiment came from the Natural History of Song Discography, and included lullabies and other songs originally produced to express love, heal the sick, or encourage dancing. Languages like Scottish Gaelic, Hopi, and Western Nahuatl, and regions including Polynesia, Central America, and the Middle East were represented in the songs chosen.” Incorporating musical elements common to lullabies into soundscapes generally is likely useful, in appropriate contexts.

Manisha Aggarwal-Schifellite.  2020. “Frere Jacques, Are You Sleeping?” Press release, Harvard University, https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2020/10/research-shows-lullabies-...

Brink and colleagues evaluated links between college/university classroom conditions and student performance.  They report that their literature review determined that  “Warm white light provides a relaxing environment and supports communication, and should gradually change to blue-enriched white light after its prolonged use during the morning to prevent drowsiness. . . . these different correlated color temperatures imitates the natural change of daylight during the day and therefore supports teachers' and students' circadian rhythm.. . . a lighting system with a color temperature of 4000K in classrooms can also influence the ability to concentrate positively. . . . regulation of students' circadian rhythm is important because it influences students' alert state and cognitive performance. . . . The cognitive performance of students can decline by as much as 13% (P < 0.001) when the CO2 concentration increases from 600 to 1000 ppm. . . . this concentration of CO2 still meets prevailing guidelines.”

Henk Brink, Marcel Loomans, Mark Mobach, and Helianthe Kort.  “Classrooms’ Indoor Environmental Conditions Affecting the Academic Achievement of Students and Teachers in Higher Education:  A Systematic Literature Review.”  Indoor Air, in press, https://doi.org/10.1111/ina.12745

Weuve and teammates studied links between noise levels experienced at home and cognitive issues. The researchers report that “Participants of the Chicago Health and Aging Project (≥65 years) underwent triennial [every 3 years] cognitive assessments. For the 5 years preceding each assessment, we estimated 5227 participants’ residential level of noise from the community using a spatial prediction model, and estimated associations of noise level with prevalent mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and AD [Alzheimer’s disease], cognitive performance, and rate of cognitive decline. Among these participants, an increment of 10 A-weighted decibels (dBA) in noise corresponded to 36% and 29% higher odds of prevalent MCI . . . and AD. . . . Noise level was associated with worse global cognitive performance, principally in perceptual speed . . .but not consistently associated with cognitive decline. These results join emerging evidence suggesting that noise may influence late-life cognition and risk of dementia.”  These findings indicate the potential value of sound management programs and residential acoustical shielding.

Jennifer Weuve, Jennifer D’Souza, Todd Beck, Denis Evans, Joel Kaufman, Kumar Rajan, Carlos de Leon, and Sara Adar. “Long-Term Community Noise Exposure in Relation to Dementia, Cognition, and Cognitive Decline in Older Adults.”  Alzheimer’s and Dementia, in press, https://doi.org/10.1002/alz.12191

Researchers investigated how to encourage people to maintain desired interpersonal distances via signage. Guchait, Do, and Wang found (study published in The Service Industries Journal) that “Despite guidelines plastered on the walls and floors of grocery and retail stores encouraging customers to maintain six-feet of physical distance, many do not. . . . negativity and anthropomorphism, or attributing human characteristics to nonhuman objects . . . improve the persuasiveness of those appeals. . . . adding intimidating human attributes to the otherwise invisible coronavirus, such as a scary red face with long sharp teeth and tentacles, significantly strengthens that message.. . . preventive messaging emphasized potential costs and negative outcomes: If you don’t maintain physical distance, you could get infected and endanger your life. In contrast, promotive messaging highlighted potential benefits and positive outcomes: Maintaining physical distance protects you from infection and secures your life. . . . ‘Preventive language was significantly more effective . . . because people are persuaded by loss language, especially in high-risk, health-related situations. . . .’ said Guchait,”

“How Fear Encourages Physical Distancing During Pandemic.”  2020.  Press release, University of Houston, https://uh.edu/news-events/stories/2020/october-2020/10212020-hilton-covid-study.php

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