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Brussoni and colleagues studied children (10- to 13-years old) in three diverse urban neighborhoods in Canada engaged in unsupervised outdoor activities (UOA), which in the words of the researchers “are key for thriving children and societies.”  Data were collected via interviews.  The investigators determined that “There has been increasing recognition of the importance of children's outdoor play and independent mobility for thriving children, neighbourhoods, cities and society. . . . Analyses revealed two themes: First, ‘feeling safe’ encompassed a sense of social and physical safety, including children's sense of neighbourliness, social dangers, discomfort around traffic, and personal agency to keep themselves safe. Second, having ‘things to do,’ included . . . having other children to play with, diverse amenities and access to nature, and opportunities for challenge and risky play.” In brief:  “Children identified feeling safe and having things to do as necessary for UOA. Neighbourliness, other children, and personal agency helped children feel safe.  Children wanted friends to hang out with and things to do within walking distance.”

Mariana Brussoni, Yingyi Lin, Christina Han, Ian Janssen, Nadine Schuurman, Randy Boyes, David Swanlund, and Louise Masse.  “A Qualitative Investigation of Unsupervised Outdoor Activities for 10- to 13-Year-Old Children:  ‘I Like Adventuring But I don’t Like Adventuring Without Being Careful.”  Journal of Environmental Psychology,in press,

Kondo and colleagues studied links between tree cover and human longevity.  They report that “greenspaces in urban environments have been associated with physical and mental health benefits for city dwellers. . . . We did a greenspace health impact assessment to estimate the annual premature mortality burden for adult residents associated with projected changes in tree canopy cover in Philadelphia between 2014 and 2025. . . .  We estimated that 403 (95% interval 298-618) premature deaths overall, including 244 (180-373) premature deaths in areas of lower socioeconomic status, could be prevented annually in Philadelphia if the city were able to meet its goal of increasing tree canopy cover to 30%.”

Michelle Kondo, Natalie Mueller, Dexter Locke, Lara Roman, David Rojas-Rueda, Leah Schinasi, Mireia Gascon, and Mark Nieuwenhuijisen. 2020.  “Health Impact Assessment of Philadelphia’s 2025 Tree Canopy Goals.”  Lancet Planet Health, vol. 4, no. 4, pp. e149-e157, DOI: 10.1016/S2542-5196(20)30058-9

People designing and managing cities today can benefit from learning about life in ancient settlements. A research group headed by Schott Ortman at the University of Colorado Boulder published a study in Science Advances:  “Ortman and Jose Lobo from Arizona State University took a deep dive into data from the farming towns that dotted the Rio Grande Valley between the 14th and 16th centuries. Modern metropolises should take note: As the Pueblo villages grew bigger and denser, their per capita production of food and other goods seemed to go up, too. Busy streets, in other words, may lead to better-off citizens. . . . When villages got more populous, their residents seemed to get better off on average. . . . Living spaces grew in size and families collected more painted pottery. . . . Every time villages doubled in size, markers of economic growth increased by about 16% on average.  . . . these Pueblo communities hold an important lesson for modern-day societies: the more people can connect with others, the more prosperous they become.”

“Ancient Societies Hold Lessons for Modern Cities.”  2020. Press release, University of Colorado Boulder (Daniel Strain),

Stich used a broad definition of virtual offices to study the implications of remote work, for people who work at the office and away from it.  Stich found that “Virtual offices give employees the ability to work anytime, anywhere, using information and communication technologies. . . . three threats that virtual offices create for organizations and office managers: (1) changed social relationships, (2) poorer communication, and (3) deviant behaviors. . . . [employees who remain in the office while their colleagues work remotely] tend to experience decreased job satisfaction (Golden, 2007) and poorer social interactions (Rockmann and Pratt, 2015).  They also tend to experience greater work overload, as they have to deal with people who stop by the office (Yap and Tng, 1990), or because they choose to handle tasks themselves (Golden, 2007). . . . subordinates [whose manager is working remotely] left at the office experience greater work overload, poorer work climate and increased job dissatisfaction (Golden and Fromen, 2011).” The researchers recommend offices where employees can socialize and attend meetings (particularly virtual ones) as well as do focused work.

Jean-Francois Stich. “A Review of Workplace Stress in the Virtual Office.”  Intelligent Buildings International, in press, DOI: 10.1080/17508975.2020.1759023

Jung, Moon, and Nelson studied how people think about the experiences of other people.  They determined that “people overestimate the valuations and preferences of others. This overestimation arises because, when making predictions about others, people rely on their intuitive core representation of the experience (e.g., is the experience generally positive?) in lieu of a more complex representation that might also include countervailing aspects (e.g., is any of the experience negative?). . . . the overestimation bias is pervasive for a wide range of positive . . . and negative experiences. . . . the bias significantly reduces when the core representation is uniformly positive. . . .relative to themselves, people believe that an identically paying other will get more enjoyment from the same experience, but paradoxically, that an identically enjoying other will pay more for the same experience. . . . explicitly prompting people to consider the entire distribution of others' preferences significantly reduced or eliminated the bias.”

Minah Jung, Alice Moon, and Leif Nelson. 2020.  “Overestimating the Valuations and Preferences of Others.”  Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, vol. 149, no. 6, pp. 1193-1214, doi: 10.1037/xge0000700

Meissner and colleagues studied decision-making in virtual reality environments; their findings can be applied by anyone conducting research in virtual places or developing virtual retail spaces, for example. The research team reports that “With high-immersive virtual reality (VR) systems approaching mass markets, companies are seeking to better understand how consumers behave when shopping in VR. A key feature of high-immersive VR environments is that they can create a strong illusion of reality to the senses, which could substantially change consumer choice behavior compared to online shopping. We compare consumer choice from virtual shelves in two environments: (i) a high-immersive VR environment using a head-mounted display and hand-held controllers with (ii) a low-immersive environment showing products as rotatable 3-D models on a desktop computer screen. . . . The empirical results provide evidence that consumers in high-immersive VR choose a larger variety of products and are less price-sensitive. Choice satisfaction, however, did not increase in high-immersive VR.”

Martin Meissner, Jella Pfeiffer, Christian Peukert, Holger Dietrich, and Thies Pfeiffer.  2020.  “How Virtual Reality Affects Consumer Choice.”  Journal of Business Research, vol. 117, pp. 219-231,

Whitley, Kalof, and Flach determined that looking at close-up portraits of animals, as opposed to images that show the same sorts of animals in the contexts of their natural environments, has special effects on our responses to those animals.  The investigators studied, via an online survey, “how individuals respond to traditional wildlife photography and animal portraiture. Those who were exposed to animal portraits reported increased empathy and decreased positive and relaxed emotions. We engage critical anthropomorphism, arguing that it is an essential tool to encourage conservation efforts and that animal portraiture may be an ideal ‘attention grabber,’ after which wildlife images can serve as ‘educators.’”  The researchers share that “animal portraiture is an approach that frames animals in ways that mimic the human studio portrait and has been established as influential in invoking feelings of kinship with animals. . . . Animal portraiture is a representational approach used in conservation photography that is designed to highlight animal personality and character and evoke emotion from the viewer.. . . .We examine viewers’ reactions to photographs of wildlife pictured in natural settings compared with the same species photographed in a portrait setting.”

Cameron Whitley, Linda Kalof, and Tim Flach.  “Using Animal Portraiture to Activate Emotional Affect.” Environment and Behavior, in press,

Li, Jia, and Wang wanted to better understand how smelling odors we feel are unpleasant influences what goes on in our minds. They report that their “study combined event-related potentials (ERPs) with a facial emotion recognition task to investigate the effect of food odor context on the recognition of facial expressions. . . . unpleasant food odors triggered faster recognition of facial expressions, especially fearful ones.”

Danyang Li, Jiafeng Jia, and Xiaochun Wang.  “Unpleasant Food Odors Modulate the Processing of Facial Expressions:  An Event-Related Potential Study.”  Frontiers in Neuroscience, in press, doi: 10.3389/fnins.2020.00686

Robertson, Cohen and Botch evaluated the size of our color field-of-vision and their findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  The researchers report that they “used head-mounted virtual reality displays installed with eye-trackers to immerse participants in a 360-degree real-world environment. The virtual environments included tours of historic sites, a street dance performance, a symphony rehearsal and more, where observers could explore their surroundings simply by turning their heads. . . .  In your visual field, your periphery extends approximately 210 degrees, which is similar to if your arms are stretched out on your left and right. The study’s results showed that most people’s color awareness is limited to a small area around the dead center of their visual field. When the researchers removed most color in the periphery, most people did not notice.  . . . ‘We were amazed by how oblivious participants were when color was removed from up to 95 percent of their visual world,’ said senior author, Caroline Robertson.”

“How Much Color Do We Really See?”  2020.  Press release, Dartmouth University,

Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicates that we do not see the world completely objectively.  A group lead by Firestone and Morales reports “that it's almost impossible for people to separate an object's true identity from their own perspective on it. In this case, people looked at round objects that were tilted away from them; even when people were certain that the objects were round, they couldn't help but ‘see’ them in a distorted way, as ovals or ellipses. . . . subjects were shown pairs of three-dimensional coins. One was always a true oval, the other was a circle. Subjects had to pick the true oval. Seems easy, yet when presented with tilted circular coins, subjects were flummoxed and their response time slowed significantly. This persisted whether the coins were still or moving; with different shapes; and whether the coins were shown on a computer screen or displayed right in front of subjects. . . . ‘Even when we try to perceive the world the way it really is, we can't completely discard our perspective’" (quote attributed to Morales).

“Testing the Objectivity of Vision.”  2020.  Press release (Jill Rosen), Johns Hopkins University,


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