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Research indicates that people’s media use tendencies influence how they use environmental cues when forming impressions of others.  Lopez and colleagues share that “Media multitasking (MMT)—using and switching between unrelated forms of media [between different devices, such as smartphones and tablets]—has been implicated in altered processing of extraneous stimuli. . . .  We tested the relationship between individual differences in MMT and person perception, by experimentally manipulating the relevance of environmental cues that participants could use to make trait and personality judgements of an unfamiliar social target. Relevant environmental cues consisted of neat or messy arrangements of the target’s belongings, whereas irrelevant cues consisted of similarly neat or messy arrangements of the testing room in which participants viewed a video of the target.. . . high media multitaskers more readily incorporated irrelevant environmental cues into their evaluations of the target’s conscientiousness [an aspect of their personality].These results suggest that high media multitaskers are more responsive to irrelevant environmental cues, which in turn can lead them to form inaccurate impressions of others.”

Richard Lopez, Julia Salinger, Todd Heatherton, and Dylan Wagner.  2018.  “Media Multitasking Is Associated With Altered Processing of Incidental, Irrelevant Cues During Person Perception.”  BMC Psychology, vol. 6, no. 44, https://doi.org/10.1186/s40359-018-0256-x

Pearce and Hinds share important insights on effective transitions to open office environments.  Their research focuses on employee place identity, which they define as  “whether employees feel the space aligns with their self-image and enhances their sense of belonging.”  The researchers found, after talking with workers in the United States, France, Israel, India, and China, that “employees who felt a greater sense of place identity . . . experienced the space [a new open office] as more collaborative, social, flexible, energetic, and comfortable, while those who didn’t develop place identity saw the space as noisy and cluttered. Workers who felt a greater personal connection to the space were also more engaged and enthusiastic about their work, believed their communication with colleagues and managers was of higher quality, and felt a greater attachment to the organization.” To build place identity, Pearce and Hinds recommend that the purpose of a new office space design be shared with users prior to moving into the new space, when employees “believed the space was designed to foster creativity, increase collaboration, enhance flexibility, and promote informal communication [workers] had more place identity. . .  when workers were not prepared with a clear vision of the space beforehand, they were more likely to perceive the space as a way to cut costs and expressed more resistance and dissatisfaction.”  To enhance place identity leaders should be positive about the new space and employees should be allowed to customize it, with personal items and by rearranging furniture, for example. With positive leaders and customization, workers voiced more upbeat opinions about concrete aspects of the environment such as its lighting and noise levels.  

Brandi Pearce and Pamela Hinds.  2018.  “How to Make Sure People Won’t Hate Your New Open Office Plan.”  Harvard Business Review (online), https://hbr.org/2018/01/sgc-research-when-moving-to-an-open-office-plan-....

Having a good memory for the layouts of environments and being better able to identify odors were linked by Dahmani and colleagues.  They report that “It was recently proposed that olfaction evolved to aid navigation. . . . Our findings reveal an intrinsic relationship between olfaction and spatial memory that is supported by a shared reliance on the hippocampus and medial orbitofrontal cortex. This relationship may find its roots in the parallel evolution of the olfactory and hippocampal systems.”

Louisa Dahmani, Raihaan Patel, Yiling Yang, Mallar Chakravarty, Lesley Fellows, and Veronique Bohbot.  2018. “An Intrinsic Association Between Olfactory Identification and Spatial Memory in Humans.”  Nature Communications, vol. 9, article no. 4162, https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-06569-4

Maier and Rahman have gathered more evidence indicating that languages spoken influence how environments are consciously perceived.  The team determined that “Native Greek speakers . . . who [because their native language is Greek] distinguish categorically between light and dark shades of blue, showed boosted perception for this contrast. . . . Electrophysiological signatures of early visual processing predicted this behavioral advantage. . . . Our native language is thus one of the forces that determine what we consciously perceive."

Martin Maier and Rasha Rahman.  “Native Language Promotes Access to Visual Consciousness.”Psychological Science, in press, https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797618782181

The mental wellbeing of people who commute daily through natural environments seems to be higher than the mental wellbeing of people who commute through natural environments less often. Researchers have found via an analysis of survey data from nearly 3,600 people living in Barcelona (Spain), Doetinchem (the Netherlands), Kaunas (Lithuania) , and Stoke-on-Trent (United Kingdom) that “people who commute through natural environments report better mental health.”  Natural environments “were defined as all public and private outdoor spaces that contain ‘green’ and/or ‘blue’ natural elements such as street trees, forests, city parks and natural parks/reserves, and also included all types of waterbodies.” Also, “the quality of the natural environments in which commuting took place did not influence the results.”  This study is published in Environment International.   

“People Who Commute Through Natural Environments Daily Report Better Mental Health.”  2018.  Press release; IS Global, Barcelona Institute for Global Health, https://www.isglobal.org/en/new/-/asset_publisher/JZ9fGljXnWpI/content/l...

A research team lead by Harada has confirmed that smelling lavender is relaxing.  The compound in lavender responsible for this effect is linalool.

Hiroki Harada, Hideki Kashiwadani, Yuichi Kanmura, and Tomoyuki Kuwaki.  “Linalool Odor-Induced Anxiolytic Effects in Mice.”  Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, in press, https://doi.org/10.3389/fnbeh.2018.00241

Kwon and Kim investigated how soundscapes influenced attention to various design elements in coffee shops.  Data collected via eye-tracking and interviews were analyzed as part of their study, which “explored how visual attention to the interior elements of commercial settings was affected by auditory stimuli. . . .  photo images of coffee shops were used as visual stimuli. . . . As auditory stimuli, two songs in different genres were used:  soft pop . . . and dance-pop. . . . The participants gave their visual attention to the overall interior elements while slow and soft music was playing; their visual attention to signs, objects, and retail elements was noticeable while fast and intense background music was playing.”

Jain Kwon and Juyeon Kim. 2018.  “Individuals’ Visual Attention to Interior Elements in the Audio-Visual Context of Liven Experiences.”  In Shared Behavioral Outcomes, The Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture, September 20-22, 2018, Salk Institute,pp. 82-83.

Stelick and colleagues’ research indicates that the environment in which food is consumed influences tastes perceived.  As they report, “Eating is a multimodal experience. When we eat, we perceive not just the taste and aroma of foods, but also their visual, auditory, and tactile properties, as well as sensory input from our surroundings. . . . Virtual environments were formed by processing custom‐recorded 360 degree videos and overlaying audio, text, sensory scales, and images to simulate a typical sensory evaluation ballot within the VR headset. . . . participants were asked to taste 3 identical blue cheese samples in 3 virtual contexts–a sensory booth [designed to limit non-taste sensory input], a park bench, and a cow barn. Respondents rated their liking of the sample, as well as its saltiness, and pungency, attributes either reflective of one context (pungency in the barn), or presumably unrelated (saltiness). Panelists duly rated the sample's flavor as being more pungent when consumed in the barn context.”

Alina Stelick, Alexandra Penano, Alden Riak, and Robin Dando.  2018.  “Dynamic Context Sensory Testing- A Proof of Concept Study Bringing Virtual Reality to the Sensory Booth.” Journal of Food Science, vol. 83, no. 8, pp. 2047-2051, https://doi.org/10.1111/1750-3841.14275

Holmes, a leading inclusive designer, particularly of technology products, has written an important guide to her field, Mismatch: How Inclusion Shapes Design.  As the sell materials for her book note (at https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/mismatch):  “Sometimes designed objects reject their users: a computer mouse that doesn't work for left-handed people, for example, or a touchscreen payment system that only works for people who read English phrases, have 20/20 vision, and use a credit card. Something as simple as color choices can render a product unusable for millions. These mismatches are the building blocks of exclusion. In Mismatch, Kat Holmes describes how design can lead to exclusion, and how design can also remedy exclusion. Inclusive design methods—designing objects with rather than for excluded users—can create elegant solutions that work well and benefit all.” In the first chapter of her book, Holmes states  “The objects and people around us influence our ability to participate.  Not just when playing on a playground, but in all aspects of society.  Our cities, workplaces, technologies, even our interactions with each other are touch points for accessing the world around us. . . . .In this book we’ll take a deep dive into how inclusion can be a source of innovation and growth, especially for digital technologies.  It can be a catalyst for creativity and an economic imperative.  And we’ll contend with a central challenge:  is it even possible to design for all human diversity?”

Kat Holmes. 2018.  Mismatch:  How Inclusion Shapes Design.  MIT Press:  Cambridge, MA.  

Hirst and Schabenland studied the effects of office design on employees’ psychological comfort.  A press release Anglia Ruskin University issued related to their research reports that the duo found that  Employees subconsciously act and dress differently in modern open-plan office environments. . . . [Hirst and Schabenland]over the course of three years analysed the behaviour of around 1,000 employees at a UK local authority that moved from six separate departmental buildings into a . . . building [that] made extensive use of glass and incorporated large, open-plan offices and collective spaces. . . .[Hirst] said: ‘When changing from a more closed, compartmentalised office space to a new open-plan, transparent and fluid working space, office workers were more conscious of their visibility and often found this unsettling rather than liberating. Women in particularly felt anxious about the idea of being constantly watched, and felt they had to dress in a certain way. . . .  [working] in an open space. . . .was seen by some as a chance to dress more smartly and fulfill a new identity.”

In their journal article, Hirst and Schabenland (2018) state that “the new office encourages an image of the ideal worker which brings together ways of acting and interacting that have been characterized as both masculine and feminine — active movement and spontaneous encounters, but also intensive face-to-face interaction and deep relationship-building.”

“New Offices Make Us More Image-Conscious.”  2018. Press release, Anglia Ruskin University, https://www.anglia.ac.uk/news/new-offices-make-us-more-image-conscious

Alison Hirst and Christina Schabenland.  2018. “Doing Gender in the ‘New Office.’” Gender, Work and Organization, vol. 25, no. 2, pp. 159-176, https://doi.org/10.1111/gwao.12200

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