sensory science

Anxiety and Walking (01-22-16)

It turns out that when we’re anxious we start to travel in a particular way; research on this pattern of behavior should inform the design of emergency exit areas and also spaces where people are likely to be anxious, such as some medical facilities.  Weick and his team have learned that blindfolded, anxious people are apt to walk, or drift, toward their left.

Combatting Sensory Monotony (01-21-16)

A recent press release from NASA highlights the psychological challenges of living in a monotonous sensory environment.  Its basic message is useful to all – although few of us will ever be challenged by living in space.  NASA reports that “having limited access to stimuli to the senses . . . .[is seen as] a significant risk by  NASA’s Behavioral Health and Performance Team.”  The NASA press release quotes Dr. Jack Stuster as stating that “’Monotony of stimulation . . .

High Rise Health (01-20-16)

Research indicates that high rises as they are currently designed can be hazardous to our health—there is a lower survival rate for cardiac arrests on higher floors than on lower floors when people stricken on both the higher and lower floors are treated by the same paramedics.  As Drennan and his team report the “increasing number of people living in high-rise buildings presents unique challenges to care and may cause delays for 911-initiated first responders (including paramedics and fire department personnel) responding to calls for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. . . .

Odors and Obesity (01-19-16)

Wondering about comments about odors?  Look at user waistlines.  Patel and crew have found “positive associations between BMI [body mass index] and perceived ability to image odors and foods, but not visual objects.”  People with greater BMI’s are much better at imagining food and non-food odors than people with lower BMI’s.

Barkha Patel, Katja Aschenbrenner, Daniel Shamah, and Dana Small.  2015.  “Greater Perceived Ability to Form Vivid Mental Images in Individuals with High Compared to Low BMI.”  Appetite, vol. 91, no. 1, pp. 185-189.

More on Plants, Nature, Green and Creativity (01-15-16)

Studente, Seppala and Sadowska studied how seeing live plants, nature, and the color green influences creative thinking.  In their experiment  “Three groups [of participants] were used; one group in a classroom surrounded by plants and view to natural settings [creativity task presented on white paper], one with no views to nature but who completed the task on green paper, the third, with no plants present and no views to nature [creativity task on white paper].

Planning for Landscape Preference (01-14-16)

Kuper conducted an extensive study of preference for different landscapes using color photographs of outdoor areas in New York and Pennsylvania.  He learned that among members of the general public fondness for green leafy scenes with and without flowers was approximately equal and significantly higher than that for brown, more mature landscapes.  In a press release, issued by the American Society for Horticultural Science, Kuper remarks: “’Environmental designers and managers should generally consider the colors that plants and vegetation display during foliation, flowering, senescence, an

Nonplaces (01-13-16)

Sanders brings the modern scourge of the “nonplace” top-of-mind.  As he reports “The non-place refers to any variety of transitory sites that lack historical, cultural, or geographic reference points, and while they seem to be everywhere one is left with the sense of being ‘nowhere’ in particular. One such place that lacks distinguishing features and fails to provide any contextual reference is the corporate megachurch. Because of its strategic work to . . . focus . . .

Value of Control (01-12-16)

Research continues to indicate that workers value having a reasonable level of control over their work experiences.  Moen, Kelly, and their team learned via data collected over 12 months in an IT division of a Fortune 500 company that after “half the [studied] work groups participated in a pilot program, where they learned about work practices designed to increase their sense of control over their work lives. . . .

Good Cartography (01-11-16)

Brewer’s book provides useful insights on drawing maps that communicate as intended, whether they’re based on GIS data or not.  As sell materials for the text detail,  “In Designing Better Maps, renowned cartographer Cynthia A. Brewer guides readers through the basics of good cartography, including layout design, scales, projections, color selection, font choices, and symbol placement.”

Cynthia Brewer.  2015.  Drawing Better Maps:  A Guide for GIS Users, second edition.  ESRI Press.

Risk Taking and Protective Gear (01-08-16)

Risk taking behavior is influenced by whether people have on protective equipment; which has repercussions for the design of places where people might be wearing it, for example, because they’re riding bicycles.  Space form is often used to minimize risk taking in an area.  Gamble and Walker studied people wearing helmets and baseball caps, building on previous research that had determined that Humans adapt their risk-taking behavior on the basis of perceptions of safety; this risk-compensation phenomenon is typified by people taking increased risks when using protective e


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