Latest Blog Posts
Zuniga-Teran and her team have extensively investigated how neighborhood design influences physical activity and wellbeing. They studied “four types of neighborhood designs: traditional development [these include homes and accessible commercial spaces], suburban development, enclosed [gated] community, and cluster housing development [which generally preserve natural/green spaces and include townhouse-type homes], and assess their level of walkability and their effects on physical activity and wellbeing. . . . traditional development showed . . . the highest value for walkability, as well as for each of the two types of walking (recreation and transportation) representing physical activity [so people living in traditional developments walked the most]. Suburban development showed . . . the highest mean values for mental health and wellbeing. Cluster housing . . . [had the] highest mean value for social interactions with neighbors and for perceived safety from crime. Enclosed community did not obtain the highest means for any wellbeing benefit [even perceived safety]. . . . This study provides empirical evidence of the importance of including vegetation, particularly trees, throughout neighborhoods in order to increase physical activity and wellbeing. Likewise, the results suggest that regular maintenance is an important strategy to improve mental health and overall wellbeing in cities.” People in traditional types of communities, on average, scored lowest for mental wellbeing and highest for perceived crime in their neighborhood.
Adriana Zuniga-Teran, Barron Orr, Randy Gimblett, Nader Chalfoun, David Guertin, and Stuart Marsh. 2017. “Neighborhood Design, Physical Activity, and Wellbeing: Applying the Walkability Model.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 14, no. 1, p. 76.
Designing spaces that will be used frequently by teenagers requires a great deal of careful planning. People designing places that will be used by teenagers should be aware that some teenagers are less likely to learn from past negative experiences about how they should behave in the future than others (McCormick and Telze, 2017). Laurence Steinberg, a professor at Temple University, has long reported that “For teens, a tendency toward dangerous behavior is hard-wired into the brain;” he discusses this topic in a video, here: http://bigthink.com/videos/the-evolution-of-recklessnes
Ethan McCormick and Eva Telze. 2017. “Failure to Retreat: Blunted Sensitivity to Negative Feedback Supports Risky Behavior in Adolescents.” NeuroImage, vol. 147, pp. 381-389.
The way that “hotspots” such as parks or nearby noisy highways influence the evaluation of other spaces, such as homes for sale, has been carefully studied. Blaison, Gollwitzer, and Hess found that “Irrespective of intrinsic [inherent] neighborhood attractiveness, pleasantness ratings went up with increasing distance from negative hotspots [that noisy highway]. . . . negative hotspots are much more harmful to attractive neighborhoods than to unattractive ones. Indeed, the more distant locations of unattractive neighborhoods even ‘benefit’ from a contrast effect that makes these places look nicer in comparison to places that are located closer [to that negative hotspot]. . . . . [Neighborhood attractiveness] . . . influenced the evaluation of the hotspot itself. An urban park was seen as less attractive in a highly salient [noticeable] unattractive neighborhood than in an attractive one.”
Christophe Blaison, Mario Gollwitzer, and Ursula Hess. “Effects of ‘Hotspots’ as a Function of Intrinsic Neighborhood Attractiveness.” Journal of Environmental Psychology, in press.
Bedrosian and Nelson studied how being exposed to light at night influences wellbeing and mood. They share that “Many systems are under circadian control, including sleep–wake behavior, hormone secretion, cellular function and gene expression. Circadian disruption by nighttime light perturbs those processes and is associated with increasing incidence of certain cancers, metabolic dysfunction and mood disorders. . . . Converging evidence suggests that circadian disruption alters the function of brain regions involved in emotion and mood regulation.” Light at night seems to negatively affect mood throughout the day. Ways to reduce circadian system disruption by artificial nighttime light mentioned by Bedrosian and Nelson include “‘Smart’ homes and ‘smart’ lighting fixtures [that] use precise LEDs to adjust the wavelength of light depending on the time of day. . . . New street light designs are being introduced to focus the light toward the street and avoid upward light leakage. And heavy black out curtains impermeable to light are being adopted for bedroom use.”
T. Bedrosian and R. Nelson. 2017. “Timing of Light Exposure Affects Mood and Brain Circuits.” Translational Psychiatry, vol. 7, http://www.nature.com/tp/journal/v7/n1/full/tp2016262a.html
Krause and North researched how music-playlist preferences vary by time of year. They report that “The literature concerning seasonal correlates of mood and behavior suggests that colder weather is associated with low activity and a reflective cognitive style, whereas warmer weather is associated with higher activity levels. Analyses of the season-based music-playlist preferences of 402 participants . . . demonstrate listener preferences for Arousing music for the warmer months, Serene music for spring, and Melancholy music for the cooler months.” These findings can inform the design of seasonally used places/objects/services, generally.
Amanda Krause and Adrian North. “Tis the Season: Music-Playlist Preferences for the Seasons. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, in press.
Faraji-Rad and Pham wondered how uncertainty affects how people think. They found that thinking about uncertainty/feeling uncertain increases “reliance on affective [emotional] inputs in judgments and decisions. . . . uncertainty [was] shown to amplify the effects of the pleasantness of a musical soundtrack, the attractiveness of a picture, the appeal of affective attributes, incidental mood states” on judgments/decisions made – for example, the effect of the picture on a television screen on evaluations of that television was influenced by whether the people assessing it were feeling uncertain or not. As the researchers state, thinking about uncertainty/feeling uncertain “increases the effect of momentary feelings on consumers’ decisions and product evaluations. . . . the priming of uncertainty (vs. certainty) increases the relative preference for options that are affectively superior over options that are functionally superior.” The researchers report that “states of uncertainty—that need not be related to the decisions that people face—influence the way people make decisions.”
Ali Faraji-Rad and Michel Pham. “Uncertainty Increases the Reliance on Affect in Decisions.” Journal of Consumer Research, in press.
Think that the ways that cultures discuss colors don’t change or that all cultures speak about the color spectrum in the same way? Think again. An article in the Journal of Vision, reports that an analysis of color terms used by modern Japanese speakers determined that they utilized “the 11 basic color categories common to most modern industrialized cultures (red, green, blue, yellow, purple, pink, brown, orange, white, gray and black). . . . [as well as] mizu ("water")/light blue, hada ("skin tone")/peach, matcha ("ceremonial green tea")/yellow-green, oudo ("mud")/mustard, enji/maroon, yamabuki ("goldflower")/gold and cream. . . . Thirty years ago, a study of Japanese color categories . . . did not reveal mizu as a basic color category. . . . [and found] that kusa ("grass") was a very popular term for yellow-green . . . kusa has been largely replaced with matcha . . . . there is one tradition that has not changed over the past millennium: the mixed use of green and blue.” A study of poems written prior to the 10th century indicates that historically “ao ("blue") was used to name both things that were clearly blue and also things that were clearly green; the same was true of midori ("green"). Even today, modern Japanese people refer to the color of the green traffic light, lush green leaves and green vegetables, as ao ("blue"). . . . in addition to distinct color terms for blue and green, modern Japanese has recently added a new intermediate color term "mizu" for lighter bluish and greenish samples.”
“The Evolution of Japanese Color Vocabulary Over the Past 30 Years.” 2017. Press release, Tohoku University, http://www.tohoku.ac.jp/en/press/evolution_of_japanese_color_vocabulary.html
Sheldon and Donahue’s work confirms that the type of music listened to influences memories recalled. The researchers found that “if you listen to happy or peaceful music, you recall positive memories, whereas if you listen to emotionally scary or sad music, you recall largely negative memories from your past.” The Sheldon/Donahue study is published in Memory and Cognition. More details on the study conducted: “participants had 30 seconds to listen to 32 newly composed piano pieces not known to them. The pieces were grouped into four retrieval cues of music: happy (positive, high arousal), peaceful (positive, low arousal), scary (negative, high arousal) and sad (negative, low arousal). Participants had to recall events in which they were personally involved that were specific in place and time, and that lasted less than a day.”
“Happy Notes, Happy Memories.” 2017. Press release, Springer Press, http://www.springer.com/gp/about-springer/media/research-news/happy-note...
Seeing images of nature in the labor/delivery room improves the experience of giving birth. Aburas and her team report that “Incorporating design elements and strategies that calm and reduce negative emotions may create positive experiences for women in labor.” When images of nature were present during the labor and delivery period, scores were higher on “the Quality of Care From the Patient’s Perspective (QPP) subscale. In addition, there was an increase in the QPP scores associated with the increase in Nature TV watching time, QPP mean of watching time (less than 1 hour) group . . . and QPP mean of watching time (more than 3 hours). . . . The mean score for the heart rate was lower in the experimental condition . . . than in the control one [no nature images] . . . . These findings support the study hypothesis which states that the nature images would influence the labor experience positively.”
Rehab Aburas, Debajyoti Pati, Robert Casanova, and Nicole Adams. 2016. “The Influence of Nature Stimulus in Enhancing the Birth Experiences.” HERD: Health Environments Research and Design Journal, vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 2016, pp. 81-100.
DuBose and her research team explored how spatial design can influence healing. They share that “there is a growing recognition that our healthcare system could do more by promoting overall wellness, and this requires expanding the focus to healing. . . . this review of the literature presents the existing evidence to identify how healthcare spaces can foster healing. The environmental variables found to directly affect or facilitate one or more dimension of healing were organized into six groups of variables—homelike environment, access to views and nature, light, noise control, barrier-free environment, and room layout. . . . Healing spaces. . . . support healing intention and foster healing relationships.”
Jennifer DuBose, Lorissa MacAllister, Khatereh Hadi, and Bonnie Sakallaris. “Exploring the Concept of Healing Spaces.” HERD: Health Environments Research and Design Journal, in press.