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The uncanny valley phenomenon has been studied for many years. In a recent study, Wang, Cheong, Dilks, and Rochat report that  “Human replicas highly resembling people tend to elicit eerie sensations—a phenomenon known as the uncanny valley. . . . [the Wang team’s] findings link perceived uncanniness in androids [robots with human type features] to the temporal dynamics of face animacy [how “alive” it seems to be] perception.”  The uncanny valley effect arises when a machine appears nearly lifelike but not exactly the same as a true human. The researchers found that this effect occurs not because people attribute a mind to the android but because humans come to view the “robot” as not having a mind after initial thoughts that it does.

Shensheng Wang, Yuk Cheong, Daniel Dilks, and Philippe Rochat.  “The Uncanny Valley Phenomenon and the Temporal Dynamics of Face Animacy Perception.”  Perception, in press,

The Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer is making available, at the web address noted below, an information-packed video that will be useful both to people designing lightscapes and also to anyone working from home.  At the source website, the LRC shares that it “has released a new video on how to maintain good sleep while working from home, or quarantining indoors, which is becoming more commonplace during the coronavirus pandemic. Good sleep is essential for good health, and may even have a protective effect against coronavirus because a healthy, regular sleep pattern promotes a strong immune system. The video features tips from LRC Director Dr. Mariana Figueiro about how to use the power of light to help you sleep better and feel better every day.”

“New Video:  Sleep Better and Feel Better While Working from Home.” 2020.  Lighting Research Center, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute,

Cox and colleagues’ work sheds new light on Stonehenge’s design and indicates the power of acoustic experiences.  The researchers determined that “this ancient monument in southern England created an acoustic space that amplified voices and improved the sound of any music being played for people standing within the massive circle of stones. . . . Because of how stones were placed, that speech or music would not have projected beyond Stonehenge into the surrounding countryside, or even to people standing near the stone circle.”  Findings were published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Bruce Bower.  2020. “Stonehenge Enhanced Sounds Like Voices or Music for People Inside the Monument.”  Science News,

Researchers have linked having an uncommon name to implementing uncommon strategies.  Zhang, Kang, and Zhu found that “If you’re looking for an unconventional approach to doing business, select a CEO with an uncommon name. . . . ‘Using 19 years of data on 1,172 public firms, we show that firms’ distinctive strategies are systematically linked to their CEOs’ uncommon names,’” wrote [the] co-authors. . . . . ‘This is consistent with findings from psychological research that successful professionals who have uncommon names tend to view themselves as more special, unique, interesting and creative,’ they wrote. Developing and implementing unique business strategies is ‘critical for firms to obtain competitive advantage and achieve superior performance,’ according to the authors.”

Avery Franklin. 2020. “Study:  CEOs with Uncommon Names Tend to Implement Unconventional Strategies.” Press release, Rice University,

Research indicates, again, the value of carefully managing laptop and phone use during in-person discussions.  Lindvig, Hermann, and Asgaard found, in the context of discussion-based classes in university classrooms, that when “all screens” were banned “‘Students felt compelled to be present — and liked it. When it suddenly became impossible to Google their way to an answer or more knowledge about a particular theorist, they needed to interact and, through shared reflection, develop as a group. It heightened their engagement and presence,’ explains Katrine Lindvig. . . . a more analog approach can lead to deeper learning, where one doesn’t just memorize things only to see them vanish immediately after an exam. . . . ‘there is no denying that conversation improves when people look into each other’s eyes rather than down at a screen,’ Lindvig says.”

“Lecturer Takes Laptops and Smart Phones Away and Musters Student Presence.”  2020.  Press release, University of Copenhagen,

Ruisch and colleagues probed relationships between taste bud sensitivity and political orientations.  They report that “Based on work suggesting possible ideological differences in genes related to low-level sensory processing, we predicted that taste (i.e., gustatory) sensitivity would be associated with political ideology. In 4 studies . . . we test this hypothesis and find robust support for this association. . . . we find that sensitivity to the chemicals PROP and PTC—2 well established measures of taste sensitivity—are associated with greater political conservatism. . . . we find that fungiform papilla density, a proxy for taste bud density, also predicts greater conservatism. . . . This work suggests that low-level physiological differences in sensory processing may shape an individual’s political attitudes.” It is interesting to consider how the Ruisch team’s findings might be extended to other contexts.

Benjamin Ruisch, Rajen Anderson, Yoel Inbar, and David Pizarro.  “Gustatory Sensitivity Predicts Political Ideology.”  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, in press,

Research conducted by O’Rourke and colleagues indicates how important it is to align the form of a space with the culture of the people who will use it.  The O’Rourke lead team report that their “study compared two Indigenous sample populations in Australia to examine the effect of the physical environment in public hospitals and clinics on Indigenous people’s perceptions and experiences of waiting for care. Quantitative survey data . . . measured perceptions of relevant design attributes using paired images in a screen-based survey. Semi-structured interviews . . . identified concerns about the physical healthcare environment including waiting rooms. Ceiling heights, seating arrangements and views to the outside were significant showing commonalities between perceptions of the two populations. The interviews revealed that cultural and social constructs, including privacy, fear, shame, and racism, were significant and that people’s perceptions were influenced by colonization and independent of location. Our study highlights the importance of a cross-cultural approach to supportive design interventions for spatial and symbolic treatments of waiting areas.”

Timothy O’Rourke, Daphne Nash, Michele Haynes, Meredith Burgess, and Paul Memmott.  “Cross-Cultural Design and Healthcare Waiting Rooms for Indigenous People in Regional Australia.”  Environment and Behavior, in press,

A research team lead by Aryani confirms that humans link particular shapes and sounds.  Aryani and colleagues report that “Prior investigations have demonstrated that people tend to link pseudowords such as bouba to rounded shapes and kiki to spiky shapes, but the cognitive processes underlying this matching bias have remained controversial. . . .  we found that kiki-like pseudowords and spiky shapes, compared with bouba-like pseudowords and rounded shapes, consistently elicit higher levels of affective [emotional] arousal.”

Arash Aryani, Erin Isbilen, and Morten Christiansen. 2020.  “Affective Arousal Links Sound to Meaning.” Psychological Science, vol. 31, no. 8, pp. 978-986,

Yoon, Kim, and Kang investigated people’s changing experiences with products over the time products are owned.  The team reports that “five attributes of positive user experience were adopted in the study: aesthetics; instrumentality; association; self-focused identification; and relationship-focused identification. . . . results indicate that the critical attributes of positive user experiences differed to a large extent according to the phase of product usage. . . . these differences were not significant in terms of gender and age. Among the five attributes, instrumentality played a main role in positive experiences throughout the product usage life cycle, while the importance of the other attributes tended to decrease after first-time usage. The findings highlight implications for design practice that can aid the process of designing for long-lasting positive user experience throughout the product usage life cycle.” The Yoon, Kim, and Kang article is available to all at the web address noted below.

Jung Yoon, Chajoong Kim, and Raesung Kang.  2020.  “Positive User Experience Over Product Usage Life Cycle and the Influence of Demographic Factors.”  International Journal of Design, vol. 14, no. 2,

Research completed by Cormiea and Fischer indicates that we think about odors differently when we know their names.  Cormiea and Fischer found that “learning the label seems to transform an odor – to snap its perceptual features into sharper focus. . . . sixteen unlabeled odors from common foods (e.g. onion, carrot, grapefruit, vanilla), [were] delivered in opaque squeeze bottles. Subjects sniffed the odors and then arranged the icons on the screen, placing icons for similar-smelling items close together. . . . In Session 2, participants performed the same task, but this time with labels on the bottles identifying the odors. In Session 3, participants performed the arrangement task based on labels alone. . . . the addition of labels in Session 2 altered the perceptual space in a reliable way. . . . we found improved discrimination in an odor mixture classification task with the application of labels . . . These results suggest a reliable olfactory perceptual space that is systematically remapped with the application of labels.”

Sarah Cormiea and Jason Fischer.  2020.  “Mapping and Remapping the Human Olfactory Perceptual Space.”  International Symposium on Olfaction and Taste, virtual meeting, August 3-7,


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