Latest Blog Posts
De Groot, Semin, and Smeets provide additional information about how scents influence how we interact with each other. Since current, generally available, technologies do not support human communication via smells, face-to-face meetings will remain important for the foreseeable future. As de Groot and his team report “Humans use multiple senses to navigate the social world, and the sense of smell is arguably the most underestimated one. An intriguing aspect of the sense of smell is its social communicative function. Research has shown that human odors convey information about a range of states (e.g., emotions, sickness) and traits (e.g., individuality, gender).”
Jasper de Groot, Gun Semin, and Monique Smeets. 2017. “On the Communicative Function of Body Odors: A Theoretical Integration and Review.” Perspectives on Psychological Science, vol. 12, no. 2, pp. 306-324.
At the web address below, the Center for the Built Environment at Berkeley shares a free tool for evaluating thermal comfort.
As the web page introducing the tool states, the CBE’s objectives were, in part, to “Develop a web-based graphical user interface for thermal comfort prediction according to ASHRAE Standard 55. Include models for conventional building systems (predicted mean vote) and also for comfort using the adaptive comfort model, and with increased air speeds (for example, when using fans for cooling).”
The CBE reports on the same website that “The standard convention of attempting to maintain a narrow temperature band can be an energy-intensive practice. Instead, using CBE’s comfort prediction tools with ASHRAE Standard-55 as a guide, designers may find that a wider temperature band will provide adequate comfort and save a significant amount of energy. . . . the tool can be used to assess the comfort of low-energy designs. A building that has provisions for air-movement (such as ceiling fans or desk fans) can use the predicted mean vote (PMV) model with elevated airspeed. In a naturally ventilated building, the adaptive comfort model can be used. This tool . . . verif[ies] compliance with ASHRAE Standard 55-2013.” The thermal comfort of various scenarios can be compared.
The CBE thermal comfort tool is available at: https://www.cbe.berkeley.edu/research/thermal-tool.htm#publications
Chadburn, Smith, and Milan studied the reactions of knowledge-workers in London to various workplace options. They found that this group responded positively to “a flexible range of office settings that enable both a stimulating open and connected work environment, knowledge sharing, collaboration, as well as, quiet concentration locations, free of distractions and noise. . . . hot-desking was unanimously disliked by knowledge workers.”
Ana Chadburn, Judy Smith, and Joshua Milan. 2017. “Productivity Drivers of Knowledge Workers in the Central London Office Environment.” Journal of Corporate Real Estate, vol. 19, no. 2, http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/JCRE-12-2015-0047
Researchers from the Universities of York and Edinburgh studied responses to busy and green urban spaces. They determined that among the people over 65 who participated in their study “Walking between busy urban environments and green spaces triggers changes in levels of excitement, engagement and frustration in the brain. . . . volunteers. . . wore a mobile EEG head-set which recorded their brain activity when walking between busy and green urban spaces. The research team also ran a video of the routes the people walked, asking the participants to describe ‘snapshots’ of how they felt. The volunteers were also interviewed before and after. The volunteers experienced beneficial effects of green space and preferred it, as it was calming and quieter, the study revealed. Dr. Chris Neale, Research Fellow, from the University of York’s Stockholm Environment Institute, said: ‘Urban green space has a role to play in contributing to a supportive city environment for older people through mediating the stress induced by built up settings. We found that older participants experienced beneficial effects of green space whilst walking between busy built urban environments and urban green space environments.’”
“Why Green Spaces are Good for Grey Matter.” 2017. Press release, University of York, https://www.york.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/2017/research/green-spaces-g...
Researchers studied ties between neighborhood noise levels and body mass index. Their study “links the sounds of all-night car horn blasts and shouting by bar revelers in New York City’s noisiest neighborhoods to unexplained improvements in body weight and blood pressure for the urban poor living there. ‘To be clear, we’re not saying that neighborhood noise causes better health, and a lot of further research is needed to explain the relationship we found between this kind of disturbance and health,’ says senior study investigator and NYU Langone epidemiologist Dustin Duncan, ScD. ‘It may just be that New York’s noisiest neighborhoods are also the most walkable and that its residents get more exercise that way.’ . . . Specifically, researchers observed relatively lower body mass index (or BMI, a measure of body weight by height) and blood pressure among . . . men and women in the city’s noisiest neighborhoods. All . . . participants . . . lived in affordable public housing. . . . Researchers gauged noise levels based on . . . noise complaints placed to the city’s 3-1-1 non-emergency phone system in 2014. . . . participants volunteered to carry GPS tracking devices for a week to track in real time where they spent their spare time.” The study reporting these findings is published in the Journal of Community Health.
“Could New York Neighborhood Noise Be Good for Poor Residents?” 2017. Press release, NYU Langone Medical Center, http://nyulangone.org/press-releases/could-new-york-neighborhood-noise-b...
Kylen and her colleagues investigated how living situations influenced the wellbeing of people aged 67-70. They found that “depression was less common among participants who reported . . . bonding to the home, and among those who felt that they had control over their housing situation. . . . external housing-related control beliefs were associated with psychological well-being.” So, generally, housing-related control was linked to greater psychological wellbeing and lower likelihood of depression. Data were collected in southern Sweden.
Maya Kylen, Steven Schmidt, Susanne Iwarsson, Maria Haak, and Henrik Ekstrom. “Perceived Home is Associated with Depressive Mood and Psychological Well-Being - Results from a Cohort Aged 67-70 Years.” Journal of Environmental Psychology, in press.
Research by Wu and his team identified new links between aesthetics and use. They determined that “While prior research suggests enhanced aesthetics should have a uniformly positive influence on pre-usage evaluations and choice, the present research examines the downstream effects of nondurable product aesthetics on consumption behavior and post-consumption affect [mood]. . . . We find that highly aesthetic [beautiful] products elicit greater perceptions of effort in their creation, and that consumers have an intrinsic appreciation for such effort. Because the consumption process indirectly destroys the effort invested to make the product beautiful, people reduce consumption of such products because usage would entail destroying something they naturally appreciate. . . when individuals do consume a beautiful product, they exhibit lower consumption enjoyment and increased negative affect [mood].” These findings relate specifically to nondurable products, but may have implications for other situations, such as those in which durable products have been decorated in appealing ways and use may degrade those decorations, for example.
Freeman Wu, Adriana Samper, Andrea Morales, and Gavan Fitzsimons. "It's Too Pretty to Use! When and How Enhanced Product Aesthetics Discourage Usage and Lower Consumption Enjoyment." Journal of Consumer Research, in press.
Brick, Sherman and Kim studied when people were more or less likely to behave in pro-environmental ways. They determined that “When an environmentalist considers a pro-environmental behavior such as carrying reusable grocery bags, being observed by others . . . may increase behavior (‘green to be seen’). When an anti-environmentalist considers a pro-environmental behavior . . . being observed may lead to less behavior (‘brown to keep down’). . . . antienvironmentalists do behave in ways that help the environment, especially in private. . . . interventions [to encourage pro-environmental behavior] for anti-environmentalists or the general public may be more effective when targeting private behaviors. . . . environmentalists are more likely to engage in public pro-environmental behaviors, and therefore interventions targeted at environmentalists should consider focusing on high visibility behaviors that environmentalists are already motivated to adopt but have room to improve, such as reducing personal air travel.”
Cameron Brick, David Sherman, and Heejung Kim. “’Green to Be Seen’ and ‘Brown to Keep Down’: Visibility Moderates the Effect of Identity on Pro-Environmental Behavior.” Journal of Environmental Psychology, in press.
Zohar-Shai and Tzelgov confirmed that our mental number line (MNL) runs from left to right with smaller values to the left. They share that “Several studies . . . have reported [findings indicating] that. . . the ‘mental number line’ extends from left to right. The . . . effect has been found mainly in native speakers of Germanic/Romanic languages; it has been suggested that the . . . effect may derive from the experience of reading from left to right. . . . we provide the first demonstration of a horizontal, left-to-right . . . effect in native speakers of Hebrew. . . . the left-to-right direction of the MNL might reflect a nativistic foundation of such orientation that is independent of cultural factors. Such an interpretation is supported by the findings that indicate a predisposition to represent numerical magnitudes in a left-to-right direction in newborn human babies. . . . 7-month-old infants prefer an increasing left-to-right display of magnitude (de Hevia et al., 2014).” These findings have implications for the display of objects, for example.
Bar Zohar-Shai and Joseph Tzelgov. 2017. “It Does Exist! A Left-to-Right Spatial-Numerical Association of Response Codes (SNARC) Effect Among Native Hebrew Speakers.” Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, vol. 43, no. 4, pp. 719-728.
Ebbensgaard reports on landscape design that engineers sensory experiences. He states that “Post-industrial wastelands have been given increased attention by landscape architects since the late 1990s. Through their redesign, landscape architects argue that the sensory qualities of wild nature benefit people’s health and well-being and improve the urban ecosystem. . . . such landscape designs mark a shift from designing nature as such to designing the sensation of nature. . . . Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in two recent landscape designs – the ‘High Line’ in New York City and the Copenhagen plaza ‘Under the Crystal’ – I show how the landscapes orchestrate sounds, smells, tactilities and views by accommodating seasonal change, succession and local weather conditions and by staging elements such as plants, water, fauna and sky.”
Casper Ebbensgaard. “’I Like the Sound of Falling Water, It’s Calming’: Engineering Sensory Experiences Through Landscape Architecture.” Cultural Geographies, in press.