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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, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusres.2020.06.004

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, https://doi.org/10.1177/0013916520928429

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, https://www.dartmouth.edu/press-releases/how-much-color-do-we-really-see...

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, https://hub.jhu.edu/2020/06/08/objectivity-vision/

Research completed by Zhou, Wu, Meng, and Kang indicates that the acoustics in hospitals have a significant effect on stress experienced by patients.  The researchers share that “Patients in general wards are often exposed to excessive levels of noise and activity, and high levels of noise have been associated with depression and anxiety. Previous studies have found that an appropriate acoustic environment is beneficial to the patient's therapeutic and treatment process; however, the soundscape is rarely intentionally designed or operated to improve patient recovery, especially for psychological rehabilitation. . . . A digital three-dimensional model of a hospital room was constructed, and experimental subjects wore VR [virtual reality] glasses to visualize a real ward scene. . . . results show that music plays an important role in reducing stress as it can aid in a patient’s physiological (skin conduction levels) and psychological stress recovery. Furthermore, mechanical and anthropogenic sounds exert negative effects on a patient’s stress recovery. However, the effect is only limited to psychological stress indicators.”

Tianfu Zhou, Yue Wu, Qi Meng, and Jian Kang. “Influence of the Acoustic Environment in Hospital Wards on Patient Physiological and Psychological Indices.” Frontiers in Psychology, in press, doi:  10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01600

Chen calculated the financial implications of urban nature. He shares that he “systematically searched and reviewed literature on monetary valuation of urban nature’s health effects. . . . Large monetary values were found. These estimates are useful as an argument for urban planners promoting investment in urban green infrastructure.”

Xianwen Chen. 2020.  “Monetary Valuation of Urban Nature’s Health Effects:  A Systematic Review.”  Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, vol. 63, no. 10, pp. 1716-1737, https://doi.org/10.1080/09640568.2019.1689107

Molto and team’s work indicates that multiple factors influence how far away something seems to be.  The researchers report that “Previous studies have suggested that action constraints influence visual perception of distance.  For example, the greater the effort to cover a distance, the longer people perceive this distance to be.  The present . . . meta-analysis . . . supported the existence of a small action-constraint effect on distance estimation. . . . This effect varied slightly according to the action-constraint category (effort, weight, tool use). . . Our meta-analysis provided extremely strong evidence for the existence of an overall action-constraint effect on distance perception.” As an example of an action-constraint study that had been conducted, Molto and colleagues refer to research by Witt, Profitt, and Epstein (2005) who found that “participants estimated that a target was closer to them when they could use a tool to reach it more easily (low constraint) than when they could not (high constraint).”

Lisa Molto, Ladislas Nalborczyk, Richard Palluel-Germain, and Nicolas Morgado.  2020. “Action Effects on Visual Perception of Distances:  A Mutlilevel Bayesian Meta-Analysis.”  Psychological Science, vol. 31, no. 5, pp. 488-504, DOI: 10.1177/0956797619900336

Researchers at the Lighting Research Center confirm the value of spending time in brightly lit spaces.  They share that “The Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is investigating the impacts of working from home or quarantining indoors due to the COVID-19 pandemic on individual daily light exposures, and how this may be affecting sleep quality and psychological health. In May 2020, the LRC invited people who had been staying home due to the pandemic to complete a short survey about their sleep, mood, and daily light exposure. . . .  Compared to people with ‘somewhat dim’ to ‘very dim’ indoor lighting, people with ‘somewhat bright’ to ‘very bright’ lighting, including having windows without (or with open) curtains or shades, or having several lights turned on, reported:  

  • Fewer sleep disturbances
  • Less anxiety and depression
  • Feeling less tired or less irritable  
  • Feeling generally happier and more positive
  • Less sleep-related impairment.”  

“Survey Results Now Available!  More Daytime Light = Better Sleep and Mood.”  2020.  Press release, Lighting Research Center, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, https://www.lrc.rpi.edu/resources/newsroom/pr_story.asp?id=464#.XujVtC2ZNsM

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