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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,

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,

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,

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,

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,

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,

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,

The implications of working from home are multidimensional.  Sjolie, Francisco, Mahon, Kaukko, and Kemmis (study published in Journal of Praxis in Higher Education) report that they “collected data from students and academic staff. . . . working from a home office, or as a distributed team, provides significantly increased flexibility for the work situation, it could provide less flexibility in carrying out the work, both in terms of meeting colleagues, collaborating and teaching. This flexibility issue, or paradox, is largely related to a much greater need for structure, planning and clear communication in the digital modality. . . .  the digital form makes it difficult to deviate from the plan. We lose the ability to pick up cues from the room. . . . the threshold for making small and necessary clarifications with collaborators is significantly higher in the digital realm. . . . the opportunity to convene physically is still important, not only for each of us to meet our social needs, but also for the employer and for the quality of the work.”

“The Hidden Threat of the Home Office.”  2020. Press release, Norwegian SciTech News,

Wang and colleagues investigated how frequency of home moves influences charitable donations.  Their findings have broader repercussions, particularly for situations when feelings about others are pertinent.  The team reports that “Extant research shows that consumers are more likely to donate to close than distant others, making donations to geographically distant beneficiaries a challenge. This paper introduces residential mobility as a novel variable that can lead to increased donations towards distant beneficiaries. This paper proposes that residential mobility (vs. stability) leads consumers to have a stronger global identity, whereby they see themselves as world citizens. This global identity results in higher donations to distant beneficiaries. A multi-method approach provides evidence for this prediction. An analysis of a national panel dataset demonstrates that high residential mobility is correlated with donations to distant beneficiaries. Lab experiments, including one with real monetary donations, replicate these effects using both actual moving experience and a residential mobility mindset.”

Yajin Wang, Amna Kirmani, and Xiaolin Li.  “Not Too Far to Help:  Residential Mobility, Global Identity, and Donations to Distant Beneficiaries.”  Journal of Consumer Research, in press,

Van den Bogerd and colleagues studied the effects of having plants in a university and secondary school classrooms.  They report that after students attended one lecture in a classroom with plants in it that “Perceived environmental quality of classrooms with (rather than without) indoor nature was consistently rated more favourably. Secondary education students also reported greater attention, lecture evaluation, and teacher evaluation after one lecture in classrooms with indoor nature compared to the classroom without.”

Nicole van den Bogerd, S. Dijkstra, Karin Tanja-Dijkstra, Michiel de Boer, Jacob Seidell,  Sander Koole, and Jolanda Maas. 2020.  “Greening the Classroom:  Three Field Experiments on the Effects of Indoor Nature on Students’ Attention, Well-Being, and Perceived Environmental Quality.”  Building and Environment, vol. 171, 106675,


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