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sensory science

More on the Benefits of Control (02-13-15)

Hellwig’s research confirms the value of providing space users with moderate levels of control over their experiences in a space.  As she reports, “Providing the occupants with control over the indoor environment is widely accepted for its positive effect on their satisfaction. . . . Satisfaction with the indoor environment occurs not only when ‘comfort’ is provided but also immediately after a successful control action. . . . Giving control to occupants can result in higher levels of satisfaction.”

Redefining Comfortable Temperatures (02-12-15)

Brager, Zhang, and Arens present a comprehensive argument for redefining thermal comfort.  As they detail, “The building industry needs a fundamental paradigm shift in its notion of comfort, to find low-energy ways of creating more thermally dynamic and non-uniform environments that bring inhabitants pleasure. . . . A significant energy cost is incurred by the current practice of controlling buildings within a narrow range of temperatures (often over-cooling in the summer). . . . Five new ways of thinking . . .

Pictures and Words (02-11-15)

Researchers confirm that whether information is presented in pictures or in words affects how we respond to it.  Rim and his team have learned that “words promote thinking of events in terms of their abstract and central features (i.e., high-level construal), whereas pictures promote thinking in terms of more concrete and idiosyncratic features (i.e., low-level construal).”  This finding has implications for the way that design options are presented and research is conducted, for example.

In Our Minds, Corporations Same As People (02-10-15)

Mitt Romney famously infuriated some American voters by likening corporations to people, but recent research shows he was definitely onto something, psychologically.  Plitt, Savjani, and Eagleman collected data via functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and learned that  “our brains understand and analyze the actions of corporations and people very similarly.”  This finding supports research protocols based on visualizing corporations as people, for example.

Clothes and the Doctor (02-09-15)

A study recently published in the British Medical Journal Open deals directly with the clothes worn by physicians, but it may have repercussions for the design of medical facilities.  A team from the University of Michigan Health System have learned that “people prefer their physicians dress on the formal side – and definitely not in casual wear. Doctors of either gender in suits, or a white coat, are more likely to inspire trust and confidence.

Urban Design in China and Activity (02-06-15)

The design of Chinese cities affects the level of physical activity of people living in them, according to an article published in Preventative Medicine.  This study is interesting because it replicates findings from Western countries.  Researchers at New York University and East China Normal University report that  “Chinese cities are different from many Western cities in relation to urban design, and far more densely populated. . . .

Blue Light and Men’s Appetites (02-05-15)

Blue light seems to curb men’s appetites, but not women’s.  Cho and his team report that “One-hundred twelve participants (62 men and 50 women) were asked to consume a breakfast meal (omelets and mini-pancakes) under one of three different lighting colors: white, yellow, and blue. . . . . The blue lighting significantly decreased the amount consumed in men, but not in women, compared to yellow and white lighting conditions. Overall flavor intensity and overall impression of the food were not significantly different among the three lighting colors. . . .

Awe and Inflammation (02-04-15)

Stellar and her colleagues have linked feeling awe with lower inflammation levels throughout the body.  As they report “awe, measured in two different ways, was the strongest predictor of lower levels of proinflammatory cytokines.”  This is important because “Chronically elevated levels of proinflammatory cytokines in the absence of illness or injury can lead to negative health outcomes. . . .

Jacobs' Work Supported (02-03-15)

Sung and colleagues have documented the value of Jane Jacobs' work.  As they report: “Jane Jacobs’s The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961) had an enormous influence on urban design theories and practices. This study aims to operationalize Jacobs’s conditions for a vital urban life. These are (1) mixed use, (2) small blocks, (3) aged buildings, and (4) a sufficient concentration of buildings. Jacobs suggested that a vital urban life could be sustained by an urban realm that promotes pedestrian activity for various purposes at various times. . . .

Treadmill Desks: More Positive Research (02-02-15)

More research, more reasons for treadmill desks.  Labonte-LeMoyne and her team report that “An experiment was conducted in which participants either sat or walked while they read a text and received emails. Afterward, all participants performed a task to evaluate their attention and memory. Behavioral, neurophysiological, and perceptual evidence showed that participants who walked had a short-term increase in memory and attention, indicating that the use of a treadmill desk has a delayed effect.