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Work by Giebelhausen and colleagues indicates that there’s value in building support for charitable activities into retail spaces—for example: convenient spaces to place cash collection boxes near cash registers.  The Giebelhausen lead team reports that “Checkout charity is a phenomenon whereby frontline employees (or self-service technologies) solicit charitable donations from customers during the payment process. . . . The present research examines checkout charity in the context of fast-food restaurants and finds that, when customers donate, they experience a ‘warm glow’ that [was linked to] store repatronage. . . . Managers often infer, quite correctly, that many consumers do not like being asked to donate. Paradoxically, our results suggest this ostensibly negative experience can increase service repatronage.”

Michael Giebelhausen, Benjamin Lawrence, HaeEun Chun, and Liwu Hsu.  “The Warm Glow of Restaurant Checkout Charity.”  Cornell Hospitality Quarterly, in press.

New research confirms that people from different national cultures vary in how they perceive their physical worlds.  The specific findings of the study discussed here are not as important as the determination that cultural variations exist. A research team lead by Yoshiyuki Ueda of Kyoto University reports that “an ability to perceive differences between similar images depends on the cultural background of the viewer. Scientists have long recognized that the mental processes behind thinking and reasoning differ between people raised in Western and Eastern cultures. Those in the West tend to use 'analytical' processing -- analyzing objects independently of context -- while those in the East see situations and objects as a whole, which is known as 'holistic' processing. . . . In looking for the one odd line out of a group, North Americans took more time when the line was shorter, rather than if it was longer. No such differences were seen in Japanese volunteers, who in contrast had a significantly harder time identifying a straight line among tilted ones.”  Jun Saiki of Kyoto University adds that "’Our next step is to find the cause of this discrepancy. One such reason may be the orthographical [writing] systems the subjects see regularly. In East Asian writing, many characters are distinguished by subtle differences in stroke length, while in Western alphabets, slight angular alterations in letters result in remarkable changes in the reading of words.’" The paper detailing these findings is published in Cognitive Science.

“You Don’t See What I See?”  2017.  Press release, Kyoto University,

Speer and Delgado report that thinking about happy memories enhances wellbeing when people are stressed.  Their study “explored whether recalling autobiographical memories that have a positive content—that is, remembering the good times—can dampen the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis stress response.”  Study participants were stressed psychologically by the researchers and the scientists then determined that “recalling positive, but not neutral, memories resulted in a dampened cortisol rise and reduced negative affect [mood] . . . . These findings highlight the restorative and protective function of self-generated positive emotions via memory recall in the face of stress.”  The design of workplaces and other sorts of spaces can make it easier or more difficult for people to display objects, for example, that can bring positive memories to mind, such as photos taken during vacations.

Megan Speer and Mauricio Delgado.  “Reminiscing About Positive Memories Buffers Acute Stress Responses.”  Nature, in press.

Cartoons can be better ways to present information than photographs when certain outcomes are desired, according to research done by Rodriguez and Lin.  The scientists conducted a study that “compare[d] two modes of visually presenting information about wind energy – one using photographs and the other using cartoons – on audience’s knowledge, attitudes and behavioural intentions. . . . Results indicate no significant difference between the two groups in terms of knowledge and attitudes, but those shown the comics version showed stronger intentions to support wind energy than those shown as photos. Those exposed to the comics-aided brochure found it more informative, interesting and cognitively engaging. Those who saw the photo version found the brochure more credible.”

Lulu Rodriguez and Xiao Lin.  2016.  “The Impact of Comics on Knowledge, Attitude and Behavioural Intentions Related to Wind Energy.”  Journal of Visual Literacy, vo. 35, no. 4, pp. 237-252.

Panza and his team investigated links between levels of physical activity and wellbeing.  They learned that “light-intensity physical activity [was] positively associated with [subjective] psychological well-being . . . and negatively associated with depression . . . moderate intensity negatively associated with pain severity . . . and positively associated with psychological well-being; sedentary behavior negatively associated with psychological well-being and positively associated with depression. . . . Higher levels of sedentary behavior are associated with lower subjective well-being.”  Design can increase neighborhood walkability and probable user physical activity/movement within buildings, for example.

Gregory Panza, Beth Taylor, Paul Thompson, C. White, and Linda Pescatello.  “Physical Activity Intensity and Subjective Well-Being in Healthy Adults.”  Journal of Health Psychology, in press.

Awad’s research indicates that the symbols present in urban environments continually evolve and that different groups have varying relationships with them.  As she states, “Our urban environment is filled with symbols in the form of images, text, and structures that embody certain narratives about the past. Once those symbols are introduced into the city space they take a life span of their own in a continuous process of reproduction and reconstruction by different social actors. In the context of the city space of Cairo in the five years following the 2011 Egyptian revolution, I will look on the one side at efforts of activists to preserve the memory of the revolution through graffiti murals and the utilization of public space, and from the other, the authority’s efforts to replace those initiatives with its own official narrative.”

Sarah Awad.  2017.  “Documenting a Contested Memory:  Symbols in the Changing City Space of Cairo.”  Culture and Psychology, vol. 23, no. 2, pp. 234-254.

Kushner’s text challenges readers to thoughtfully consider the role that architecture plays in people’s lives today and how design can support future users.  As Kushner details, “Architecture impacts how you feel every day. . . . We can control this powerful force—we just have to start asking more from our buildings. . . . [the] architectural revolution is already upon us.  The average person is more comfortable having an opinion about architecture today than ever before, mostly due to the dialogue enabled by social media. . . .  Photographs shared on social media liberate buildings from their geographic locations, enabling a new level of public engagement.  We experience architecture today with an unprecedented immediacy, creating fodder for a global conversation about buildings and their impact. . . . In this new world, one in which people are asking more from their buildings, architects are no linger bound by any single style at any single time. “

Marc Kushner.  2015.  The Future of Architecture in 100 Buildings.  TED Books, Simon and Schuster:  New York.

Corsello and Dylan Minor assessed how where people sit in a workplace influences their performance.   Data collected over 2 years from thousands of employees at a large tech company with offices in the US and Europe determined that “neighbors have a significant impact on an employee’s performance.”  The researchers “categorized workers into three types: productive workers, who completed tasks quickly but lacked quality; quality workers, who produced superior work but did so slowly; and generalists, who were average across both dimensions. . . . where groups of workers were clustered together, [the investigators] found that the best seating arrangements had productive and quality employees sitting beside each other, because each helped the other improve. . . . When productive workers were seated next to quality workers (and generalists were grouped together), [researchers] found a 13% gain in productivity (speed of work) and a 17% gain in effectiveness (fewer unresolved tasks) in that group. . . . these effects occurred almost immediately but vanished within two months.” Minor and Housman previously reported similar findings from closely related research.

Jason Corsello and Dylan Minor.  2017.  “Want to Be More Productive?  Sit Next to Someone Who Is.”  Harvard Business Review,

Papalambros and her team have learned that hearing pink noise (described here: while sleeping can enhance sleep quality and memory performance the day after the pink noise is heard among older individuals.  People 60 to 84 years old participated in the Papalambros lead study and the pink noise was coordinated with sleeping brain rhythms.   Zhou, Liu, Li, Ma, Zhang, and Fang (2012) reported, more generally, that “steady pink noise has significant effect on reducing brain wave complexity and inducing more stable sleep time to improve sleep quality of individuals.”

Nelly Papalambros, Giovanni Santostasi, Roneil Malkani, Rosemary Braun, Sandra Weintraub, Ken Paller, and Phyllis Zee.  “Acoustic Enhancement of Sleep Slow Oscillations and Concomitant Memory Improvement in Older Adults.”  Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, in press.

J. Zhou, D. Liu, J Ma, J. Zhang, and J. Fang.  2012.  “Pink Noise: Effect on Complexity Synchronization of Brain Activity and Sleep Consolidation.” Journal of Theoretical Biology, vol. 306, pp. 68-72.

Moss and Earle tested the effects of smelling rosemary on working memory in children.  They found that “Exposure to the aroma of rosemary essential oil can significantly enhance working memory in children. . . . A total of 40 children aged 10 to 11 took part in a class based test on different mental tasks. Children were randomly assigned to a room that had either rosemary oil diffused in it for ten minutes or a room with no scent. . . . Analysis revealed that the children in the aroma room received significantly higher scores than the non-scented room. The test to recall words demonstrated the greatest different in scores. Dr. Moss added: ‘Why and how rosemary has this effect is still up for debate. . . . We do know that poor working memory is related to poor academic performance and these findings offers a possible cost effective and simple intervention to improve academic performance in children.’”

“Rosemary Aroma Can Aid Children’s Working Memory.”  2017.  Press release, The British Psychological Society,’s-working-memory


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