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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.

The lighting in hospital intensive care units influences patients' wellbeing, even a year after they are discharged from the hospital.  Researchers have found that “With light adapted to the time of day, health even improves for patients who are barely conscious when they are admitted for care. . . . In order to counterbalance the traditional ICU department with low levels of daylight and nights when lighting is frequently turned on [researchers tested an] experimental environment with so-called cyclical lighting that changed during the day. . . . Mornings began with a weak, reddish dawn light, which, at around 8 am turned to a strong, blue light similar to daylight. In the middle of the day, the strength of the light was reduced slightly so that patients would also be able to experience existing daylight to subsequently be increased again in the afternoon.  Towards the evening, the light became weaker and warmer again. At that time, the light sources were also placed at a lower height; in the evening only a weak and warm light was emitted from the skirting boards. . . . ‘The patients were very satisfied with the lighting environment. It had a calming function and helped in supporting the circadian rhythm. . . .’ says Marie Engwall. . . . [a survey conducted 12 months after their discharge from the hospital found that] ‘Patients cared for in our experimental room demonstrated significantly better self-rated recovery . . . compared to patients in the control group. . . .’ says Marie Engwall.”

“Patients in Intensive Care Feel Better with Light Adapted to the Time of Day.”  2017.  Press release, University of Gothenburg, http://www.alphagalileo.org/ViewItem.aspx?ItemId=174128&CultureCode=en

In visual fractals the same patterns repeat at different scales.  For illustrations of fractals, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fractal#fractals_in_nature.

Taylor and Spehar report that seeing moderately complex fractals reduces stress:  “Humans are continually exposed to the rich visual complexity generated by the repetition of fractal patterns at different size scales. Fractals are prevalent in natural scenery [for example]. . . . we . . . investigate the powerful significance of fractals for the human visual system. In particular, we propose that fractals with midrange complexity (D = 1.3–1.5 measured on a scale between D = 1.1 for low complexity and D = 1.9 for high complexity) play a unique role in our visual experiences because the visual system has adapted to these prevalent natural patterns. . . . the visual system processes mid-D fractals with relative ease. This fluency optimizes the observer’s capabilities (such as enhanced attention and pattern recognition) and generates an aesthetic experience accompanied by a reduction in the observer’s physiological stress levels.”

Richard Taylor and Branka Spehar.  2016.  “Fractal Fluency:  An Intimate Relationship Between the Brain and Processing of Fractal Stimuli.”  In A. Di Ieva (ed.) The Fractal Geometry of the Brain, Springer:  New York, pp. 485-496.

Batra and his colleagues investigated the relationship between tasting spicy food or seeing spicy food and how aggressive people are.  They found that “consumption of, and even mere exposure to spicy food [seeing pictures of it, for example], can semantically activate concepts related to aggression as well as lead to higher levels of perceived aggressive intent in others.”  These findings indicate that care should be exercised when using images of spicy foods to decorate spaces, etc. and also that the design of spaces where spicy foods are likely to be consumed should be relatively calming, to at least partially compensate for the effects that spicy food seen or consumed has on aggression.

Rishtee Batra, Tanuka Ghoshal, and Rajagopal Raghunathan.  2017.  “You Are What You Eat:  An Empirical Investigation of the Relationship Between Spicy Food and Aggressive Cognition.”  Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, vol. 71, pp. 42-48. 

Hearing nature sounds does indeed relax people who are stressed.  Van Praag and her team report that their “findings may help explain reported health benefits of exposure to natural environments, through identification of alterations to autonomic activity and functional coupling within the DMN [default mode network of the brain] when listening to naturalistic sounds.”  Natural sounds that are relaxing include, for example, gently moving water (think: burbling brooks) and leaves rustling in a gentle breeze.

Cassandra van Praag, Sarah Garfinkel, Oliver Sparasci, Alex Mees, Andrew Philippides, Mark Ware, Cristina Ottaviani, and Hugo Critchley.  2017.  “Mind-Wandering and Alterations to Default Mode Network Connectivity When Listening to Naturalistic Versus Artificial Sounds.”  Scientific Reports, vol. 7, article number 45273. 

Trying to solve a difficult problem?  Imagine a dialogue between people with various viewpoints on the issue to be resolved—that fantasy conversation will dramatically increase your understanding of relevant topics (Zavala and Kuhn, in press).

An Association for Psychological Science press release related to Zavala and Kuhn’s article shares that “Examining an issue as a debate or dialogue between two sides helps people apply deeper, more sophisticated reasoning. . . .‘Envisioning opposing views leads to a more comprehensive examination of the issue,’ says psychology researcher Julia Zavala. . . . ‘the dialogic task . . . lead to deeper, more comprehensive processing of the two positions and hence a richer representation of each and the differences between them,’ says Kuhn.  Constructing a dialogue thus helped to expand and sharpen . . . thinking.”

“Imagining Dialogue Can Boost Critical Thinking.”  2017.  Press release, Association for Psychological Science, https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/releases/imagining-dialogue-ca...

Julia Zavala and Deanna Kuhn.  “Solitary Discourse Is a Productive Activity.”  Psychological Science, in press.

Schutte and her team have learned that time spent in virtual reality nature, compared to time spent in virtual reality urban spaces, can lead to better moods.  Also, people who experience virtual reality nature believe that they are more refreshed mentally (in other words, that they are more cognitively restored) after spending time there than the people placed in the virtual urban places.  The researchers immersed users in 360-degree natural or urban interactive virtual environments and learned that “Virtual reality experience of a natural environment compared to virtual reality experience of an urban environment resulted in higher levels of positive affect [mood] and a greater perception of restorativeness. . . . Virtual reality technology may have the potential to enhance well-being.”  Schutte and colleagues’ insights may be particularly useful when virtual reality experiences are being developed to optimize workplace performance, etc.

Nicola Schutte, Navjot Bhullar, Emma Stilinovic, and Katheryn Richardson.  2017.  “The Impact of Virtual Environments on Restorativeness and Affect.”  Ecopsychology, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 1-7.

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