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sensory science

The Power of Acoustic Experiences (03-28-14)

Richard Wiseman investigated the relationship between soundscapes heard while sleeping and dreaming.  He determined that when particular sounds are played while people sleep, they are more likely to “wake up feeling especially happy and refreshed.”  The soundscapes, a component of the “Dream:ON” app that Wiseman developed, were “carefully designed to evoke a pleasant scenario, such as a walk in the woods, or lying on a beach.” These findings indicate the value of consciously soundscaping designed spaces; the sounds we hear have a significant effect on our state of mind, even when

Greenspace and Life Satisfaction (03-27-14)

Ambrey and Fleming investigated the relationship between living near greenspace and life satisfaction.  They determined that in Australia’s capital cities “A positive relationship is found between the percentage of public greenspace in a resident’s local area and their self-reported life satisfaction, on average corresponding to an implicit willingness-to-pay of $1172 in annual household income for a 1 per cent (143 square metres) increase in public greenspace.”  In addition, “the value of greenspace increases with population density and that lone parents and the less educated ben

Introducing Ergoecology (03-26-14)

Garcia-Acosta and his colleagues are promoting the use of a new term, “ergoecology.”  It is defined as “a new multidisciplinary field . . . [combining] the elements of an ‘ergonomic system’ (human beings, physical space and object/machine) and defining the term ‘surroundings’ . . .  while emphasising the ecological aspects of human activities.” The authors continue that “The aim of ergoecology is to provide tools for confronting twenty-first century challenges.

Functionality and Apparent Spaciousness (03-25-14)

Meagher and Marsh have learned that spaces that are actually the same size can seem spacious or cramped, depending on how furnishings in the rooms are arranged.  When furniture, trashcans, etc., are arranged in a way that supports the probable activities in a space (e.g., completing assigned tasks in workplaces), a place seems larger than when arrangements aren’t supportive.  As the researchers state, “the negative outcomes associated with high density settings (e.g., feeling of crowding) can potentially be mitigated. . . .

Enhancing Benefits of Green Spaces (03-24-14)

The mood you’re in is a product of the space you’re in, what you’re doing, and other factors, as well.  Kinnafick and Thogersen-Ntoumani have determined that “physical activity [walking at your own pace] can further enhance the positive effects of a natural environment [on mood]. . . . policymakers, urban planners and those interested in public health should encourage greater use of natural open space in order to increase physical activity levels to promote psychological wellbeing.”

Homeownership and Life Satisfaction (03-21-14)

Environmental psychology research consistently indicates the value of having a home territory and Research Design Connections has previously reported on the benefits of having a place we feel we control in this article.  Zumbro’s research confirms that the relationship between having a home and life satisfaction remains strong.  Doing research in Germany, he found that there is “a positive relationship between homeownership and life satisfaction. . . .

Insights on Measuring Walkability (03-20-14)

Lee and Talen have thoroughly investigated methodologies for walkability research.  They’ve learned that “the combination of information from Google Street View and updated GIS layers can be an effective way of obtaining physical environment data that is very comparable to in-person observation.”

Sungduck Lee and Emily Talen.  2014.  “Measuring Walkability:  A Note on Auditing Methods.”  Journal of Urban Design, vol. 19, no. 3, pp. 368-388.

Sounding Good (03-19-14)

Cox encourages readers to be aware of the soundscapes they experience.  In the introductory section of his book he reports that “the dominance of the visual has in fact dulled all of our other senses, especially our hearing.”  Designers interested in creating particular experiences via places and objects that they’re developing will find this book useful, because it will help them thoughtfully develop the audio components of those experiences.

Designing Playgrounds for Physical Activity (03-18-14)

Creating playgrounds that encourage physical activity is one way to help keep young people from becoming obese.  At one test site, adding movable/recycled materials to a schoolyard increased the physical activity levels of children 5 to 12 over the course of a school year relative to students at another, comparable school where movable/recycled materials weren’t placed in schoolyards for the youngsters to play with during class breaks.  The movable/recycled materials added “included milk crates, swimming noodles, buckets, cardboard boxes, tyre tubes, pipes, vacuum hoses, plastic w

Understanding City Experiences (03-17-14)

Imamichi describes the experience of running for exercise through a city while pushing a double baby stroller.  His discussion of this topic is not only of value to people designing urban environments but researchers who are interested in effectively interviewing users to learn more about their experiences.  Imamichi describes how his experiences with the surfaces under his running shoes are effected by running with a stroller, “The affordances of a place—i.e., the environmental characteristics involving action possibilities (Gibson 1979)—are perceived differently [when running wi