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sensory science

Looking Scientific Makes a Difference (10-13-14)

For better, or for worse, materials with visuals that seem scientific, such as graphs, are more persuasive than reports, etc., without them.  As Tal and Wansink determined, “The appearance of being scientific can increase persuasiveness. Even trivial cues can create such an appearance of a scientific basis. In our studies, including simple elements, such as graphs . . . or a chemical formula . . . increased belief in a medication’s efficacy. This appears to be due to the association of such elements with science, rather than increased comprehensibility, use of visuals, or recall. . .

Transparency’s Implications Are Clear (10-10-14)

Environmental psychologists have been saying for years that too much transparency (literally) in workplaces and elsewhere can create difficult situations. Ethan Bernstein, a professor of leadership and organizational behavior at Harvard, has reached similar conclusions after synthesizing many years of research done by himself and others. He describes the transparency paradox: “For all that transparency does to drive out wasteful practices and promote collaboration and shared learning, too much of it can trigger distortions of fact and counterproductive inhibitions.

Put on Some Jazz or Be Quiet (10-09-14)

The American Society of Anesthesiologists has something they’d like you to know about music.  In a press release publicizing a study presented at the 2014 annual meeting they report that “Patients undergoing elective hysterectomies who listened to jazz music during their recovery experienced significantly lower heart rates. . . . But the research also found that silence is golden. Patients who wore noise-cancelling headphones also had lower heart rates, as well as less pain.”

Living Near the Road May Be Convenient, But . . . (10-08-14)

Living near a major road doesn’t seem to be good for women.  According to Hart and her colleagues “Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is a major source of mortality and is the first manifestation of heart disease for the majority of cases. Thus, there is a definite need to identify risk factors for SCD that can be modified on the population level. Exposure to traffic, measured by residential roadway proximity, has been shown to be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. . . . women living within 50 meters of a major roadway had an elevated risk of SCD. . . .

Common Areas, Bathrooms, and Friendships (10-07-14)

A new study confirms that, as environmental psychologists learned long ago, we become friendly with people we interact with regularly because we all share some element of our environment, such as a walkway to our front doors, and the resulting friendships enhance our well being.  Easterbrook and Vignoles have learned that among people living in “shared student accommodation,” “Respondents living in flats with design features that encouraged the use of communal areas – a shared common area and an absence of ensuite toilets – reported unintentionally meeting their flatmates more frequent

Re-Shaping Our World (10-06-14)

Ackerman has written a thoughtful book about how humans are changing our world on a macro-scale.  The core message of her text is succinctly stated in her conclusion: “We [Humans] can survive our rude infancy and grow into responsible, caring adults—without losing our innocence, playfulness, or sense of wonder.  But first we need to see ourselves from different angles, in many mirrors, as a very young species, both blessed and cursed by our prowess.  Instead of ignoring or plundering nature, we need to refine our natural place in it.”

Nature Sounds Work! (10-03-14)

Natural sounds effectively support recovery from stressful events, making them good choices for the soundscapes of workplaces and other spaces where users will inevitably experience tension—particularly if it’s difficult to incorporate stress-reducing images into these environments. Benfield and his team report that “Visual exposure to natural scenes can aid in recovery from stress, attentional fatigue, and physical ailments including surgery and sickness. . . . The current study extends prior work on the benefit of natural visual scenes to the domain of natural auditory exposure.

Restoration at Work (10-02-14)

Korpela and his team investigated restorative experiences at work.  They report that “Increasing evidence shows that outdoor natural environments are more efficient in producing restoration than outdoor built environments. Anecdotal evidence shows that window views to natural elements buffer the negative impact of job stress on intention to quit; the more natural elements, the less the negative impact of job stress on turnover intentions.

Ownership and Culture (10-01-14)

Gjersoe and her team have learned that our national culture influences how we respond to objects.  More specifically, “individualistic cultures place a greater value on objects associated with unique persons [than collectivist ones].”  This finding has repercussions for design of spaces in general and the allocation of space to individuals, as well as the resolution of other design-related issues.