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Research completed by a Mullen-lead team not only confirms the value of air outside being fresh, but also the advantages of air brought into buildings being “scrubbed.”  The investigators report that  “Fine particulate air pollution is harmful to children in myriad ways. While evidence is mounting that chronic exposures are associated with reduced academic proficiency, no research has examined the frequency of peak exposures. . . . [the researchers examined] the percentage of third grade students who tested below the grade level in math and English language arts (ELA) in Salt Lake County, Utah primary schools . . . where fine particulate pollution is a serious health threat. More frequent peak exposures were associated with reduced math and ELA proficiency, as was greater school disadvantage. High frequency peak exposures were more strongly linked to lower math proficiency in more advantaged schools. Findings highlight the need for policies to reduce the number of days with peak air pollution.”

Casey Mullen, Sara Grineski, Timothy Collins, and Daniel Mendoza. 2020.   “Effects of PM2.5 on Third Grade Students’ Proficiency in Math and English Language Arts.”  International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 17, no. 18, 6931,

Research confirms that our experiences are influenced by language being spoken and culture. Gianola, Losin, and Llabre found, via a study published in Affective Science, that “the language a bilingual person speaks can affect their physical sensations, depending on the cultural association tied to each vernacular. . . . bilingual Hispanic/Latino participants . . . participate[d] in separate English and Spanish testing sessions. During both sessions, they received a pain-induction procedure, when an experimenter applied painful heat to their inner forearm. The primary difference between the two experimental visits was the language being spoken (English or Spanish). . . . participants who engaged more with the Hispanic culture showed higher pain when speaking Spanish, while more U.S.-American identified participants reported higher pain in English. People who were fairly balanced in their engagement with U.S.-American and Hispanic culture had pain outcomes that didn’t differ much across languages. The study also suggests that bodily responses to the pain played a larger role in determining pain ratings among more Hispanic oriented bilingual participants.”

“Language, Cultural Identity Can Affect Pain.”  2020. Press release, University of Miami.

Salvador, in the course of a furniture design project, completed a literature review focused on the psychological implications of experiencing wooden materials.  He reports that “A literary review based study revealed woodenmaterials in interiors and objects to have a positive psychological influence in humans, with a pacifying and relaxing effect.”

C. Salvador. 2019.  “Human Interaction, Emotion and Sustainability:  Designing Wooden Children’s Furniture.”  In F. Rebelo and N. Soares (eds.)  Advances in Ergonomics in Design, AHFE 2018 International Conference on Ergonomics in DesignOrlando, FL, Springer International Publishing, Cham Switzerland, pp. 599-606.

Douce and Adams studied combined sensory experiences in retail environments.  They report that their lab and field experiments indicate that “when a third high arousal cue is added sensory overload (i.e., rise in perceived arousal and decrease in perceived pleasantness) occurs under the condition that this third cue is processed by a higher sense (i.e. visual or auditory sense). Furthermore, a decrease in approach behavior and evaluations is also observed when these conditions are met. . . . Retailers, and other individuals responsible for the holistic experience of environments, should consequently remain attentive to the combined arousing qualities of all cues, especially if these cues are processed by the higher sense of sight and audition as well as when color(s) are a dominant factor. . . . If the target-arousal is high, then it could be that adding high arousal cues is appropriate and would not lead to a decrease in pleasure.”

Lieve Douce and Carmen Adams. 2020.  “Sensory Overload in a Shopping Environment:  Not Every Sensory Modality Leads to Too Much Stimulation.” Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, vol. 57,  102154,

Yildirim and team assessed the implications of indoor plants in restaurants.  They found using digital images that “restaurants designed with indoor plants had a more positive effect on the shopping decisions of participants than restaurants designed without indoor plants. . . . higher education graduate participants showed more positive opinions about the plant designed restaurant than secondary education graduate participants. . . . Results of the study suggest that retailers and designers may be able to make easily stores more appealing for customers by designing them with indoor plants.”

Kemal Yildirim, Kaya Yildirim, Nazende Nazli, and Ferdi Olmus. 2020.  “The Effects of Indoor Plants on Customers’ Shopping Decisions in a Restaurant Environment.”  International Journal of Retail and Distribution Management, vol. 48, no. 12, pp. 1301-1314,

Research linking clothing worn and food selections may indicate an effect that can be broadened to environmental design; future research will confirm such a link, or not. Wang and teammates found that “formal and informal clothes styles can activate different clothes-image associations and thus make consumers more likely choose a food type (healthy or unhealthy) that is congruent with a specific set of clothes-image associations, referred to as clothes-food congruence. For example, wearing formal clothes can activate such formal-clothes associations as being self-controlled and organized. Formal- (vs. informal-) clothes associations are perceived to be congruent with healthy (vs. unhealthy) food choices. Hence, we suggest that clothes-food congruence mediates the relationship between clothes-image associations and food choice.”

Xuehua Wang, Xiaoyu Wang, Jing Lei, and Mike Chao.  “The Clothes That Make You Eat Healthy:  The Impact of Clothes Style on Food Choice.”  Journal of Business Research, in press,

Research confirms that trees do indeed add value to our lives.  Kuo, Klein, Browning, and Zaplatosch collected data for 450 schools and 50,000 students in communities ranging from rural to urban in Washington State and report that “‘Hundreds of studies show a positive link between contact with nature and learning outcomes. . . . We wanted to make sure the same pattern was true in this vulnerable and overlooked population,’ says Ming Kuo. . . . Even after taking a whopping 17 variables into account including student demographics, school resources, and neighborhood characteristics, Kuo and her co-authors found that the more tree cover around a school, the better its standardized test scores in both math and reading. . . . [researchers] compared the importance of greenness in different buffer zones around schools, within 250 meters (around two blocks) and 1000 meters. It turned out trees closer to the schools made all the difference, even when controlling for greenness at farther distances. In other words, even if the larger neighborhood was leafy, students were no better off if the schoolyard wasn’t.” This study is published in Landscape and Urban Planning.

“Trees Set Sixth-Graders Up for Success.”  2020.  Press release, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign,

Nature around our home may help reduce some of the negative psychological effects of the current pandemic.  According to a study published in Ecological Applications, data collected online in Tokyo “quantified the link between five mental-health outcomes (depression, life satisfaction, subjective happiness, self-esteem, and loneliness) and two measures of nature experiences (frequency of greenspace use and green view through windows from home). More frequent greenspace use and the existence of green window views from the home were associated with increased levels of self-esteem, life satisfaction, and subjective happiness, as well as decreased levels of depression and loneliness. ‘Our results suggest that nearby nature can serve as a buffer in decreasing the adverse impacts of a very stressful event on humans,’ said lead author Masashi Soga.”

“A Regular Dose of Nature May Improve Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic.”  Press release, Wiley,

Research published in Current Biologyindicates why we may experience particular colors in certain ways. Rosenthal, Singh, Hermann, Pantazis, and Conway “decoded brain maps of human color perception. . . .  colors were presented at two luminance levels – light and dark. . . . study participants had unique patterns of brain activity for each color. With enough data, the researchers could predict . . . what color a volunteer was looking at. . . . in a variety of languages and cultures, humans have more distinct names for warm colors (yellows, reds, oranges, browns) than for cool colors (blues, greens). It’s long been known that people consistently use a wider variety of names for the warm hues at different luminance levels (e.g. “yellow” versus “brown”) than for cool hues (e.g. “blue” is used for both light and dark). The new discovery shows that brain activity patterns vary more between light and dark warm hues than for light and dark cool hues.”

“Envision Color:  Activity Patterns in the Brain Are Specific to the Color You See.”  2020.  Press release, National Eye Institute,

Research completed by Shen, Zhang, and Lian indicates there may be some gender-related differences in the experience of wooden environments.  The team shares that “Previous studies indicate that wood enenvironments could produce more positive emotions, more delightful sense of color, odor, light and less fatigue for occupants. . . .  The results [of the Shen-lead study] showed that: (1) female participants felt more warmth and brightness in the wooden rooms; (2) female participants’ olfactory sensation was 42% higher than male participant in the dark wooden room but experienced a greater decrease after a 50-min adaptation; (3) female participants reported more confusion and fatigue feelings while male participants reported more vigor feelings in different conditions. . . . obvious gender differences existed in human psychological responses to the changes of wooden environment, with different wood colors and coverage rates.”  Additional studies are required to develop a greater understanding of gender-related effects and how they should be reflected in practice.

Jingyun Shen, Xi Zhang, and Zhiwej Lian.  “Gender Differences in Human Psychological Responses to Wooden Indoor Environment.” European Journal of Wood and Wood Products,” in press,


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