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Coronado and colleagues assessed how design influences thoughts about the likelihood of catching a disease.  They collected data in April and May 2021 via  “An anonymous online survey . . . [from] students of higher academic institutions using images portraying 3D models of classrooms and written prompts to assess perceptions. . . . [and] found a significant effect of different degrees of ‘connection to the outdoors’ and ‘occupant density’ on both perceived health risk and health promotion in both [US and Colombia] countries. Respondents ranked strategies like mask-wearing and natural ventilation as important interventions when considering a return to the classroom.”

Maria Coronado, Siobhan Rockcastle, and Alison Kwok.  “Environmental Health Perceptions in University Classrooms: Results from an Online Survey During the COVID-19 Pandemic in the US and Colombia.”  Frontiers in Built Environment, in press, https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fbuil.2021.784634/abstract

The way a robot feels influences opinions about it.  Researchers lead by Umeda have found that “Body texture, such as softness or elasticity, is an important consideration in the design of robots meant for interactive functions. . . .  researchers asked adult participants to view, touch, and evaluate six different inactive robots that were humanoid to varying degrees. The participants were asked to touch the arm of the robots. For each robot, four fake arms had been constructed; these were made of silicone rubber and prepared in such a way that their elasticity varied, thus providing differing touch sensations. ‘The results confirmed our expectations,’ explains Hisashi Ishihara, senior author. ‘We found that the impressions of the personalities of the robots varied according to the texture of the robot arms.’”  This study is published in Advanced Robotics.

“’My Robot Is a Softie’:  Physical Texture Influences Judgments of Robot Personality.”  2021.  Press release, Osaka University, https://resou.osaka-u.ac.jp/en/research/2021/20211202_1

Samuelsson studied links between urban design and wellbeing.  He reports that “Drawing on literature from urban morphology, complex systems analysis, environmental psychology, and neuroscience, I provide a wide-angle view of how urban form relates to subjective well-being through movement, social and economic activity, experiences and psychological restoration. I propose three principles for urban form that could promote subjective well-being while also mitigating the environmental impact of cities in industrialized societies. The principles revolve around so-called topodiversity, meaning variation across an urban area in spatial conditions that allows subjective well-being to be promoted through several different pathways. The principles together suggest an urban form that I call the topodiverse city. The topodiverse city displays a polycentric structure and is more spatially contained than the sprawling city, yet not as compact as the dense city.”

Karl Samuelsson.  “The Topodiverse City:  Urban Form for Subjective Well-Being.”  Frontiers in Built Environment, in press, https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fbuil.2021.735221/abstract

Carlini and Bigand looked at relationships between sounds heard and the accuracy of estimations of how long an object being looked at moved.  They report that “A visual moving target was presented to the participants, associated with a concurrent sound. . . . Nine different sound profiles were tested, from an easier constant sound to more variable and complex pitch profiles, always presented synchronously with motion. Participants’ responses show that constant sounds produce the worst duration estimation performance, even worse than the silent condition; more complex sounds, instead, guarantee significantly better performance. . . .  Results clearly show that a concurrent sound influences the unified perception of motion; the type and magnitude of the bias depends on the structure of the sound stimulus. Contrary to expectations, the best performance is not generated by the simplest stimuli, but rather by more complex stimuli that are richer in information.”

Alessandro Carlini and Emmanuel Bigand.  2021.  “Does Sound Influence Perceived Duration of Visual Motion.”  Frontiers in Psychology, https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.751248

Newman and colleagues investigated how virtual reality realism influences potentially restorative VR experiences.  They determined that “High realism VR environments provided a greater sense of presence and restoration.  Realism is important, particularly for environmental restoration research. . . . Two studies were conducted to examine how realism of environmental presentations impact affective responses and participant perceptions. . . . . Study One showed that experiences of VR presentations fell between real and video presentations. Study Two found that more realistic VR environments evoked more positive affective and serenity responses, as well as a greater sense of presence. In both studies, participants stressed the importance of naturalistic interaction, sensory immersion, and graphical realism in the experiences. . . .  The level of realism that can be attained with VR does impact affective responses and perceptions.”

M Newman, B. Gatersleben, K. Wyles, and E. Ratcliffe.  “The Use of Virtual Reality in Environment Experiences and the Importance of Realism.” Journal of Environmental Psychology.  101733, in press, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2021.101733

Estes and Streicher’s work makes it clear that retail design and planning should support use of certain sorts of shopping carts.  The research duo reports that “Prior research on ergonomics indicates that standard shopping carts, which are pushed via a horizontal handlebar, are likely to activate arm extensor muscles. Prior research on arm muscle activation, in turn, suggests that arm extensor activation may elicit less purchasing than arm flexor activation. . . . The authors predicted that shopping carts with parallel handles (i.e., like a wheelbarrow or ‘walker’) would instead activate the flexor muscles and thus increase purchasing. . . . In a field experiment, parallel-handle shopping carts significantly and substantially increased sales across a broad range of categories, including both vice and virtue products. Finally, in a simulated shopping experiment, parallel handles increased purchasing and spending beyond both horizontal and vertical handles. These results were not attributable to the novelty of the shopping cart itself, participants’ mood, or purely ergonomic factors.”

Zachary Estes and Mathias Streicher.  “Getting a Handle on Sales:  Shopping Carts Affect Purchasing by Activating Arm Muscles.”  Journal of Marketing, in press, https://doi.org/10.1177/00222429211061367

Sunder shares thought-provoking insights that will be valuable to any one designing patient rooms, particularly semi-private ones.  As sales materials on the book’s Amazon site report, “The patient room is the smallest cell of the hospital organism. Its layout determines the structure of the ward and is therefore a decisive factor for the entire building.  Many requirements have to be met. The patient's sense of well-being can be positively influenced by the design: homely materials, an attractive view and sufficient privacy are important objectives. Equally important are the working conditions for the staff, especially short distances and an efficient care routine. Finally, even the risk of infection can be reduced by a conscientiously planned room layout.  This publication provides a systematic overview of the design task patient room and shows exemplary solutions: both typologically and in selected case studies.”

Wolfgang Sunder. 2020.  The Patient Room:  Planning, Design and Layout. Birkhauser, Basel.

Faraji-Rad and Lee’s study helps explain some choices of objects and environments.  They determined that  “Merely anticipating a future sad event motivates consumers to ‘accumulate happiness’ in order to enhance their ability to cope with the anticipated sadness later—a phenomenon that we call banking happiness.  To bank happiness, consumers not only choose positive stimuli over non-positive stimuli when given the choice. . .  Consumers bank happiness because of the lay theory that happiness is a resource that can be accumulated (i.e., banked) and consumed later.  . . .  believing that happiness is bankable increases consumers’ engagement with positive stimuli when anticipating sadness, possibly boosting the hedonic [pleasure-related] utility [value] consumers obtain from the positive stimuli and helping them to build a stronger buffer against the negative stimuli later.”

Ali Faraji-Rad and Leonard Lee.  “Banking Happiness.”  Journal of Consumer Research, in press, ucab066, https://doi.org/10.1093/jcr/ucab066

Goldring and Bolger investigated the implications of experiencing daily stressors, which can arise from conditions in physical environments.  They report that “Prior research shows that daily stressors lead to greater psychological distress. A separate body of research links daily stressors to physical symptoms such as backaches and stomach problems. We integrate these literatures by positing an interconnected causal system, whereby stressors lead to psychological distress which, in turn, leads to physical symptoms. Our integrated approach also includes causal effects in the opposing directions: Psychological distress can increase physical symptoms and physical symptoms can increase psychological distress. Put simply, causal effects are bidirectional. . . . some people are as much as four times as reactive as the average person, some people are not reactive at all, and other people are reactive in reverse directions (e.g., distress leads to fewer physical symptoms).”

Megan Goldring and Niall Bolger. 2021.  “Physical Effects of Daily Stressors Are Psychologically Mediated, Heterogeneous, and Bidirectional.”  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 121, no. 3, pp. 722-746, https://doi.org/10.1037/pspp0000396

Binter and colleagues studied links between urban design and child development.  They report that they “investigated the association between early-life urban environment and cognitive and motor function in children. We used data from 5403 mother–child pairs from four population-based birth-cohorts (UK, France, Spain, and Greece). . . . Higher greenness exposure within 300 m during pregnancy was associated with higher verbal abilities. . . . Higher connectivity density within 100 m and land use diversity during pregnancy were related to lower verbal abilities. Childhood exposure to PM2.5 mediated 74% of the association between greenness during childhood and verbal abilities. Higher exposure to PM2.5 during pregnancy was related to lower fine motor function. . . .  This study suggests that built environment, greenness, and air pollution may impact child cognitive and motor function at five years old. This study adds evidence that well-designed urban planning may benefit children’s cognitive and motor development.”

Anne-Claire Binter and 18 others. 2022.   “Urban Environment and Cognitive and Motor Function in Children from Four European Birth Cohorts.”  Environment International, vol. 158, 106933, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2021.106933

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