design research

Bonding to Spaces (08-13-19)

Reese, Oettler, and Katz set out to learn more about how people bond to places.  As they describe, “Place attachment – the cognitive-emotional bond people have to specific places – is associated with various psychological outcomes and behaviors. While it is well-established that both important social as well as physical features determine how strongly people attach to a place, it is largely unexplored how the loss of such features causally affects place attachment. . .

Public Space Soundscapes (08-12-19)

Bild and colleagues studied responses to soundscapes in public spaces.  They determined via data collected in Amsterdam that “solitary and socially interactive respondents [people in the public spaces investigated] evaluate their soundscapes differently. . . . The sounds of people were considered as the main source of both disruption and stimulation for both groups; while conversations and the sounds of others in general were referred to as stimulating, loud conversations and children crying were disrupting.

Designing for Healthier Food Choices (08-09-19)

A Kao-lead team linked what we’re looking at with what we choose to eat; we make healthier choices when looking at nature images than we do otherwise.  The researchers found that “Visual exposure to natural versus urban scenes leads to healthier dietary choices. . . .  Successful weight loss requires individuals to focus on distant health gains while sacrificing immediate culinary pleasures. Time discounting refers to the tendency to discount larger future gains in favor of smaller immediate rewards.

Seat Selection (08-08-19)

Staats and Groot investigated where solo individuals choose to sit in a crowded café when there are already people sitting in some of the coffee house seats.  The researchers report that  “we manipulated two aspects of intimacy (eye contact and distance to others), and one aspect of privacy (architectural anchoring) in separate scenario’s and registered participants’ seat choice on floor plans of the three hypothetical cafés. We found that more often participants chose a seat that was at a larger distance to other café-goers. Study 2 . . . replicated the design of the first study. . . .

Residential Acoustics (08-07-19)

Zalejska-Jonsson investigated people’s acoustic experiences in their homes.  She found that “experiencing noise from neighbours occurred relatively seldom; however, this factor has the strongest effect on satisfaction with acoustic quality.” Data were collected in multistory residential buildings.

Agnieszka Zalejska-Jonsson. 2019.  “Perceived Acoustic Quality and Effect on Occupants’ Satisfaction in Green and Conventional Residential Buildings.”  Buildings, vol. 9, no. 1,

Risky Walking? (08-06-19)

Pedestrians’ apparent lack of awareness of their surroundings may not raise safety issues. A team lead by Harms reports that “Pedestrians are commonly engaged in other activities while walking. The current study assesses (1) whether pedestrians are sufficiently aware of their surroundings to successfully negotiate obstacles in a city, and (2) whether various common walking practices affect awareness of obstacles and, or, avoidance behavior. To this end, an obstacle, i.e., a signboard was placed on a pavement in the city centre of Utrecht, the Netherlands. . . .

Setting and Mindfulness Training (08-05-19)

Lymeus, Lindberg, and Hartig assessed mindfulness training in different environments.  They found that “The setting matters in meditation. . . .  Many mindfulness-based health interventions emphasize effortful attention training exercises in sparsely furnished indoor settings. However, many beginners with attention regulation problems struggle with the exercises and drop out. In contrast, restoration skills training (ReST) – a five-week course set in a garden environment – builds on mindfulness practices adapted to draw on restorative processes stimulated effortlessly in nature contacts.

Nature’s Cognitive Benefits (08-02-19)

Schertz and Berman reviewed published studies exploring the cognitive repercussions of being exposed to nature.  They determined that exposure to a variety of natural stimuli (vs. urban stimuli) consistently improves working memory performance. . . . Overall, there is compelling evidence to support the advice of Thoreau and Murray to spend time in nature. Exposure to natural environments has been shown to improve performance on working memory, cognitive-flexibility, and attentional-control tasks.

Valuing Human Work (08-01-19)

Why do we value handmade objects, even when “perfect” machine made options are available?  Waytz in The Power of Human:  How Our Shared Humanity Can Help Us Create a Better World answers that question. Waytz reports, for example, that “people consciously or subconsciously judge the value of something based on the perceived effort put into it.  The first studies examining this effect, led by psychologist Justin Kruger . . . demonstrated that people valued poems, paintings, and medieval armor more highly when they believed these artifacts required more human effort to produce. . . .

Walkability Near Parks Key (07-30-19)

Zuniga-Teran lead a team which determined that parks are used more when the routes potential users would take to them are more walkable.  The investigators found that “Walkable neighborhoods may predict a higher frequency of greenspace use.  Walking as a mode to reach greenspace may predict higher frequency of greenspace visitation.  Driving as a mode to reach greenspace may predict lower frequency of use of greenspace. Proximity to greenspace may not predict the frequency of greenspace visitation for residents. . .


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