Latest Blog Posts
Research by Sayette and team confirms the value of adding pleasant scents to spaces and objects. The investigators “investigated the strategic use of OCs [olfactory cues] to reduce cigarette craving. . . . smokers . . . initially sampled and rated a series of OCs. Participants then were exposed to . . . smoking cues, which produced robust cigarette cravings. During peak craving, they were randomly assigned to sniff one of three types of OCs (all of which they had previously sampled) while their craving, and a set of responses thought to be associated with craving, were assessed. OCs that a participant had rated as pleasant reduced craving more than did exposure to odor blank (i.e., neutral) or tobacco-related OCs. This effect persisted over the course of 5 min.” Previous research has linked smelling pleasant scents to being in a more positive mood and lower stress levels.
Michael Sayette, Mary Marchetti, Rachel Herz, Lea Martin, and Molly Bowdring. “Pleasant Olfactory Cues Can Reduce Cigarette Craving.” Journal of Abnormal Psychology, in press, http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/abn0000431
Smith’s book sheds light on the ways that cities have, can, and will support human beings as they pursue fundamental goals and motivations. The functionalities and design patterns that archeologist Smith identifies in ancient cities are still relevant today and urban planners and interested others can gain useful insights into urban design best practices by reading Cities: The First 6,000 Years.
Monica Smith. 2019. Cities: The First 6,000 Years.Viking: New York.
Basu and Savani reviewed research on ways to present options to individuals; specifically, whether it’s best to detail choices simultaneously (for example, all on a single webpage) or one at a time (for instance, on webpages presented in sequentially). The duo found that “When choosing among multiple options, people can view the options either one at a time or all together. . . .we review an emerging stream of research that examines the ways in which viewing options sequentially as opposed to simultaneously influences people’s decisions. Multiple studies support the idea that viewing options simultaneously encourages people to compare the options and to focus on the ways in which the options differ from each other. In contrast, viewing options sequentially encourages people to process each option holistically by comparing the option with previously encountered options or a subjective reference point.” So, we are likely to make better choices when options are presented simultaneously.
Shankha Basu and Krishna Savani. 2019. “Choosing Among Options Presented Sequentially or Simultaneously.” Current Directions in Psychological Science, vol. 28, no. 1, pp. 97-101, https://doi.org/10.1177/0963721418806646
Levitan, Winfield, and Sherman evaluated responses to representational visual art and found, not surprisingly, that people prefer paintings whose subject matter they like. The Levitan team reports that “Prior research has demonstrated that color preferences are driven by preferences for objects associated with those colors (e.g., that the sky is blue or that feces are brown influences preferences for blue and brown; Palmer & Schloss, 2010). . . . Our work demonstrates that, despite the seeming subjectivity of art preferences, subject matter significantly influences the formation of preferences. . . . art preferences can be, at least partially, predicted by one’s preferences for the objects depicted in the art.”
Carmel Levitan, Emily Winfield, and Aleksandra Sherman. “Grumpy Toddlers and Dead Pheasants: Visual Art Preferences Are Predicted by Preferences for the Depicted Objects.” Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, in press, http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/aca0000240
A research team lead by Legendre found that we process significant amounts of sensory information while asleep, which has implications for the design of a range of spaces, from homes to healthcare facilities. The investigators report that “the sleeping brain continues generating neural responses to external events, revealing the preservation of cognitive processes ranging from the recognition of familiar stimuli to the formation of new memory representations.Why would sleepers continue processing external events and yet remain unresponsive? Here we hypothesized that sleepers enter a ‘standby mode’ in which they continue tracking relevant signals, finely balancing the need to stay inward for memory consolidation with the ability to rapidly awake when necessary. . . . we demonstrate that the sleeping brain amplifies meaningful speech compared to irrelevant signals. However, the amplification of relevant stimuli was transient and vanished during deep sleep. . . . the selection of relevant stimuli continues to operate during sleep but is strongly modulated by specific brain rhythms.”
Guillaume Legendre, Thomas Andrillon, Matthieu Koroma, and Sid Kouider. 2019. “Sleepers Track Informative Speech In a Multitalker Environment.” Nature Human Behavior, vol. 3, pp. 274-283, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-018-0502-5
Graziose and colleagues investigated how sound levels influence food consumed and their findings have implications, generally, for situations when designers want to encourage certain behaviors, particularly by children. The researchers report that “A digital photography method was used to assess FV [fruit and vegetable] consumption among [second and third grade] students across 40 days from 20 schools and environmental exposures, including the noise or sound pressure level of the cafeteria, were assessed during lunch. . . . . Combined FV [fruit and vegetable] consumption was negatively associated with noise exposure. . . Among young children eating in cafeterias, increased noise levels may decrease consumption of fruits and vegetables at the school lunch meal. We hypothesize that increased noise can work in two ways to decrease FV consumption: increased socializing (i.e., talking) and/or decreased hedonic [pleasure-related] enjoyment of the school lunch meal.”
Matthew Graziose, Pamela Koch, Randi Wolf, Heewon Gray, Raynika Trent, and Isobel Contento. 2019. “Cafeteria Noise Exposure and Fruit and Vegetable Consumption at School Lunch: A Cross-Sectional Study of Elementary Students.” Appetite, vol. 136, pp. 130-136, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2019.01.026
Hsieh and colleagues have found that the color of websites influences shopper opinions. The researchers determined that “online consumers' reactions to online merchandise prices vary according to website background colors. Participants who view blue or low-brightness backgrounds have high patronage intentions regardless of whether prices are high or low. Participants who view red or high-brightness backgrounds are sensitive to merchandise prices and react significantly negatively to high prices. . . . Blue backgrounds make consumers use high price as a sign of high quality rather than monetary sacrifice, but red or high-brightness backgrounds make consumers use high price as a sign of high monetary sacrifice rather than product quality.”
Yi-Ching Hsieh, Hung-Chang Chiu, Yun-Chia Tang, and Monle Lee. 2018. “Do Colors Change Realities in Online Shopping?” Journal of Interactive Marketing, vol. 41, pp. 14-27, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.intmar.2017.08.001
Research indicates that as lighting levels decrease, people drive more quickly. De Bellis and colleagues “examine[d] real-world speeding behavior and its interaction with illuminance, an environmental property defined as the luminous flux incident on a surface. Drawing on an analysis of 1.2 million vehicle movements, we show that reduced illuminance levels are associated with increased speeding. This relationship persists when we control for factors known to influence speeding (e.g., fluctuations in traffic volume) and consider proxies of illuminance (e.g., sight distance).”
Emanuel de Bellis, Michael Schulte-Mecklenbeck, Wernher Brucks, Andreas Hermann, and Ralph Hertwig. 2018. “Blind Haste: As Light Decreases, Speeding Increases.” PLoS ONE, vol. 13, no. 1, article e0188951, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0188951
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 https://www.monash.edu/news/articles/more-than-a-stripe-of-paint-needed-...) 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, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aap/2019.03.007
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, https://doi.org/10.10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00722