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Welcome to the Research Design Connections blog, started in 2007. Recent blog entries are available here. Earlier blog entries (one for every working day since the beginning of May, 2007) are available to subscribers.

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Hong and teammates studied adding nature sounds to outdoor spaces.  Study participants wore a mixed-reality head-mounted display and saw a hologram of either a sparrow or a fountain or a loudspeaker while hearing birdsong or a stream.  The researchers determined via data collected outdoors, near an expressway, that “both natural sounds significantly reduced the PLN [perceived loudness of the traffic noise] and enhanced the OSQ [overall sound quality]. . . .  Analysis on the preferred signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), i.e. ratio of natural sound to traffic levels, indicated a strong negative correlation between the preferred SNRs and ambient traffic noise levels. Overall, the preferred SNR of the birdsong was significantly higher than that of the water sound. . . .  It was also found that there was no statistically significant difference in the reduction effect of PLN between the birdsong and water sounds.” Quantifying some of the effects seen: “When the traffic noise levels were below 70 dB, higher natural sound levels than the background noise level were considered as desirable . . . at higher traffic noise levels over 70 dB, the participants tended to prefer lower natural sound levels than the ambient traffic noise levels.” Responses to the sounds were not significantly different if people were looking at the corresponding hologram (a bird for birdsong and a fountain while hearing the water sound) or a loud speaker, which makes adding sounds to outdoor spaces via loudspeakers a much more viable option.

Joo Hong, Bhan Lam, Zhen-Ting Ong, Kenneth Oo, Woon-Seng Gan, Jian Kang, Samuel Yeong, Irene Lee, and Sze-Tiong Tan.  2021. “A Mixed-Reality Approach to Soundscape Assessment of Outdoor Urban Environments Augmented with Natural Sounds.” Building and Environment, vol. 194, 107688, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.buildenv.2021.107688

Hvass and teammates investigated how lighting urban spaces influence perceptions of experiences there. They determined via a field study in public transportation waiting areas and a laboratory experiment (where one light zone simulated the same sort of waiting area and the other the surrounding urban space) that “participants perceived the atmosphere in the simulated waiting area as relaxed and private when luminance intensity was low. Furthermore, they perceived the lighting as harmonious and less glaring when luminance ratios between the waiting area and the surroundings were low.” Also, “Bright lighting allows improved perception of nearby details but may make the surrounding context appear dark and unpleasant, leading to perception of decreased safety.”  In addition, “Low contrast in lighting levels between the local space and the surrounding context increases perception of the area as relaxed and harmonious and decreases perceptions of glare. However, high luminance intensity in the surroundings increases visibility of objects in the surrounding context.”  The lighting conditions tested were described: “For the waiting area, we defined high, medium and low intensity illuminance levels as 200, 100 and 30 lux. For the surroundings, we tested high and low intensities of 20 lux and 5 lux.”  

Mette Hvass, Kevin Van Den Wymelenberg, Sebastian Boring, and Ellen Hansen.  2021.  “Intensity and Ratios of Lighting Affecting Perception of Space, Co-Presence and Surrounding Context, a Lab Experiment.”  Building and Environment, vol. 194, 107680, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.buildenv.2021.107680

Yu and colleagues probed the implications of names appearing in UPPERCASE or lowercase letters; their findings are useful to people developing signage, etc.  The Yu-lead team determined via eight experiments that “consumers perceive brands that use all uppercase letters (‘uppercase brands’) as more premium than those that use all lowercase letters (‘lowercase brands’). . . .  The effect is reversed for consumers who prefer subtle signals (‘inconspicuous consumers’) because these consumers are likely to perceive a conspicuous uppercase brand as gaudy. . . . this effect appears only for public products. . . . Public products—those with a consumption context visible to others—support identity communication in the context of socializing; private products, by contrast, are typically consumed away from the public gaze.. . . we propose that the uppercase premium effect will be contingent on the product's social visibility. For privately used products, the uppercase will lose its attention-capturing function, contributing to a null effect on consumers’ conspicuousness perceptions.”

Yining Yu, Xinyue Zhou, Lei Wang, and Qiuzhen Wang.  “Uppercase Premium Effect:  The Role of Brand Letter Case in Brand Premiumness.”  Journal of Retailing, in press, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jretai.2021.03.002

Evidence continues to grow indicating that people who are depressed have different visual experiences than those who are not. Meuwese found that when “After viewing a stressful video, participants were randomly allocated to one of two conditions, in which they watched a video of a walk in either (1) natural, or (2) built surroundings. . . . In both experiments, participants with more (rather than less) depressive symptoms displayed more stress reduction after viewing nature rather than built settings. . . . People with more depressive symptoms benefited more from viewing nature. . . . These findings suggest that nature-based interventions may be especially beneficial among people suffering from depressive symptoms. . . .Incorporating photographs or videos of nature as a background in clinical settings that may be experienced as stressful, such as waiting rooms or therapists’ offices, could reduce stress for people suffering from depression.”  Also, “Prior research has shown that viewing natural scenery can improve mood and reduce stress.”

Daphne Meuwese, Karin Dijkstra, Jolanda Maas, and Sander Koole.  “Beating the Blues by Viewing the Green:  Depressive Symptoms Predict Greater Restoration from Stress and Negative Affect After Viewing a Nature Video.”  Journal of Environmental Psychology, in press, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2021.101594

Sui and colleagues have determined that different sorts of seated experiences influence our psychological wellbeing in varying ways, with, in general greater levels of sedentary behavior linked to lower wellbeing.  The team reports that via a literature review they found that “most studies demonstrated a weak, detrimental association between indices of SB [sedentary behavior] and outcomes of hedonic well-being . . . device-based SB was either weakly and negatively related or unrelated to hedonic well-being outcomes. . . . relationships between self-reported SB and outcomes of well-being are unclear. . . . screen time demonstrated a weak consistently detrimental association with hedonic well-being outcomes. . . . greater levels of SB/physical inactivity/screen time than is typical for an individual may predict lower positive affect, greater negative affect, and lower life satisfaction, independent of physical activity.” Not all sorts of sedentary behavior have the same implications; spending sedentary time mingling with others or reading, for example, was tied to higher levels of hedonic wellbeing.  As the researchers point out, “Subjective well-being (SWB) holds positive implications for an individual's self-rated and objective health. . . . outcomes of hedonic well-being  [include] affect [positive moods], [greater] life satisfaction.” Subjective wellbeing is an individual’s impression of their own quality of life.  Sedentary behavior could take place while sitting, lying down or reclining.  

Wuyou Sui, Anna Sui, and Harry Prapavessis.  2021. “Relationships Between Indices of Sedentary Behavior and Hedonic Well-Being:  A Scoping Review.”  Psychology of Sport and Exercise, vol. 54, 101920, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychsport.2021.101920

Sabiniewicz directed a research team that found that adding scents to virtual reality experiences may affect how pleasant they seem.  The group determined via a project during which “participants were divided into three groups, including two experimental virtual reality (VR) environments [still scenes]: a rose garden, an orange basket, and a control condition. In each VR condition, participants were exposed to a rose odor, an orange odor, or no odor. . . Virtual scenarios tended to be remembered as more pleasant when presented with congruent odors [i.e., rose odor with the rose garden]. . . . in the case of rose odor, the VR scenario in both sessions tended to be rated as more pleasant in congruent condition than in incongruent condition, while for orange odor, this effect was not found. . . . odors presented in congruent and incongruent conditions possibly modulate the pleasantness of VR scenarios but do not make them more memorable.”

Agnieszka Sabiniewicz, Elena Schaefer, Guducu Cagdas, Cedric Manesse, Moustafa Bensafi, Nadejda Krasteva, Gabriele Nelles, and Thomas Hummell.  2021.  “Smells Influence Perceived Pleasantness but Not Memorization of a Visual Virtual Environment.”  I-Perception, vol. 12, no. 2, https://doi.org/10.1177/2041669521989731

Physical and other concerns related to birthing suite design were studied by Carlsson, Larsson, and Jormfeldt.  Their literature review reports “a need to create a space for childbirth underpinned by four aspects; a homely space, a spiritual space, a safe space, and a territorial space. . . . A homely space was characterized by a place where the woman didn´t have to adapt to the environment. . . . In essence, a homely space contributed to a feeling of being at home, a non-threatening, comfortable relaxing space for the women, which implied a sense of belonging. . . . A spiritual space was a place where the woman could withdraw, that was peaceful, calm and silent, a nice place to be in. . . . A safe space was a major consideration for the women regardless of where birth took place. . . . Safety was conceptualized as both physical and emotional safety.”

Ina-Marie Carlsson, Ingrid Larsson, and Henrika Jormfeldt.  2020.  “Place and Space in Relation to Childbirth:  A Critical Interpretive Synthesis.”  International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-Being, vol. 15 (suppl. 1), 1667143, https://doi.org/10.1080/17482631.2019.1667143

Van Nes applied space syntax principles at the city level.  He found that “shop owners always search for an optimal location to reach as many customers as possible. If the accessibility to this optimal location is affected by changes in a city’s road and street structure, it will affect the location pattern of shops. . . .  how an inner ring road is connected to and the type of the street network it is imposed upon dictates the resulting location pattern of shops. Shops locate and relocate themselves along the most spatially-integrated streets. . . . Even though the road engineers are acting on the behalf of the government, their proposed solutions are making the necessary spatial framework for the socio-economic life in built environments. It all depends on how new road-links segregate, integrate, connect, or disconnect the urban areas they are imposed upon. It all depends on various degrees of spatial integration, connectivity, and accessibility.”

Akkelies van Nes. 2021.  “The Impact of the Ring Roads on the Location Pattern of Shops in Town and City Centres.  A Space Syntax Approach.”  Sustainability, vol. 13, no. 7, https://doi.org/10.3390/su13073927

In cooperation with a research team at the Technical University of Munich, Stora Enso has released a white paper detailing health and wellbeing benefits of living and working in spaces with wood design elements. It is available free of charge at the web address noted below.  Research indicates, for example, that “wood has beneficial effects. . . . It helps reduce stress, blood pressure and heart rate as well as allowing for more creativity and productivity in the workplace.  Wood is also an important part of what’s called biophilic design; our desire to be connected with the natural environment.”

Stora Enso. 2020.  “10 Reasons Why Wooden Buildings Are Good for You and the Scientific Research to Back It Up,”  https://info.storaenso.com/wood-house-effect

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