Papalambros and her team have learned that hearing pink noise (described here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pink_noise) 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, http://beta.bps.org.uk/news-and-policy/rosemary-aroma-can-aid-children’s-working-memory
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, https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/releases/children-pay-attentio....
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.
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.
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, http://www.udg.org.uk/publications/urban-design-journal-issue/urban-design-142.
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, http://itsnt774.iowa.uiowa.edu/distrib/Lewis%20stuff/Child%20road%20cros...
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.
Using the stairs instead of an elevator helps us keep trim and saves energy—and stairway design and placement, for instance, can boost the likelihood we’ll take the stairs. New research supplies another reason to encourage stair use via design – we feel energized after walking up and down stairs. Investigators have found that “10 minutes of walking up and down stairs at a regular pace was more likely to make participants feel energized than ingesting 50 milligrams of caffeine-about the equivalent to the amount in a can of soda. . . . [Patrick J. O'Connor, a professor in the department of kinesiology and former graduate student Derek Randolph, who co-authored this study] wanted to compare an exercise that could be achieved by people in an office setting, where they have access to stairs and a little time to be active, but not enough time to change into workout gear, shower and change back into work clothes. ‘Office workers can go outside and walk, but weather can be less than ideal. It has never rained on me while walking the stairs,’ said O'Connor. . . . Study participants were . . . college students who described themselves as chronically sleep deprived-getting less than 6½ hours per night. . . . Neither caffeine nor exercise caused large improvements in attention or memory, but stair walking was associated with a small increase in motivation for work. . . . even a brief bout of stair walking can enhance feelings of energy without reducing cognitive function.” Study results are published in Physiology and Behavior.
“Skip the Caffeine, Opt for the Stairs to Feel More Energized.” 2017. Press release, University of Georgia, http://news.uga.edu/releases/article/stairs-more-energy-research/.
Hoendervanger and his colleagues studied activity-based work (ABW) environments because “Despite their growing popularity among organisations, satisfaction with activity-based work (ABW) environments is found to be below expectations. Research also suggests that workers typically do not switch frequently, or not at all, between different activity settings.” Via questionnaires filled out by thousands of people working in ABW environments the team learned that “Satisfaction ratings of the 4 per cent of the respondents who switched several times a day appeared to be significantly above average. Switching frequency was found to be positively related to heterogeneity of the activity profile [diversity of activities], share of communication work and external mobility [so, for example, more diversity of activities was linked to more switching]. . . . Our findings suggest that satisfaction with ABW environments might be enhanced by stimulating workers to switch more frequently. However, as strong objections against switching were observed and switching frequently does not seem to be compatible with all work patterns, this will presumably not work for everyone. Many workers are likely to be more satisfied if provided with an assigned (multifunctional) workstation.”
Jan Hoendervanger, Iris De Been, Nico Van Yperen, Mark Mobach, and Casper Albers. 2016. “Flexibility In Use: Switching Behaviour and Satisfaction in Activity-Based Work Environments.” Journal of Corporate Real Estate, vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 48-62.
A study published in Applied Geography links well-kept vacant lots and lower crime levels. Researchers found that “Maintaining the yards of vacant properties helps reduce crime rates in urban neighborhoods.” Data were collected over 9 years in Flint, Michigan: “’We’ve always had a sense that maintaining these properties helps reduce crime and the perception of crime,’ said Christina Kelly, the land bank’s [Genesee County Land Bank Authority] planning and neighborhood revitalization director. ‘So we weren’t surprised to see the research back it up.’” Findings were also not unexpected because “Earlier studies have shown that greening and gardening programs in general are linked to less stress, depression and hopelessness for residents, as well as lower crime rates, including assaults, burglaries and robberies.” The researchers believe that the relationship between lot condition and crime may be due to the fact that maintaining the lots “alert[s] potential criminals that residents are keeping an eye on things.”
“Well-Kept Vacant Lots Can Help Reduce Crime.” 2017. Press release, Michigan State University, http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2017/well-kept-vacant-lots-can-help-reduce-crime/
Millennial leaders’ responses to workplaces were investigated via a recent study. A podcast sponsored by Wharton featured Ron Williams and Rebecca Ray; Williams and Ray, who are both executives with The Conference Board, discussed research that group did with Millennial leaders. The introduction to the transcript of part of that podcast reports that investigators determined that these Millennials “are more like the older generation than originally thought, and the current differences are mainly due to the life stage that they are in.” Ray states that “Millennial leaders don’t necessarily like the open workspace that has become a fad the last few years.” She continues: “CEOs, generally speaking, thought that was a more important element of workforce design than did millennials. And in fact, millennials and non-millennial leaders — regardless of generation — were less enamored of the open floor plan. They were also less enamored of flatter organizational structures. I think what they all wanted — and both millennial leaders and non-millennial leaders ranked these things higher than did CEOs — were flexible policies for vacation and work schedules, and then more flexible options for working remotely and collaborating virtually.” Williams adds that open offices “came out of the technology sector, particularly on the West Coast. It tended to have more informal and collegial environments. The big difference is those are software development companies where getting the user of the software and the developer in the same space, iterating back and forth in an agile development way, really contributes lots of value. That’s really different from other types of industries, where people sometimes need to put their heads down and actually concentrate on what they are doing.”
“How Millennials Will Lead the C-Suite.” 2017. Podcast/Transcript, http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/why-millennial-leaders-are-more-like-baby-boomers-than-imagined/?utm_source=kw_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=2017-04-13
Won, Lee, and Li studied links between walkability and foreclosure spillover effects (such as property prices declining near foreclosures). They determined that “property values in walkable neighborhoods were less subject to foreclosure spillover, but this was only significant for middle/high-income neighborhoods. Walkable neighborhoods were shown to offer more advantages in maintaining neighborhood stability during the recovery of 2013 than in the market crash of 2010. This study supports development strategies and policies that include walkability to achieve neighborhood stability and livability.”
Jaewoong Won, Chanam Lee and Wei Li. “Are Walkable Neighborhoods More Resilient to the Foreclosure Spillover Effects?” Journal of Planning Education and Research, in press.
A team lead by Heo has found more evidence that seeing blue light, particularly at night, is energizing. The researchers “investigated the immediate effects of smartphone blue light LED on humans at night. . . . Each subject played smartphone games with either conventional LED or suppressed blue light from 7:30 to 10:00PM (150 min). Then, they were readmitted and conducted the same procedure with the other type of smartphone. . . . use of blue light smartphones was associated with significantly decreased sleepiness . . . and confusion-bewilderment . . . and increased commission error.”
J. Heo, K. Kim, M. Fava, D. Mischoulon, G. Papakostas, M. Kim, D. Kim, K. Chang, Y. Oh, B. Yu, and H. Jeon. 2017. “Effects of Smartphone Use With and Without Blue Light at Night in Healthy Adults: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Cross-Over, Placebo-Controlled Comparison.” Journal of Psychiatric Research, vol. 87, pp. 61-70.
DiGiacomo lead a study that assessed how the location of recycling and composting bins influences their use. Details: “[the researchers] placed bins in three different locations: a garbage disposal area (the least convenient option), at the base of an elevator in a building (a more convenient option), and by elevator doors on each floor (the most convenient option). The experiments were carried out at three multi-family apartment buildings in Vancouver’s west side neighbourhood and in two student residence buildings at UBC. . . . when compost bins were placed on each floor in the apartment buildings, instead of on the ground floor, composting rates increased by 70 per cent, diverting 27 kilograms of compost from the landfill per unit per year. When recycling stations were placed just 1.5 meters from suites in student residences, instead of in the basement, recycling and composting increased by an average of 141 per cent, diverting an average of nearly 20 kilograms of waste from the landfill per person per year.” Data were collected over 10 weeks. This study has been published in the Journal of Environmental Planning and Management.
“Making Bins More Convenient Boosts Recycling and Composting Rates.” 2017. Press release, The University of British Columbia, http://news.ubc.ca/2017/04/20/making-bins-more-convenient-boosts-recycli...
Romero and Biswas learned that to encourage consumption, healthier options should be placed to the left of unhealthier ones. Their work determined that “displaying healthy items to the left (vs. right) of unhealthy items enhances preference for the healthy options. In addition, consumption volume of a healthy item (vis-à-vis an unhealthy item) is higher when it is placed to the left (vs. right) of the unhealthy item. We propose that a ‘healthy-left, unhealthy-right’ (vs. healthy-right, unhealthy- left) lateral display pattern is congruent with consumers’ mental organization of food items varying in healthfulness, which enhances ease of processing and in turn enhances self-control, thereby leading to a relatively higher likelihood of choosing healthy options. . . . The findings of our research have important implications for designing retail food displays and restaurant menus.”
Marisabel Romero and Dipayan Biswas. 2016. “Healthy-Left Unhealthy-Right: Can Displaying Healthy Items to the Left (Versus Right) of Unhealthy Items Nudge Healthier Choices?” Journal of Consumer Research, vol. 43, no. 1, pp. 103-112.
Like the blog posts you’re reading? Get access to Research Design Connections’ in depth research-based reviews of important design-related topics—and library of over 2,400 past articles on everything from aesthetics to zoo design—by subscribing ($99/yr.) to our monthly magazine at https://researchdesignconnections.com/product/rdc-subscription