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Researchers at Boston University have developed a new system for soundproofing spaces.  A press release from Boston University reports that Zhang, Ghaffarivardavagh, Anderson, and Nikolajczyk determined that “Although noise-mitigating barricades, called sound baffles, can help drown out the whoosh of rush hour traffic or contain the symphony of music within concert hall walls, they are a clunky approach not well suited to situations where airflow is also critical. . . . the researchers argue that it’s quite possible to silence noise using an open, ringlike structure, created to mathematically perfect specifications, for cutting out sounds while maintaining airflow.” The ring is constructed from “a material with unusual and unnatural properties (known as a metamaterial’.”  The team reports that “The basic premise is that the metamaterial needs to be shaped in such a way that it sends incoming sounds back to where they came from. . . . Zhang says the possibilities are endless, since the noise mitigation method can be customized to suit nearly any environment: ‘The idea is that we can now mathematically design an object that can block the sounds of anything,’ she says.’” More details about this soundscaping breakthrough are available at the web address noted below.

Kat McAlpine. 2019.  “Making the World a Lot Quieter.”  Press release, Boston University, http://www.bu.edu/eng/2019/02/28/making-the-world-a-lot-quieter/

Kapferer and Valette-Florence studied factors that encourage people to select luxury options.  They learned from “luxury buyers from six countries, both mature and emerging, Asian and Western. . . .  [that] self[-made]-success leads to a perception of luxury as a financial investment, whereas richness boosts the hedonistic [self-indulgent, pleasure related] function of luxury.”

Jean-Noel Kapferer and Pierre Valette-Florence. “How Self-Success Drives Luxury Demand: An Integrated Model of Luxury Growth and Country Comparisons.”  Journal of Business Research, in press, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusres.2019.02.002

Negami and colleagues investigated the psychological repercussions of urban design.  Their published study indicates that “the urban environment has great potential to shape residents’ experiences and social interactions, as well as to mitigate social isolation by promoting trust and sociability. The current study examines the effects of urban design interventions, such as colorful crosswalks and greenery, on participants’ mental well-being, sociability and feelings of environmental stewardship. Participants were led on walks of Vancouver’s West End neighborhood, stopping at six sites . . . [participants] indicate[d] their emotional response to and perception of the environment using a smartphone application. Spaces with greenery and spaces with a colorful, community-driven urban intervention were associated with higher levels of happiness, trust [of strangers], [environmental] stewardship and attraction to the sites than their more standard comparison sites. Our findings demonstrate that simple urban design interventions can increase subjective well-being and sociability among city residents.”

Hanna Negami, Robin Mazumder, Mitchell Reardon, and Colin Ellard.  “Field Analysis of Psychological Effects of Urban Design:  A Case Study in Vancouver.”  Cities and Health, in press, https://doi.org/10.1080/23748834.2018.1548257

Park probed factors linked to park use.  He reports that  “As the world becomes more urbanized, neighborhood parks are becoming an increasingly important venue where people engage in physical and social activities. Using park-use data collected by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the aim of this study is to account for park use in light of park attributes and neighborhood conditions. . . .  neighborhood park utilization is positively associated with park attributes (i.e., larger area, a playground, a creek/pond, quality maintenance, and organized activities) and neighborhood attributes (i.e., fewer minority/low-income population, higher density, more commercial and public uses, and a well-connected street network).”

Keunhyun Park. “Park and Neighborhood Attributes Associated With Park Use:  An Observational Study Using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.”  Environment and Behavior, in press, https://doi.org/10.1177/0013916518811418

McPhetres has identified another benefit of feeling awed, after inducing awe by showing study participants scenes from the natural world (for instance, of the aurora borealis). McPhetres states that “Results from four pre-registered studies . . . indicate that manipulating awe through online . . . and virtual reality . . . videos, led to greater awareness of knowledge gaps [things that are no known]. Awareness of knowledge gaps was consistently associated with greater science interest and to choosing tickets to a science museum over tickets to an art museum.”  Awe can also be induced via remarkable workmanship or large size in a designed space/object, for example.

Jonathon McPhetres. “Oh, The Things You Don’t Know: Awe Promotes Awareness of Knowledge Gaps and Science Interest.”  Cognition and Emotion, in press, https://doi.org/10.1080/02699931.20119.1585331

Research conducted by Choi and team confirms that experiencing cooler light is energizing. They “investigated physiological and subjective responses to morning light exposure of commercially available LED lighting with different correlated colour temperatures to predict how LED-based smart lighting employed in future learning environments will impact students. . . . university students underwent an hour of morning light exposure to both warm (3,500 K) and blue-enriched (6,500 K) white lights at recommended illuminance levels for classrooms and lecture halls (500 lux). The decline of melatonin levels was significantly greater after the exposure to blue-enriched white light. Exposure to blue-enriched white light significantly improved subjective perception of alertness, mood, and visual comfort. . . . Blue-enriched LED light seems to be a simple yet effective potential countermeasure for morning drowsiness and dozing off in class, particularly in schools with insufficient daylight.” People in the bluer light thus felt significantly more alert, etc., than those experiencing the warmer light.

Kyungah Choi, Cheong Shin, Taesu Kim, Hyun Chung, and Hyeon-Jeong Suk.  “Awakening Effects of Blue-Enriched Morning Light Exposure on University Students’ Physiological and Subjective Responses.”  Scientific Reports, vol. 9, article 345, DOI:10.1038/s41598-018-36791-5

Curry, Mullins, and Whitehouse determined that cooperation is valued worldwide, so supporting cooperation via design is generally desirable.  The researchers report that “The theory of ‘morality-as-cooperation’ argues that morality consists of a collection of biological and cultural solutions to the problems of cooperation recurrent in human social life. Morality-as-cooperation . . . predicts that specific forms of cooperative behavior—including helping kin, helping your group, reciprocating, being brave, deferring to superiors, dividing disputed resources, and respecting prior possession—will be considered morally good wherever they arise, in all cultures. . . . we investigated the moral valence of these even cooperative behaviors in the ethnographic records of 60 societies.  We find that the moral valence of these behaviors is uniformly positive, and the majority of these cooperative morals are observed in the majority of cultures, with equal frequency across all regions of the world.  We conclude that these seven cooperative behaviors are plausible candidates for universal moral rules.”

Oliver Curry, Daniel Mullins, and Harvey Whitehouse.  2019. “Is It Good to Cooperate?  Testing the Theory of Morality-As-Cooperation in 60 Societies.”  Current Anthropology, vol. 60, no. 1, pp. 47-69, https://doi.org/10.1086/701478

Research conducted by Threadgold and colleagues indicates the dangers of listening to music while attempting to think creatively.  The Threadgold-lead group reports that they “investigated the impact of background music on performance of Compound Remote Associate Tasks (CRATs), which are widely thought to tap creativity. Background music with foreign (unfamiliar) lyrics . . . instrumental music without lyrics . . . and music with familiar lyrics . . . all significantly impaired CRAT performance in comparison with quiet background conditions.” A CRAT is described: it “involves a participant being shown three words (e.g., dress, dial, and flower), with the requirement being to find a single associated word (in this case ‘sun’) that can be combined with each presented word . . . to make a common word or phrase (i.e., sundress, sundial, and sunflower . . .).”  Creative performance in the “quiet” condition was similar to performance in a “library” noise condition, and the library noise condition was described: “library noise consisted of distant (nonintelligible) speech, photocopier noise, typing, and rustling of papers.”

Emma Threadgold, John Marsh, Neil McLatchie, and Linden Ball. 2019. “Background Music Stints Creativity: Evidence from Compound Remote Associate Tasks.”  Applied Cognitive Psychology, https://doi.org/10.1002/acp.3532

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