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Research presented at the American Psychological Association’s (APA) annual conference by Patricia Hasbach provides compelling evidence of the benefits of viewing nature videos.  The insights she discusses, drawn from data collected in maximum security prisons, can be applied in settings where people are likely to be highly stressed, have restricted access to nature, etc.  A press release from the APA reports that “Inmates who viewed nature videos showed reduced levels of aggression and were less likely to be disciplined than those in similar cellblocks. . . .   Hasbach and her colleagues. . . . studied a cellblock at the Snake River Correctional Institution in Oregon that housed 48 inmates. Half were provided nature videos to view during their scheduled indoor recreation time (three to four times per week over the course of a year). Content included images of diverse biomes (e.g., ocean, forest, rivers), aquarium scenes, a fireplace with burning logs, Earth viewed from space and cloud fly-throughs. The other half were not offered the chance to view the videos. ‘Inmate surveys and case study interviews with inmates suggested that negative emotions and behaviors such as aggression, distress, irritability and nervousness were reduced following the viewing of videos and lasted for several hours post-viewing,’ said Hasbach. Prison staff also reported through case study interviews and written surveys that viewing the videos appeared to be a positive way to reduce violent behavior. . . . ‘We found that inmates who watched the nature videos committed 26 percent fewer violent infractions,’ said Hasbach. ‘This is equivalent to 13 fewer violent incidents over the year, a substantial reduction in real world conditions, since nearly all such events result in injuries to inmates or officers.’”

“Can Nature Videos Help Improve Prisoner Behavior?”  2016.  Press release, American Psychological Association,

The design of logos can make them look more stable (i.e., like they’d be less likely to rock back and forth if carved out of wood, etc.) or less stable.  Research by Rahinel and Nelson indicates that this apparent stability can be important: “when considering safety-oriented products, consumers exposed to unstable-looking brand logos infer the presence of unsafe conditions, and because safety-oriented products are resistant to inferences that they are unsafe, the inference is instead applied to the environment (i.e., ‘the environment is unsafe’). This process subsequently increases the perceived utility [value] of safety-oriented products. . . .  the present findings suggest that in some cases, a logo design that is opposed to desired product or brand beliefs may ironically help in boosting demand.”

Ryan Rahinel and Noelle Nelson.  “When Brand Logos Describe the Environment:  Design Instability and the Utility of Safety-Oriented Products.”  Journal of Consumer Research, in press.

Want to encourage people to walk more quickly?  Apply Van den Bergh, Heuvinck, Schellekens, and Vermeir’s findings to do just that.  This research team determined via lab and field experiments that “changes in flooring affect customers’ walking speed. The number, the nature and the relative salience of progress markers [how notable they are] along a walking path towards a physical location communicate goal progress and thus, the motivation to reach a particular destination. . . .  customers walk faster when fewer progress markers are placed along the walking path to the goal.”  If the markers seen are unrelated to the walkers’ goal, the effect of marker number is not as strong and having fewer markers can actually reduce speed “when the markers are relatively more salient than the goal.”

Bram Van den Bergh, Nico Heuvinck, Gaby Schellekens, and Iris Vermeir.  “Altering Speed of Locomotion.”  Journal of Consumer Research, in press.

During the research process, videos taken in particular spaces or of the activities of certain user groups are often viewed in slow motion.  Research by Caruso, Burns, and Converse indicates that the choice of playback speeds influences conclusions drawn.  They report that “Four experiments . . . involving real surveillance footage from a murder or broadcast replays of violent contact in professional football demonstrate that viewing an action in slow motion, compared with regular speed, can cause viewers to perceive an action as more intentional. This slow motion intentionality bias occurred, in part, because slow motion video caused participants to feel like the actor had more time to act, even when they knew how much clock time had actually elapsed. Four additional experiments . . .  reveal that allowing viewers to see both regular speed and slow motion replay mitigates [lessens] the bias, but does not eliminate it.”

Eugene Caruso, Zachary Burns, and Benjamin Converse.  “Slow Motion Increases Perceived Intent.”  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, in press.

New research indicates that the sleep-disturbing effects of seeing the blue light emitted by electronic devices at night can be countered by experiencing bright light during the day.  A team lead by Rangtell report that “The use of electronical devices emitting blue light during evening hours has been associated with sleep disturbances in humans, possibly due to the blue light-mediated suppression of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin. . . . Following a constant bright light exposure over 6.5 hours (approximately 569 lux), . . .  participants . . . read a novel either on a tablet or as physical book for 2 hours (21:00-23:00). . . . About one week later, experiments were repeated yet participants who had read the novel on a tablet in the first experimental session continued reading the same novel in the physical book, and vice versa. . . . There were no differences in sleep parameters and pre-sleep saliva melatonin levels between the tablet reading and physical book reading conditions.”

Frida Rangtell, Emelie Ekstrand, Linnea Rapp, Anna Lagermalm, Lisanne Liethof, and 5 others.  “Two Hours of Evening Reading on a Self-Luminous Tablet Vs. Reading a Physical Book Does Not Alter Sleep After Daytime Bright Light Exposure.”  Sleep Medicine, in press.

Organizing grade school playgrounds into different activity areas has been linked to increases in physical activity among students.  Researchers have learned that “zones with specific games can improve physical activity, improving a child’s chance of engaging in the recommended 60 minutes of ‘play per day,’ an effort endorsed by many health organizations. . . . Researchers found that average physical activity increased by 10 percent and children averaged 175 more steps on a zoned playground compared to a traditional playground. . . . Zoning a playground involves dividing the existing recess area into separate ‘zones.’ Each zone has a specific activity associated with it, and traditional recess games such as basketball and kickball are reworked [by school personnel] to maximize physical activity” in the newly designated areas. The study reviewing these results, “In the Zone: An Investigation into Physical Activity during Recess on Traditional Versus Zoned Playgrounds,” will be published in The Physical Educator. 

“Playground Zoning Increases Physical Activity During Recess.”  2016.  Press release, University of Missouri,

How do image content and hue influence our emotional response to what we’re looking at? Kuzinas and colleagues set out to answer this question by showing people photographs of urban and nature scenes, either in their original states or modified to be in grayscale, red, or green:  “natural content [images showing nature] elicited more positive and less arousing emotions compared to the urban one [images showing urban places]. Green images were less arousing compared to red ones, and original images [those appearing in their original colors] elicited the most pleasant emotions. Moreover, green was the only hue for which . . . effects of content were observed—the natural content–green color combination elicited more positive emotions compared to the urban content–green color combination.”  For each individual image, saturation and brightness in the green and red versions were equivalent.  Green versions were created by “green tint applied to grayscale version,” and red ones in the same way, but with red tint.

Arvydas Kuzinas, Nicolas Noiret, Renzo Bianchi, and Eric Laurent. 2016.  “The Effects of Image Hue and Semantic Content on Viewer’s Emotional Self-Reports, Pupil Size, Eye Movements, and Skin Conductance Response.”  Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, vol. 10, no. 3. Pp. 360-371.

Automation is becoming more prevalent in our world, but do we trust it?  How can design be used to foster human’s faith in machines?  De Visser and his team share that “Some researchers propose that people apply the same social norms to computers as they do to humans. . . . In contrast, theories of human–automation interaction postulate that humans respond to machines in unique and specific ways. We believe that anthropomorphism—the degree to which an agent [machine] exhibits human characteristics—is the critical variable that may resolve this apparent contradiction across the formation, violation, and repair stages of trust. Three experiments were designed to examine these opposing viewpoints by varying the appearance and behavior of automated agents. Participants received advice . . . from a computer, avatar, or human agent. Our results showed . . . that anthropomorphic agents [ones having human characteristics] were associated with . . . a higher resistance to breakdowns in trust.”

Ewart de Visser, Samuel Monfort, Ryan McKendrick, Melissa Smith. Patrick McKnight, Frank Krueger, and Raja Parasuraman.  “Almost Human:  Anthropomorphism Increases Trust Resilience in Cognitive Agents.”  Journal of Experimental Psychology, in press.

Fleig and team’s research confirms that perceptions drive action. Data collected in a “highly walkable” neighborhood from older adults (average age 70) were assessed. Information on attitudes and perceptions was gathered via a questionnaire and actual movement was determined via ActiGraph GT3X + accelerometers worn for 7 consecutive days. Analyses indicated that “perceived street connectivity and diversity of land use were negatively related to sedentary behavior. . . .  the perceived built environment is important for physical activity and sedentary behavior . . . these environmental perceptions are positively linked to older adults’ confidence in walking.”

Lena Fleig, Maureen She, Christine Voss, Suzanne Therrien, Joanie Sims-Gould, Heather McKay and Meghan Winters.  “Environmental and Psychosocial Correlates of Objectively Measured Physical Activity Among Older Adults.”  Health Psychology, in press.

Hospitals have been adding hotel-like amenities for some time; new research indicates their value to patients.  Suess-Raeisinafchi and Modv found that “patients are willing to spend 38 percent [out of pocket] more for a hospital room if it has the right kind of hotel-quality upgrades.”  Researchers “surveyed about 400 people online, all of whom had been in a hospital in the past six months. Participants looked at 40 custom-designed renderings of hospital rooms, containing various combinations of hotel amenities.”   Amenities investigated included “interior design, health care service, and food options.”  The amenity with the most impact on room preference was “interior design. Participants preferred hospital rooms that had an updated, modern look, like an accent wall or wood-laminate floor. Second was hospitality-trained staff, and third was the technology available, like a high-quality flat-screen TV. . . . [Suess-Raeisinafchi] notes that this study builds on a body of research showing that hotel-like rooms and hospitality-trained staff in hospitals can actually improve patient outcomes. Design choices like large, sunny windows, views of nature or gardens, or even art of nature scenes have been shown to reduce patient stress and pain, according to a 2008 literature review by Roger Ulrich. . . . and colleagues.” Although overall those surveyed were willing to pay 38% more out of pocket for a room with hotel-like amenities than for a standard room, “there was also a split between what ‘less healthy’ and ‘more healthy’ patients would pay. ‘Less healthy’ survey participants, who had spent more time in the hospital and rated their own physical and mental health lower than a ‘more healthy’ group, were willing to pay 44 percent more for a hotel-like room, compared to only 31 percent more for the ‘more healthy’ group.”  

Caitlin Bird.  2016.  “Checking Into Hotel Hospital.”  Press release, Boston University,


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