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Welcome to the Research Design Connections blog, started in 2007. Recent blog entries are available here. Earlier blog entries (one for every working day since the beginning of May, 2007) are available to subscribers.

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Weir reports on the findings of numerous studies that have established the psychological value of nature-based experiences.  The material related to experiencing nature while indoors have the widest applicability. Weir states, for example, that “Berman and colleagues found that study participants who listened to nature sounds like crickets chirping and waves crashing performed better on demanding cognitive tests than those who listed to other sounds like traffic and the clatter of a busy café. . . . . [Franz and colleagues] found that any exposure to nature—in person or via video—led to improvements in attention, positive emotions and the ability to reflect on a life problem. . . . [a team lead by White, University of Exeter] concluded that while the real deal is best, virtual reality can be a worthwhile substitute for people who are unable to get outdoors. . . . White and his colleagues found that people who watched nature videos with a diverse mix of flora and fauna reported lower anxiety, more vitality and better mood than those who watched videos featuring less biodiverse landscapes.”

Kirsten Weir. 2020.  “Nurtured by Nature.”  Monitor on Psychology, vol. 51, no. 3, pp. 50-56.

Kohlova and Urban identified a link between green consumption and perceived social status. As they report, they “examine[d] whether a green profile of consumption affects the social status of consumers. . . . results corroborate the expected positive effect of a green profile of consumption on the social status of consumers [more green consumption, higher perceived social status]. . . . our results imply that the explicit monetary cost of green consumption is not a decisive factor conditioning the effect of green consumption on social status. . . .  green consumers appear to external observers as both wealthier and more prosocial [helpful to others]; both these qualities then increase their social status in the eyes of beholders. . . . . inexpensive green consumption increases the social status of consumers by making them appear more prosocial, whereas expensive green consumption increases their social status by making them appear wealthier.”

Marketa Kohlova and Jan Urban.  “Buy Green, Gain Prestige and Social Status.”  Journal of Environmental Psychology, in press, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2020.101416

Dunleavy and colleagues have determined that humans find working underground a more positive experience than might have been anticipated.  Surveying people living in Singapore who worked either above or below ground the team investigated “the prevalence of psychological distress . . . over time in aboveground and underground workspaces. . . .  workers in similar aboveground and underground workspaces were followed-up in three assessments over 12 months. . . .  Perceived IEQ (air quality, temperature, noise, light) in the workplace were collected. . . .  [analyses] did not show any association between working underground and psychological distress. . . . . Underground workspaces were defined as work environments that are below the street level, while aboveground workspaces were on or above the street level. Underground workspaces did not contain a window view of the outdoor environment, while workers in aboveground workspaces varied in their distance and view of a window. Individuals in underground workspaces worked comparable job types (administration, control room and workshop) to those in aboveground workspaces.”

Gerard Dunleavy, Ram Baipal, Andre Tonon, Kei Cheung, Thuan-Quoc Thach, Yuri Rykov, Chee-Kiong Soh, Heinde Vries, Josip Car, and Georgios Christopoulos.  “Prevalence of Psychological Distress and Its Association with Perceived Indoor Environmental Quality and Workplace Factors in Underground and Aboveground Workplaces.”  Building and Environment, in press, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.buildenv.2020.106799

Laski and colleagues wanted to know more about how dynamic retail lighting could influence shopping behavior.  Via eye movement tracking, they studied the implications over time of light intensity staying constant while the color rendering properties of that light changed: “The objective is for these changes to be subtle enough to not be consciously noticed by retail shoppers. . . . use of strategically modulated lighting conditions can, on average, increase shoppers' spatial range of browsing. . . .male subjects exhibited . . . reduced browsing ranges compared to female subjects during the control condition of ‘static’ white lighting. . . . During the dynamic RGB lighting condition, females did not show much change but male subjects increased in browsing range (relative to the male control group) to the point of approaching parity with the female subjects. . . . increasing the spatial range of browsing would be beneficial for both the shopper, who discovers more product options, and for the retailers, to whom what was once less desirable peripheral shelf space might now be considered more valuable.”

Josephi Laski, Charles Brunault, Rebecca Seung, and Cheol Ryu.  2020. “An Exploratory Study of Retail Lighting with Continuous Modulation of Color Rendering Properties to Influence Shoppers’ Spatial Range of Browsing.”  Journal of Business Research, vol. 111, pp. 148-162, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusres.2018.10.032

Flavian and colleagues define the terms used for the “realities” that are now technically possible. As they report ”The Real Environment is an actual setting where users interact solely with elements of the real world, whereas Virtual Environment is a completely computer-generated environment where users can interact solely with virtual objects in real-time. Between these extremes, we found technology-mediated realities where physical and virtual worlds are integrated at different levels. Augmented Reality (AR) is characterized by digital content superimposed on the users' real surroundings; Augmented Virtuality involves real content superimposed on the user's virtual environment. Finally, in Pure Mixed Reality (PMR), users are placed in the real world and digital content is totally integrated into their surroundings, so that they can interact with both digital and real contents, and these elements can also interact.. . . the combination of technology-mediated experiences and current customer core experiences results in integral technology-enhanced experiences, which increases the value provided to customers.”

Carlos Flavian, Sergio Ibanez-Sanchez, and Carlos Orus.  2019. “The Impact of Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality Technologies on the Customer Experience.”  Journal of Business Research, vol. 100, pp. 547-560, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusres.2018.10.050

What is a sustainable size for a home?  Maurie Cohen, who reports on his work in Housing, Theory & Society,reviewed “more than 75 years of housing history and provides estimates for the optimal spatial dimensions that would align with an ‘environmentally tenable and globally equitable amount of per-person living area’ today. . . . Cohen’s article explores the concept of ‘sufficiency limits’ for the average contemporary home — or, a rough baseline metric of ‘enough’ living space to meet one’s individual needs while considering various environmental and social factors, such as global resource availability and equitable material usage. . . . Based on assessments of global resource availability and so-called total material consumption calculations developed by industrial ecologists and others, Cohen estimates that sustainability and equity considerations require that a home for a single person should be no larger than 215 square feet, and for a four-person family the maximum size should be approximately 860 square feet.”

“Downsizing the McMansion: Study Gauges a Sustainable Size for Future Homes.”  2020. Press release, New Jersey Institute of Technology, https://news.njit.edu/downsizing-mcmansion-study-gauges-sustainable-size...

Chang and colleagues studied nature photos from around the world presented on social media. The team determined that “Humans may have evolved a need to connect with nature, and nature provides substantial cultural and social values to humans. . . .  We lack answers to fundamental questions: how do humans experience nature in different contexts (daily routines, fun activities, weddings, honeymoons, other celebrations, and vacations) and how do nature experiences differ across countries? We answer these questions by coupling social media and artificial intelligence using 31,534 social media photographs across 185 countries. We find that nature was more likely to appear in photographs taken during a fun activity, honeymoon, or vacation compared to photographs of daily routines. More importantly, the proportion of photographs with nature taken during fun activities is associated with national life satisfaction scores.”

Chia-chen Chang, Gweyneth Cheng, Thi Nghiem, Xiao Song, Rachel Oh, Daniel Richards, and L. Carrasco. 2020.  “Social Media, Nature, and Life Satisfaction:  Global Evidence of the Biophilia Hypothesis.”  Scientific Reports, vol. 10, no. 4125, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-60902-w

Researchers have determined that what we hear influences our balance.  The investigators report in a literature review published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck that “What people hear and do not hear can have a direct effect on their balance. . . . . ‘This study found that the sounds we hear affect our balance by giving us important information about the environment. . . . ‘ said senior author Maura Cosetti, MD. . . . people had more difficulty staying balanced or standing still on an uneven surface when it was quiet, but had better balance while listening to sounds. . . . continuous background noise (usually static) was the most helpful for subjects to keep their center of gravity.”

“Sound Can Directly Affect Balance and Lead to Risk of Falling.”  2020.  Press release, Mount Sinai Health System, https://www.mountsinai.org/about/newsroom/2020/sound-can-directly-affect...

Pfeifer and Wittmann investigated how humans think when a space is silent.  They report that “Research on the perception of silence has led to insights regarding its positive effects on individuals. We conducted a series of studies during which individuals were exposed to several minutes of silence in different contexts. Participants were introduced to different social and environmental settings, either in a seminar room at a university or in a city garden, alone or in a group. . . .  participants were exposed to real waiting situations, were asked to just think and to explicitly experience the time interval. . . . Silence was judged to significantly increase relaxation, improve mood states. . . .  Findings empirically demonstrate that exposure to silence can be effective in therapeutic and educational contexts to promote relaxation and well-being.”

Eric Pfeifer and Marc Wittmann.  “Waiting, Thinking, and Feeling:  Variations in the Perception of Time During Silence.”  Frontiers in Psychology, in press, doi:  10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00602

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