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Beck and teammates investigated how close cars are to bicycles being passed and their findings have implications for the design of not only roadways but also generally, for hallways within buildings, for example.  The Beck-lead team found that when “Participants had a custom device installed on their bicycle and rode as per their usual cycling for one to two weeks. . . .  on-road bicycle lanes and parked cars reduced passing distance [the distance cars were from the bicycles].” A press release issued by Monash University (available at provides additional details:  “marked on-road bicycle lanes and parked cars reduced the distance that motorists provide when passing cyclists. . . . ‘When the cyclist and driver share a lane, the driver is required to perform an overtaking manoeuvre. This is in contrast to roads with a marked bicycle lane, where the driver is not required to overtake. This suggests that there less of a conscious requirement for drivers to provide additional passing distance.’ [Quote attributed to Beck.]  Dr. Beck said in order to improve safety and increase cycling participation, it is clear that far greater investment is needed in providing infrastructure that separates cyclists from motor vehicles by a physical barrier.”  So, in summary, it seems that when bicycles are in a separate, marked lane, drivers do not maintain as great a distance from them as they do when the car drivers and bicyclists are in the same lane and the car drivers need to maneuver around the bicyclists to pass them.

Ben Beck, Derek Chong, Jake Olivier, Monica Perkins, Anthony Tsay, Adam Rushford, Lingxiao Li, Peter Cameron, Richard Fry, and Marilyn Johnson.  “How Much Space Do Drivers Provide When Passing Cyclists?  Understanding the Impact of Motor Vehicle and Infrastructure Characteristics on Passing Distance.”  Accident Analysis and Prevention, in press,

Hunter and colleagues investigated the amount of time that people need to spend “anywhere outside that, in the opinion of the participant, included a sufficiency of natural elements to feel like a nature interaction” to reduce their stress levels.  The research team reports that over an 8-week period “study participants are free to choose the time of day, duration, and the place of a NE [nature exposure]. . . . urban dwellers were asked to have a NE, defined as spending time in an outdoor place that brings a sense of contact with nature, at least three times a week for a duration of 10 min or more. . . . For salivary cortisol, an NE produced a 21.3%/hour drop. . . . The efficiency of a nature pill . . . was greatest between 20 and 30 min, after which benefits continued to accrue, but at a reduced rate. For salivary alpha-amylase, there was a 28.1%/h drop . . . but only for participants that were [at] least active sitting or sitting with some walking. Activity type did not influence cortisol response.”  Salivary cortisol and alpha-amylase are stress biomarkers. Creating at-work, etc., outdoor areas where people would choose to spend 10 minutes three times a week may be feasible at many locations.

MaryCarol Hunter, Brenda Gillespie, and Sophie Chen.  2019.  “Urban Nature Experiences Reduce Stress in the Context of Daily Life Based on Salivary Biomarkers.”  Frontiers in Psychology,

Research conducted by Gomez and Spielmann confirms that sensory evaluations are regularly more subjective than objective.  The researchers found that “Associating food products with elite groups positively influences sensory taste perceptions.. . . .Taste enhancement occurs because of the transfer of unobservable elite properties to the food.. . .  In four studies involving actual taste tests and online experiments, we show that associating a food product with an elite group increases taste perceptions within various food categories. This effect occurs because of belief in transferred essence (the belief that the product incorporates the unobservable properties of the social elite). The effect is also stronger among participants highly sensitive to disgust. Overall, our results suggest that a taste experience is improved when foods embody the characteristics of the social elite.”  

Pierrick Gomez and Nathalie Spielmann.  2019.  “A Taste of the Elite:  The Effect of Pairing Food Products with Elite Groups on Taste Perceptions.”  Journal of Business Research, vol. 100, pp. 175-183,

A research team headed by Bigman identified links between robot appearance and how responsible they are felt to be for their actions.  These scientists report that “Even as roboticists create robots with more ‘objective’ autonomy, we note that ‘subjective’ autonomy may be more important. . . .  People perceive the mind of machines based on their abilities and behaviors, but also on their appearance. The more human-like a machine looks, the more people perceive it as having a mind, a phenomenon called anthropomorphism. . . . Individuals vary in their tendency to anthropomorphize, but people consistently perceive more mind, and therefore more moral responsibility, in machines that look and act like humans. . . . We suggest that having human-like bodies, human-like voices, and human-like faces will all cause people to attribute more moral responsibility to machines.”

Yochanan Bigman, Adam Waytz, Ron Alterovitz, and Kurt Gray.  “Holding Robots Responsible:  The Elements of Machine Morality.”  Trends in Cognitive Sciences, in press,

A study to be published in Behavior Research Methodssheds light on relationships between sensory experiences. Cuskley, Dingemanse, Kirby and van Leeuwenanalyzed data collected from over 1,000 people and found that when study participants chose colours for 16 spoken vowels. A large majority felt that ‘aa’ was more red than green, and ‘ee’ more light than dark. . . . According to Mark Dingemanse, one of the researchers, ‘There seems to be a logic to how we link sound and colour, and the structure of language has an important role in this process.’ . . . Earlier studies have found that colour associations are linked to the pitch of the sounds: the higher the pitch, the lighter the colour. But the new study shows that colour associations are driven to a greater degree by the vowel system of a language.”

“Associating Colours With Vowels?  Almost All of Us Do!” 2019.  Press release, Radboud University,

Laboratory Lifestyles: The Construction of Scientific Fictions is packed with ideas that can be used to develop scientific laboratories as well as other professional workplaces. Laboratory Lifestyles’website states that “The past decade has seen an extraordinary laboratory-building boom. This new crop of laboratories features spectacular architecture and resort-like amenities. The buildings sprawl luxuriously on verdant campuses or sit sleekly in expensive urban neighborhoods. Designed to attract venture capital, generous philanthropy, and star scientists, these laboratories are meant to create the ideal conditions for scientific discovery. Yet there is little empirical evidence that shows if they do. Laboratory Lifestyles examines this new species of scientific laboratory from architectural, economic, social, and scientific perspectives.”  

Sandra Kaji-O’Grady, Chris Smith, and Russell Hughes (eds.) 2019.  Laboratory Lifestyles:  The Construction of Scientific Fictions.  MIT Press; Cambridge, MA. 

Obayashi and teammates studied how airflow and concentration are related.  They evaluated the mental activity of people in two areas, one with no airflow and another with an airflow system combining two different ventilation experiences, one of which was labeled “stimualtive” and the other “mild.” During the study,  “cognitive tasks are given to participants.  The concentration time ratio (CTR), which is a quantitative and objective evaluation index of the degree of concentration, is measured.  . . . the average CTR under the proposed airflow condition [the one with the mild and stimulative components] is 61.1%, while under the no airflow condition is 54.6%. The proposed airflow control shows a significant improvement in CTR.”  More information on the stimulative/mild airflow: “The velocity of mild airflow fluctuates from 0 m/s to 0.4 m/s. . . . . The transition of mild airflow velocity . . . [has a cycle of] 120 s. . . . the velocity of stimulative airflow was fixed to 1.6 m/s.  These velocities were measured at 1.1 m high, which is close to head height when the subjects are sitting.  Stimulative airflow was applied for 20 s every 10 min.”

Fumiaki Obayashi, Kazune Miyagi, Kyoko Ito, Kazuhiro Taniguchi, Hirotaki Ishii, and Hiroshi Shimoda. 2019.  “Objective and Quantitative Evaluation of Intellectual Productivity Under Control of Room Airflow.”  Building and Environment, vol. 149, pp. 48-57,

A new study confirms how powerful visual cues can be. Chan and Maglio determined that “Just looking at something that reminds us of coffee can cause our minds to become more alert and attentive. . . . Across four separate studies and using a mix of participants from Western and Eastern cultures, they [the researchers] compared coffee- and tea-related cues. They found that participants exposed to coffee-related cues perceived time as shorter and thought in more concrete, precise terms. . . . the effect was not as strong among participants who grew up in Eastern cultures. Maglio speculates that the association between coffee and arousal is not as strong in less coffee-dominated cultures.”  The Chan/Maglio study is published in Consciousness and Cognition.

Don Campbell/Press release, University of Toronto, Scarborough. 2019.  “Just Seeing Reminders of Coffee Can Stimulate the Brain, UTSC Study Reveals,”

Weir reviews research in the field of neurogastronomy.  The field is defined in her article as “combining the molecular biology of olfaction, the biochemistry of food preparation and the neuroscience of sensation and perception.” Weir reports, for example that when someone is tasting something “The process starts even before you take a bite. You smell the food’s aroma and see its shape and color, as well as the appearance of the plate or bowl. . . . aroma from the food is carried through the inside of the mouth up into the nose . . . which has a big effect on flavor. . . . Spence’s [Spence is a professor of experimental psychology at the University of Oxford] research reveals how input from our ears, eyes and fingertips influences the taste of foods. He’s shown that yogurt, for example, is perceived as denser and more expensive when tasted with a light plastic spoon rather than a weighty metal one . . . and eating chocolate while listening to musical compositions with soft, smooth notes makes the chocolate seem creamier.”

Kirsten Weir.  2019.  “A Matter of Taste.”  Monitor on Psychology, vol. 50, no. 4, pp. 60-64.

Miller and Hubner found that individuals are pretty good at determining if other people will like a particular piece of art. The duo reports that “Aesthetic preferences vary strongly between people. Yet, it can be essential to infer what other people aesthetically prefer. Therefore, we investigated lay people’s ability to infer aesthetic preferences. . . . about half of the participants produced a significant medium to high correlation between their other assessments and the mean others′ self-assessment. . . . our results indicate that many individuals are able to infer aesthetic preferences.”

Chantal Miller and Ronald Hubner.  “Two Routes to Aesthetic Preference, One Route to Aesthetic Inference.”  Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, in press,


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