Latest Blog Posts

Children and adults respond in different ways to their environments. Sloutsky and Plebanek “found that adults were very good at remembering information they were told to focus on, and ignoring the rest.  In contrast, 4- to 5-year-olds tended to pay attention to all the information that was presented to them – even when they were told to focus on one particular item. . . . The fact that children don’t always do as well at focusing attention also shows the importance of designing the right learning environment in classrooms, Sloutsky said. ‘Children can’t handle a lot of distractions. They are always taking in information, even if it is not what you’re trying to teach them. We need to make sure that we are aware of that and design our classrooms, textbooks and educational materials to help students succeed. Perhaps a boring classroom or a simple black and white worksheet means less distraction and more successful learning,’ Sloutsky added.”

“Children Notice Information That Adults Miss.”  2017.  Press release, Association for Psychological Science,

Speaking at the 2017 Science to Practice Conference, organized by the Interdisciplinary Center for Healthy Workplaces at Berkeley, John Swartzberg, MD, discussed the spread of disease in workplaces, among other topics.  He reviewed research indicating that sick individuals can spread diseases, such as the flu, to people within 6 feet when they sneeze.  The reported findings have implications for workplace and healthcare waiting room design, for example.

John Swartzberg.  2017.  “Workplace Health.”  Science to Practice Conference; Interdisciplinary Center for Healthy Workplaces; University of California, Berkeley.  Berkeley, CA; May 4.

Backstrom and Johansson studied consumer responses to being in stores, replicating a study they conducted in 2006.  They investigated “consumers’ in-store experiences and their components, from both a consumer and retailer perspective. . . . we also examine how the role of the physical store has changed over the last decade. . . . consumers’ in-store experiences to a large extent are created by the same aspects today as ten years ago (e.g. personnel, layout, atmosphere). Furthermore, while retailers today emphasize the importance of fulfilling new and more advanced consumer demands, they often still accentuate the weight and use of traditional values (e.g. personnel and layout) ahead of advanced technology.”  Data were collected in Sweden.

Kristina Backstrom and Ulf Johansson. 2017.   “An Exploration of Consumers’ Experiences in Physical Stores:  Comparing Consumers’ and Retailers’ Perspectives in Past and Present Time.”  The International Review of Retail, Distribution and Consumer Research, vol. 27, pp. 241-259.

Job and her colleagues learned more about how people determine how much they think something is worth.  They share that  “Past research finds that people behave as though the particular qualities of specific, strongly valenced individuals ‘rub off’ on objects. People thus value a sweater worn by George Clooney but are disgusted by one worn by Hitler. We hypothesized that social traces of generic humans can also adhere to objects, increasing their value.”  The researchers found that “simply marking that consumer products (mugs, giftwrap) were made by generic strangers (e.g., ‘by people using machines’ vs. ‘by machines run by people’) increased their perceived value. . . .  generic humans are perceived positively, possessing warm social qualities, and these can ‘rub off’ and adhere to everyday objects increasing their value.”

Veronika Job, Jana Nikitin, Sophia Zhang, Priyanka Carr, and Gregory Walton.  2017.  “Social Traces of Generic Humans Increase the Value of Everyday Objects.”  Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, vol.  43, no. 6, pp.  785-792.

Some individuals respond more positively to multi-tenant offices than others.  Hartog and her team report that “Many different multi-tenant offices have arisen over the last decades, as building owners address the changing nature of the workplace – a need for users to share facilities. . . . Data were collected through a questionnaire distributed among users of 17 different multi-tenant offices (business centres, incubators serviced offices and co-working places). . . . users who are more extraverted, open to new experiences and more agreeable were overall more satisfied with the multi-tenant office characteristics. However, the effects of demographics and work-related characteristics were much larger. Men, older users and users working in an open and flexible work environment were overall more satisfied with the office characteristics.”  Previous research supports these findings.  It has shown, for example, that extraverts thrive in sensory rich environments while introverts excel when sensory experiences have been carefully curated.

Lizanne Hartog, Minou Weijis-Perree, and Rianne Appel-Meulenbroek.  “The Influence of Personality on User Satisfaction:  Multi-Tenant Offices.”  Business Research and Information, in press.

Vacharkulksemsuk and colleagues investigated links between posture and likeability.  Data collected via “two field studies . . . suggested that (i) expansive (vs. contractive) body posture increases one’s romantic desirability; (ii) these results are consistent across gender. . . . Expansiveness makes the dating candidate appear more dominant.”  An example of an expansive posture is leaning backwards, in a reclining chair, for instance.

Tanya Vacharkulksemsuk, Emily Reit, Poruz Khambatta, Paul Eastwick, Eli Finkel, and Dana Carney.  2016.  “Dominant, Open Nonverbal Displays Are Attractive at Zero-Acquaintance.”  Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America, vol. 113, no. 15, pp. 4009-4014. 

McCay reports on ways that urban design can support mental health.  As she details “There are four key areas of opportunity for urban planners and designers. . . . . Accessibility to green places in the course of people’s daily routines. . . . activity is one of the most important design opportunities for mental health [so providing opportunities to be active are recommended]. . . . Mental health is closely associated with strong social connections and social capital. . . .  there is extensive potential for designers to innovate, creating features within projects that facilitate positive, safe, natural interactions amongst people and foster a sense of community, integration and belonging. . . . long, unchanging facades that extend across city blocks and cause people’s minds to dwell on negative thoughts. . . . constant low-level threats can keep the body in an unnatural habitual state of preparation, which can affect mood and stress in the long term. . . . . Appropriate design of roads, good street lighting, and distinct landmarks and wayfinding cues are just some of the design features that can increase perceptions of safety in a neighbourhood.”

Layla McCay 2017. “Designing Mental Health into Cities.” The Urban Design Journal,

A press release from the University of Iowa indicates it is important to provide street crossing aids, such as lights that signal pedestrians when it is safe to cross, at locations where children under 14 are likely to need to move from one side of a street to the other.  Researchers determined that “children under certain ages lack the perceptual judgment and motor skills to cross a busy road consistently without putting themselves in danger.”  In a realistic simulated environment “Children up to their early teenage years had difficulty consistently crossing the street safely, with accident rates as high as 8 percent with 6-year-olds.  Only by age 14 did children navigate street crossings without incident.” More details: “6-year-olds were struck by vehicles 8 percent of the time [during the simulation study]; 8-year-olds were struck 6 percent; 10 year-year-olds were struck 5 percent; and 12-year-olds were struck 2 percent.  Those age 14 and older had no accidents.”  In the simulated environment, moving vehicles traveled at 25 miles per hour.

“Why Children Struggle to Cross Busy Streets Safely.”  2017.  Press release, The University of Iowa,

Biedenweg, Scott, and Scott’s research indicates how important it is for everyone to have regular access to nature, whether they live in a city or not.  The team determined after analyzing the responses of thousands of people to survey questions that  “Psychological benefits from time spent in the outdoors, Outdoor recreational activities, Environmentally related social and cultural events, and Sense of place had significant, positive relationships to life satisfaction. . . . Engaging in physical activity is widely recognized as contributing to physical and mental wellbeing, and the added benefit of being outdoors contributes to stress reduction and cognitive restoration . . .  Sense of place is usually defined as assigning meaning and attachment to a physical space and/or social community. . . . environmental governance. . . . was the highest correlate to life satisfaction in our sample, [indicating that] simply ensuring the provision of tangible benefits is not enough for human wellbeing; the process by which decisions are made about managing and distributing services is critically important.”

Kelly Biedenweg, Ryan Scott, and Tyler Scott.  “How Does Engaging with Nature Relate to Life Satisfaction?  Demonstrating the Link Between Environment-Specific Social Experiences and Life Satisfaction.”  Journal of Environmental Psychology, in press.

Pedersen and Johansson investigated how motion activated street lights influence pedestrian behavior.  They found that participants in their study of motion activated lights in a simulated outdoor environment “walked significantly slower under [initially] dimmed than static lighting conditions, even after the illuminance had increased. . . . The effect was seen both before and after the increase to full light. A reasonable explanation is that participants hesitated at the start of the pathway due to the relative darkness, and this also seems to have affected walking time after the light increase. It may also be that the actual moment when the illuminance increased surprised the participants, so that they did not increase their walking speed as much as expected. The different dimmed conditions did not differ in effect.”  Details on the test conditions: “The standardized Digital Addressable Lighting Interface (DALI) protocol was used for the dimming. The luminaire was set to 254 DALI (100% illuminance) or to one of the three dimming alternatives: 235 DALI (approximately 60% of maximum illuminance), 221 DALI (approximately 40% of maximum illuminance) or 195 DALI (approximately 20% of maximum illuminance).”  The starting point of the test walk was always lit to .2 lux, and at the motion-detecting sensor lighting varied from 1.5 lux in the 20% condition to 5.6 lux in the 100% condition.

E. Pedersen and M. Johansson.  “Dynamic Pedestrian Lighting:  Effects on Waling Speed, Legibility and Environmental Perception.” Lighting Research and Technology, in press.


Subscribe to Latest Blog Posts