Latest Blog Posts
Brookfield probed how resident preferences align with neighborhood design elements that have been tied to walkability. She found, after conducting focus groups with eleven residents’ groups with diverse sets of participants, that “Residents’ groups favoured providing a selection of services and facilities addressing a local need, such as a corner shop, within a walkable distance, but not the immediate vicinity, of housing. . . . Participants wanted their homes to be ‘insulated’ from the perceived disturbance ‒ noise, traffic, parking, anti-social behaviour ‒ of non-residential uses by a ‘buffer’ of residential properties. . . overall the majority preference was for one that would take 10 to 15 minutes to cross on foot. . . . Uses such as offices, hotels, supermarkets, nightclubs, industry, warehousing and waste management were opposed in residential areas partly because they were assumed to introduce unwelcome noise. . . . traffic, pollution, parking problems and anti-social behaviour. . . . . a strong preference for green, leafy residential environments was identified. . . . . Providing housing at high densities ‒ specifically flats and small, tightly packed houses providing no private outdoor space ‒ was uniformly seen as unappealing and problematic.”
Katherine Brookfield. 2017. “Residents’ Preference for Walkable Neighbourhoods.” Journal of Urban Design, vol. 22, no. 1, pp. 44-58.
Barnes and Wineman investigated employees’ bonds to their workplaces. At the 2017 SPSP conference they reported that data were collected in the course of a workplace redesign project: “In a longitudinal study our team examined worker satisfaction, wellbeing, work effectiveness and engagement within workplace environments on a large university campus. Findings suggest that perception of loss is a predictor of [lower] worker satisfaction and that designing for functional fit does not solve the impact of perceived loss.”
Janice Barnes and Jean Wineman. 2017. “Perception of Loss and Workplace Satisfaction.” Society of Personality and Social Psychology Annual Conference, January 21, San Antonio, TX, Program, p. 151.
Ellard and his team reported on their work at the 2016 Psychology of Architecture conference. They shared that they “have developed a toolkit using specially programmed mobile phones and sensor technology that permits rapid assessment of psychological and physiological responses to place. Participants in our experiments are led on curated walks while prompted to answer self-assessment questions, complete cognitive tests, and are monitored for physiological arousal and some simple indices of brain activity. Findings from experiments conducted in five different cities have shown a strong dependence of mental state on façade design and landscape architecture. Participants not only preferred higher complexity façades, but such designs also showed higher affective states and physiological arousal. Measures of eye movements also suggested that higher complexity locations elicited increased cognitive processing. Locations rich in greenspace showed both high affect and low arousal, but impeded performance on a test of sustained attention.”
Colin Ellard, Vedran Dzebic, Hanna Negami, Emily Grant, Robin Mazumdar, and Adam Francey. 2016. “Field Investigations of the Relationship Between Place and Psychological State Using Mobile Sensor Technology.” Psychology of Architecture Conference, December 5, Austin, TX, Program, p. 33.
A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience indicates that we may be quicker to focus our thoughts in some locations than others. A press release from Duke reports that “We are constantly being bombarded with attention-grabbing distractions, from the flashy shop fronts and advertisements that flank the side of the road to the tempting buzz of the phone during a meeting with the boss. For a long time, brain scientists believed that maintaining focus in these situations required a cascade of mental events: momentary distraction, followed by the realization that our attention has been diverted and a conscious effort to bring it back on the task at hand. But recent research shows that our brains actually have a clever mechanism for outwitting these distractions. With repeated practice, environmental cues -- such as a particularly busy intersection, or your boss’s office -- can trigger the brain to jump directly into a more focused state, bypassing distraction and saving precious time.”
“Triggering the Brain’s ‘Auto-Focus.” 2017. Press release, Duke University (written by Kara Manke), https://today.duke.edu/CaudateNucleus
People designing spaces, objects, and services don’t frequently consider how something tastes, literally, but thinking about flavors can result in useful insights for their work. As stated on Bloomsbury’s webpage for The Taste Culture Reader, “Taste is recognized as one of the most evocative senses. The flavors of food play an important role in identity, memory, emotion, desire, and aversion, as well as social, religious and other occasions.”
Carolyn Korsmeyer (ed.). 2016. The Taste Culture Reader: Experiencing Food and Drink. Bloomsbury: New York.
Green spaces and bodies of water influence city development. Roebeling and team found that “Urban green/blue spaces are put under pressure as urban areas grow, develop and evolve. It is increasingly recognized, however, that green/blue spaces provide important ecosystem services, stimulate higher real estate prices and prevent flooding problems. . . . Results show four major tendencies regarding the value-added of green/blue spaces in urban landscapes: (1) cities become more compact; (2) population densities increase; (3) real estate values rise; and (4) demographic distribution patterns change. The magnitude of these impacts depends, however, on the quality and size of the intervention [i.e. green/blue space], the social classes attracted to the intervention area and on the location of the intervention relative to existing residential areas, urban centres, road infrastructure and environmental amenities.”
Peter Roebeling, Miguel Saraiva, Anna Palla, Ilaria Gnecco, Carla Teotonio, Teresa Fidelis, Filomena Martins, Henrique Alves, and Joao Rocha. 2017. “Assessing the Socio-Economic Impacts of Green/Blue Space, Urban Residential and Road Infrastructure Projects in the Confluence (Lyon): A Hedonic Pricing Simulation Approach.” Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, vol. 60, no. 3, pp. 482-489.
Brooks and team’s study indicates how important it is to design spaces so that they support rituals. The researchers found that “From public speaking to first dates, people frequently experience performance anxiety. And when experienced immediately before or during performance, anxiety harms performance. Across a series of experiments, we explore the efficacy of a common strategy that people employ to cope with performance-induced anxiety: rituals. We define a ritual as a predefined sequence of symbolic actions often characterized by formality and repetition that lack direct instrumental purpose. Using different instantiations of rituals and measures of anxiety (both physiological and self-report), we find that enacting rituals improves performance in public and private performance domains by decreasing anxiety.”
Alison Brooks, Julianna Schroeder, Jane Risen, Francesca Gino, Adam Galinsky, Michael Norton, and Maurice Schweitzer. 2016. “Don’t Stop Believing: Rituals Improve Performance by Decreasing Anxiety.” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, vol. 137, pp. 71-85.
Lathia and colleagues have identified ties between physical activity and happiness. As they report, “Although exercise has also been linked to psychological health (e.g., happiness), little research has examined physical activity more broadly, taking into account non-exercise activity as well as exercise. We examined the relationship between physical activity (measured broadly) and happiness using a smartphone application. . . . . The findings reveal that individuals who are more physically active are happier. Further, individuals are happier in the moments when they are more physically active. These results emerged when assessing activity subjectively, via self-report, or objectively, via participants' smartphone accelerometers. Overall, this research suggests that not only exercise but also non-exercise physical activity is related to happiness.” Data were collected from “over ten thousand participants.” Information on physical activity was gathered using accelerometers on participants’ phones.
Neal Lathia, Gillian Sandstrom, Cecilia Mascolo, and Peter Rentfrow. 2017. “Happier People Live More Active Lives: Using Smartphones to Link Happiness and Physical Activity.” PLoS ONE, vol. 12, no. 1, e0160589.
Franco and his team have learned that children and adults categorize the emotional effects of music in the same ways. This finding is important because children do not necessarily respond to sensory stimuli as adults do. The researchers found that “novel child-directed music was presented in three conditions: instrumental, vocal-only, and song (instrumental plus vocals) to 3- to 6-year-olds previously screened for language development. . . . children chose a face expressing the emotion matching each musical track. All performance conditions comprised ‘happy’ (major mode/fast tempo) and ‘sad’ (minor mode/ slow tempo) tracks. Nonsense syllables rather than words were used in the vocals in order to avoid the influence of lyrics on children’s decisions. The results showed that even the younger children were able to correctly identify the intended emotion in music . . . and recognition appeared facilitated in the instrumental condition. . . . . preschoolers can reliably recognise ‘happy’ and ‘sad’ emotion in music from the age of 4 years, and that even 3-year-olds succeed with ‘happy’ tracks.”
Fabia Franco, Marcia Chew, and Joel Swaine. 2017. “Preschoolers Attribution of Affect to Music: A Comparison Between Vocal and Instrumental Performance.” Psychology of Music, vol. 45, no. 1, pp. 131-149.
Looking at pictures that stir strong emotions influences how human brains work. So, pictures that pack an emotional wallop, whether it’s positive or negative, need to be used with caution. Quoting Sutherland and his team: “Emotionally arousing stimuli are attention grabbing and highly memorable, and they also have influences on attention and memory that continue after the removal of the emotional stimulus. This is thought to occur due to changes in cognition that allow one to more easily adapt to harmful or threatening circumstances, or to engage in reward-seeking activity. . . . Here we corroborate that finding and report evidence that positive and negative arousing images impair top-down attention. Yet these effects were limited to animal stimuli and not observed with object stimuli [this means that the effects on thinking were found when people were asked to look at pictures of animals after they had looked at those emotion-generating images]. . . . Emotions change how one sees the world, and here we demonstrate that brief exposure to an emotionally arousing stimulus changes how bottom-up and top-down influences interact during perception. . . . For one to understand why people attend to some things and ignore others, a person’s emotional state should be considered.”
Matthew Sutherland, Douglas McQuiggan, Jennifer Ryan, and Mara Mather. “Perceptual Salience Does Not Influence Emotional Arousal’s Impairing Effects on Top-Down Attention.” Emotion, in press.