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Pedestrians’ apparent lack of awareness of their surroundings may not raise safety issues. A team lead by Harms reports that “Pedestrians are commonly engaged in other activities while walking. The current study assesses (1) whether pedestrians are sufficiently aware of their surroundings to successfully negotiate obstacles in a city, and (2) whether various common walking practices affect awareness of obstacles and, or, avoidance behavior. To this end, an obstacle, i.e., a signboard was placed on a pavement in the city centre of Utrecht, the Netherlands. . . . More than half of the participants (53.8%) was unaware of the signboard, still none of them had bumped into it. Mind wandering, being engaged in secondary tasks such as talking with a companion or using a mobile phone, and being familiar with a route, did not affect awareness nor avoidance behavior. In conclusion, despite being very common there was no evidence that walking without awareness necessarily results in risk.”

Ilse Harms, Joke van Dijlen, Karel Brookhuis, and Dick de Waard. 2019.  “Walking Without Awareness.”  Frontiers in Psychology, https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01846

Lymeus, Lindberg, and Hartig assessed mindfulness training in different environments.  They found that “The setting matters in meditation. . . .  Many mindfulness-based health interventions emphasize effortful attention training exercises in sparsely furnished indoor settings. However, many beginners with attention regulation problems struggle with the exercises and drop out. In contrast, restoration skills training (ReST) – a five-week course set in a garden environment – builds on mindfulness practices adapted to draw on restorative processes stimulated effortlessly in nature contacts. Expecting that the ReST approach will facilitate the introduction to mindfulness, we compared drop-out and homework completion records from four rounds of ReST vs. conventional mindfulness training. . . . Randomly assigned ReST participants had lower drop-out and more sustained homework completion over the course weeks. . . . The improved acceptability with ReST means that more people can enjoy the long-term benefits of establishing a meditation practice.”  The gardens chosen as study settings were cogntively restrative.

Freddie Lymeus, Per Lindberg, and Terry Hartig.  2019. “A Natural Meditation Setting Improves Compliance with Mindfulness Training.”  Journal of Environmental Psychology, vol. 64, pp. 98-106, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2019.05.008

Schertz and Berman reviewed published studies exploring the cognitive repercussions of being exposed to nature.  They determined that exposure to a variety of natural stimuli (vs. urban stimuli) consistently improves working memory performance. . . . Overall, there is compelling evidence to support the advice of Thoreau and Murray to spend time in nature. Exposure to natural environments has been shown to improve performance on working memory, cognitive-flexibility, and attentional-control tasks. These results come from studies conducted using a variety of simulated environments (e.g., images, sounds, virtual reality) as well as real-world environmental exposure.. . . One potential mechanism that has emerged for these effects involves the perception of the low-level features of the environment. . . . low-level features include color properties—such as hue, saturation, and brightness (value)—as well as spatial properties—such as the density of straight and nonstraight edges and entropy. . . . Natural environments in general have more nonstraight edges, less color saturation, and less variability of hues.”

Kathryn Schertz and Marc Berman.  “Understanding Nature and Its Cognitive Benefits.”  Current Directions in Psychological Science, in press, https://doi.org/10.1177/0963721419854100

Why do we value handmade objects, even when “perfect” machine made options are available?  Waytz in The Power of Human:  How Our Shared Humanity Can Help Us Create a Better World answers that question. Waytz reports, for example, that “people consciously or subconsciously judge the value of something based on the perceived effort put into it.  The first studies examining this effect, led by psychologist Justin Kruger . . . demonstrated that people valued poems, paintings, and medieval armor more highly when they believed these artifacts required more human effort to produce. . . . Van Osselaer’s studies provide critical insight as to why people prefer handmade to machine-made products: love. Participants reported believing that handmade products contained more love and were made with more love than machine-made products. . . . Job and colleagues showed in their research that the mere trace of a human creator enhanced people’s assessments of an object’s value. . . .  Job’s participants believed that the human touch imbued objects with social qualities such as warmth, friendliness, and sincerity.”

Adam Waytz.  2019.  The Power of Human:  How Our Shared Humanity Can Help Us Create a Better World. W.W. Norton; New York.

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