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Olszewska-Guizzo and colleagues studied links between nature experiences and the psychological state of people who lived in Singapore during its 7 week COVID-19 lockdown (known as a stay-at-home order or SHO). Data assessed were collected before the COVID-19 pandemic and immediately after the SHO ended. The research team determined, by showing participants videos of urban public spaces (Busy Downtown, Residential Green, and Lush Garden) filmed before the pandemic that “Post SHO, brain activity and responsiveness to landscapes changed. . . . high nature exposure [for example, going to parks] reported by Singaporeans during the SHO did not contribute to mitigating [reducing] the risk of depression.” The authors point out that during the SHO more people visited green spaces than usual, so there was less access to seating areas where visitors could relax and also that wearing masks and crowding, for example, may have kept pandemic related issues top-of-mind. In addition,“mask-wearing itself could have caused more sweating and/or breathing difficulties, especially in Singapore's tropical climate, which potentially degraded the overall nature experience.” In conclusion, “The provision of fully-functioning green urban spaces even in the times of pandemic, i.e. allowing social isolation, rest and relaxation in nature, forgetting about the pandemic struggles, may be the key for improved well-being of urbanites post-COVID-19.”
Agnieszka Olszewska-Guizzo, Anna Fogel, Nicolas Escoffer, and Roger Ho. “Effects of COVID-19-Related Stay-At-Home Order on Neuropsychophysiological Response to Urban Spaces: Beneficial Role of Exposure to Nature?” Journal of Environmental Psychology, in press, 101590, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2021.101590
Buxton and colleagues reviewed published studies on the implications of hearing nature sounds. They determined that “natural sounds improve health, increase positive affect [mood], and lower stress and annoyance. . . . Our review showed that natural sounds alone can confer health benefits. . . . water sounds had the largest effect on health and positive affective outcomes, while bird sounds had the largest effect on alleviating stress and annoyance.”
Rachel Buxton, Amber Pearson, Claudia Allou, Kurt Fristrup, and George Wittemyer. 2021. “A Synthesis of Health Benefits of Natural Sounds and Their Distribution in National Parks.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 118, no. 14, e2013097118, https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2013097118
Adams’ text is a useful to designers intrigued by the idea of exploring the implications of design decisions. He writes in his introduction that the chapters in his book “delve into the sociological, psychological, and historical reasons for our responses [to design]. I explored these issues as a designer, as I am not a neurologist, psychologist, or sociologist. What visual and conceptual cues resonate, and why? This was my constant question.”
Sean Adams. 2021. How Design Makes Us Think and Feel and Do Things. Princeton Architectural Press; Hudson, NY.
Theodorson and Scott researched lighting preferences. They report that their “research explores the human response to colored lighting with light emitting diodes (LEDs) in a space with the intent of understanding preference and affectual [emotional] response. The research was conducted through photographic appraisal of a single interior space illuminated with monochromatic and mixed colored lighting. Results indicate that. . . . When mixed color lighting is introduced, there are preferences for warm colors.”
Judy Theodorson and Jennifer Scott. 2020. “Colored LED Lighting as a Primary Interior Spatial Condition – Human Preference and Affectual Response.” In Damien Masson (ed.), Ambiances, Alloaesthesia: Senses, Inventions, Worlds. Proceedings of the 4thInternational Congress on Ambiances. International Ambiances Network, vol. 1 e-conference, pp. 102-107.
Bisson studied experiences in urban environments. Research completed indicated that “three levels of understanding of urban environments can be identified: a first level shared by all, a second one shared by social groups, and a last one related to the individual. These three-levels of the inhabitants’ definition of urban ambiance anchors enable us to question participation in urban planning.”
Brieuc Bisson. 2020. “A Multi-Dimensional Approach to Ambiance Change Triggers in an Urban Context.” In Damien Masson (ed.), Ambiances, Alloaesthesia: Senses, Inventions, Worlds. Proceedings of the 4thInternational Congress on Ambiances. International Ambiances Network, vol. 1 e-conference, pp. 62-67.
Thygesen and colleagues link greater access to green space as a child to lower levels of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). They report that when they reviewed data collected in Denmark for “individuals, who were born in Denmark between 1992 and 2007 . . . and followed for a diagnosis of ADHD from age 5, during the period 1997–2016. . . . Individuals living in areas defined by sparse green vegetation . . . had an increased risk of developing ADHD, compared with individuals living in areas within the highest [levels of green space]. . . . findings suggest that lower levels of green space in residential surroundings, during early childhood, may be associated with a higher risk of developing ADHD.”
Malene Thygesen, Kristine Engemann, Gitte Holst, Birgitte Hansen, Camilla Geels, Jorgen Brandt, Carsten Pedersen, and Soren Dalsgaard. 2020. “The Association Between Residential Green Space in Childhood and Development of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A Population-Based Cohort Study.” Environmental Health Perspectives, vol. 128, no. 12, https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP6729
Blut and Iyer investigated the implications of retail crowding. They determined via a meta-analysis of previously published studies that spatial crowding, which is tied to the physical features of a space, such as the space available to a person and the form of that space, degrades store evaluations while human crowding, or the perceived number of people in a store and impressions of the interactions of those people, enhances those assessments: “Managers should also examine if their retail or service setting is perceived as hedonic [pleasure-related], and whether attracting more customers into their store would have positive impacts on customer responses. . . . Some retail types, such as those with predominantly utilitarian offerings (e.g., grocery stores) benefit less from human crowding. . . . greater use of in-store technologies (self-service checkouts, robotic assistance) to ease checkout and exiting the store may alleviate crowding perceptions. . . . impacts of crowding on some outcomes are affected by whether the environment is perceived as competitive or cooperative, retailers could encourage greater interactions between customers to create a more cooperative environment. An example of the latter is seating arrangements in neighborhood coffee shops and diners where proximity may foster a cooperative environment.”
Markus Blut and Gopalkrishnan Iyer. “Consequences of Perceived Crowding: A Meta-Analytical Perspective.” Journal of Retailing, vol. 96, no. 3, pp. 362-382, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jretai.2019.11.007
Chen and colleagues studied the nonverbal messages sent by package shapes; their findings are useful to designers more generally. The Chen-lead team determined that “a tall, slender package creates the perception of higher brand status to a significantly greater extent than a short, wide package. Therefore, retailers in the high-end market can stock more products in tall, slender packages to communicate and enhance their positioning. . . . Retailers in the low-end market, on the other hand, face more complicated decisions. Should they stock more products in short, wide packages? On the one hand, consumers who are aware of the retailer’s economic positioning might still prefer a product they perceive to have a high brand status over one perceived to have a low brand status, all other things being equal. On the other hand, for new consumers who know little about the retailer, high perceived brand status may lead to a high estimation of product price, and turn price-sensitive consumers away.”
Huan Chen, Jun Pang, Minkyung Koo, and Vanessa Patrick. 2020. “Shape Matters: Package Shape Informs Brand Status Categorization and Brand Choice.” Journal of Retailing, vol. 96, no. 2, pp. 266-281, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jretai.2019.08.003
What do we prefer to see when we look out the window at an urban area? Batool, Rutherford, and McGraw found that “participants tend to prefer the presence of people, well-maintained buildings and orderly presented colours. . . . Views containing a variety of information, with colourful patterns and differentiated facades, were preferred more than those with less information. . . . windows not affording a clear vision to the inside – that is, where further information could not be obtained about the environment behind an opening – led to reduced preference. . . . The presence of green and naturalistic elements, however small, in urban views may lead to higher preference ratings."
A.Batool, P. Rutherford, and P. McGraw. “View Preference in Urban Environments.” Lighting Research and Technology, in press, https://doi.org/10.1177/1477153520981572
Vasquez and colleagues studied children’s (their sample was kindergarteners, 3.5 – 6.6 years old) classroom design preferences. They determined that “young children can differentiate lighting needs according to the activity performed. Visual contact with the view seen through the classroom window was important to the children, with a higher preference for natural views. . . . the children preferred the classroom with open curtains. . . . most of the children enjoyed looking out of the window, without any difference related to gender or age. The main reason that made them look out of the classroom window was the possibility of seeing natural elements, mainly the sky.” In their conclusion, the researchers suggest that kindergarten design can succeed by “incorporating green areas near the classroom windows, locating the project in surroundings that favor and stimulate children, placing openings that allow children to see outside, designing openings that allow access to natural light and control of direct radiation, and favoring the use of zenithal openings to ensure a homogeneous distribution of natural lighting.”
Natalia Vasquez, Maira Felippe, Fernando Pereira, and Ariane Kuhnen. 2019. “Luminous and Visual Preferences of Young Children in Their Classrooms: Curtain Use, Artificial Lighting and Window Views.” Building and Environment, vol. 152, pp. 59-73, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.buildenv.2019.01.049