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Schetter’s Master’s Thesis reports on the case study of a relocation to an activity-based workplace.  Schetter reports that she “investigated the perception of employees at one small tech company in the Midwest area of the United States. . . . The office environment experiences were compared with a follow-up assessment of their current remote working conditions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. . . . seven characteristics [were considered]: the amount of space, proximity to colleagues, Indoor Environmental/Air Quality, choices of spaces, quality of the workspace, light, and furniture. . . . Results indicate workers’ preferences, the ability to choose where to work and a desired ability to control their work environments. Other major findings include a desire for natural daylight, adjustable lighting, and an overwhelming desire for greater acoustical privacy in areas for high concentration.”

Julia Schetter.  2021.  “Developing Typologies Toward Balanced Workplace Design:  A Case for the Five Modes of Work.”  Master’s Thesis, Iowa State University, Interior Design, https://dr.lib.iastate.edu/server/api/core/bitstreams/ffc818b2-338a-4a8d-baec-a07fb252282b/content

Robin Mazumder investigates links between urban design and mental wellbeing.  He reports that during his dissertation research “participants were brought into an urban environment, in the real world, but also via virtual reality, through the use of 360-degree videos of cityscapes.”  Data collected via surveys and from physiological measurements indicated that “tall buildings make people uncomfortable when they’re surrounded by them. Conversely, people have less of a stress response when they’re in environments that are built at what’s considered ‘human scale,’ or the European model where buildings tend to top out at five storeys. . . . [Mazumdar] says cities are ‘where human potential is on display.’ And when we get them right, they can be vibrant ecosystems filled with public art, architecture that doesn’t feel oppressive, cycling infrastructure, accessible green space for all and affordable housing.”

Michael Kissinger.  2021.  “Stress and the City.”  UVic (University of Victoria) News, https://www.uvic.ca/news/topics/2021+torch-city-stress+news

A recent study (published in Cognitive Research:  Principles and Implications) focused on how easy or difficult it is to understand someone wearing a face mask, produced some interesting results, particularly for tests conducted when background noise was present.  A research team lead by Brown determined via data collected from people with normal hearing that “cotton masks with filter inserts and masks with a transparent plastic panel were linked to/associated with the worst performance when it came to understanding what the wearer was saying. While they were surprised that listeners did not do better with transparent masks, the authors pointed out that the clear panels hurt the audibility of the speech signal more than other mask materials and that the panels often fog up, making it difficult to see the talker’s mouth.” Masks tested included surgical masks, cloth masks with and without filters and a mask with a clear plastic insert so the speaker’s mouth could be seen.  Also, there were three possible levels of background sound: none, moderate, and high: “Once a bit of background noise was added, however, the masks started to make a difference. And, when the loudest noise was added, the differences became even clearer. When Brown spoke while wearing a surgical mask, participants could still make out over 50% of what she was saying. But when she donned the cloth mask with a filter or the transparent mask, accuracy dropped to about 30%.”

“Which Mask is Easier on the Ears?”  2021.  Press release, Washington University in St. Louis, https://source.wustl.edu/2021/12/which-mask-is-easier-on-the-ears/

Ugail and 12 others have developed a tool (more information currently available to all at the web address noted below) that can be used to redesign spaces to support pandemic-related social distancing.  The team reports that “manually enhanced ad-hoc solutions have helped the physical space designers and decision makers to cope with the dynamic nature of space planning. . . .  we propose a design optimization methodology which takes the dimensions, as well as the constraints and other necessary requirements of a given physical space to yield optimal redesign  solutions. . . . The resulting optimization problem is solved subject to a given set of parameters and constraints – corresponding to the requirements on the social distancing criteria between people and the imposed constraints on the physical spaces such as the position of doors, windows, walkways and the variables related to the indoor airflow patterns. . . . given the dimensions of a physical space and other essential requirements, the solution resulting from the automated optimization algorithm can suggest an optimal set of redesign solutions from which a user can pick the most feasible option.”

Hassan Ugail and 12 others.2021.  “Social Distancing Enhanced Automated Optimal Design of Physical Spaces in the Wake of COVID-19 Pandemic.”  Sustainable Cities and Society, vol. 68, 102791, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scs.2021.102791

Fornara, Mosca, Bosco, and 13 others studied how home design influenced resident stress levels during the 2020 lockdown in Italy.  Their study “examined the relationship between the ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ dimensions of the home, measured in terms of objective home crowding and satisfaction with the space at home, in relation to perceived stress and the perceived risk of COVID-19 infection during the lockdown. . . . perceived stress is influenced by objective home crowding through . . . satisfaction with the space at home. These associations were more pronounced in younger generations. The negative association between satisfaction with the space at home and perceived stress was higher, the lower the perceived COVID-19 risk. . . . Satisfaction with the space at home increases when Objective home crowding decreases.”

Ferdinando Fornara, Oriana Mosca, Andrea Bosco, and 13 others. “Space at Home and Psychological Distress During the Covid-19 Lockdown in Italy.”  Journal of Environmental Psychology, in press, 101747, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2021.101747

Wilmot and Ones link particular personality factors to success in certain sorts of jobs and their findings are useful to designers aligning design with personality, which is regularly discussed in Research Design Connections.  The investigators found that when they studied ties between personality “and occupational performance (i.e., supervisory ratings of overall job performance or objective performance outcomes). . . . for 9 major occupational groups (clerical, customer service, healthcare, law enforcement, management, military, professional, sales, and skilled/semiskilled). . . . [that] Conscientiousness predicts across all groups, but other traits have higher validities when they are more relevant to occupational requirements: agreeableness for healthcare; emotional stability for skilled/semiskilled, law enforcement, and military; extraversion for sales and management; and openness for professional. . . .  When groups are ranked by [occupational] complexity, multiple correlations generally follow an inverse-U shaped pattern, which suggests that moderate complexity levels may be a ‘goldilocks range’ for personality prediction.”

Michel Wilmot and Deniz Ones. 2021.  “Occupational Characteristics Moderate Personality-Performance Relations in Major Occupational Groups.”  Journal of Vocational Behavior vol. 131, 103655, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvb.2021.103655

Coronado and colleagues assessed how design influences thoughts about the likelihood of catching a disease.  They collected data in April and May 2021 via  “An anonymous online survey . . . [from] students of higher academic institutions using images portraying 3D models of classrooms and written prompts to assess perceptions. . . . [and] found a significant effect of different degrees of ‘connection to the outdoors’ and ‘occupant density’ on both perceived health risk and health promotion in both [US and Colombia] countries. Respondents ranked strategies like mask-wearing and natural ventilation as important interventions when considering a return to the classroom.”

Maria Coronado, Siobhan Rockcastle, and Alison Kwok.  “Environmental Health Perceptions in University Classrooms: Results from an Online Survey During the COVID-19 Pandemic in the US and Colombia.”  Frontiers in Built Environment, in press, https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fbuil.2021.784634/abstract

The way a robot feels influences opinions about it.  Researchers lead by Umeda have found that “Body texture, such as softness or elasticity, is an important consideration in the design of robots meant for interactive functions. . . .  researchers asked adult participants to view, touch, and evaluate six different inactive robots that were humanoid to varying degrees. The participants were asked to touch the arm of the robots. For each robot, four fake arms had been constructed; these were made of silicone rubber and prepared in such a way that their elasticity varied, thus providing differing touch sensations. ‘The results confirmed our expectations,’ explains Hisashi Ishihara, senior author. ‘We found that the impressions of the personalities of the robots varied according to the texture of the robot arms.’”  This study is published in Advanced Robotics.

“’My Robot Is a Softie’:  Physical Texture Influences Judgments of Robot Personality.”  2021.  Press release, Osaka University, https://resou.osaka-u.ac.jp/en/research/2021/20211202_1

Samuelsson studied links between urban design and wellbeing.  He reports that “Drawing on literature from urban morphology, complex systems analysis, environmental psychology, and neuroscience, I provide a wide-angle view of how urban form relates to subjective well-being through movement, social and economic activity, experiences and psychological restoration. I propose three principles for urban form that could promote subjective well-being while also mitigating the environmental impact of cities in industrialized societies. The principles revolve around so-called topodiversity, meaning variation across an urban area in spatial conditions that allows subjective well-being to be promoted through several different pathways. The principles together suggest an urban form that I call the topodiverse city. The topodiverse city displays a polycentric structure and is more spatially contained than the sprawling city, yet not as compact as the dense city.”

Karl Samuelsson.  “The Topodiverse City:  Urban Form for Subjective Well-Being.”  Frontiers in Built Environment, in press, https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fbuil.2021.735221/abstract

Carlini and Bigand looked at relationships between sounds heard and the accuracy of estimations of how long an object being looked at moved.  They report that “A visual moving target was presented to the participants, associated with a concurrent sound. . . . Nine different sound profiles were tested, from an easier constant sound to more variable and complex pitch profiles, always presented synchronously with motion. Participants’ responses show that constant sounds produce the worst duration estimation performance, even worse than the silent condition; more complex sounds, instead, guarantee significantly better performance. . . .  Results clearly show that a concurrent sound influences the unified perception of motion; the type and magnitude of the bias depends on the structure of the sound stimulus. Contrary to expectations, the best performance is not generated by the simplest stimuli, but rather by more complex stimuli that are richer in information.”

Alessandro Carlini and Emmanuel Bigand.  2021.  “Does Sound Influence Perceived Duration of Visual Motion.”  Frontiers in Psychology, https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.751248

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