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Bellet studied the implications of building large new homes in neighborhoods.  He reports that “Despite a major upscaling of single-family houses since 1980, house satisfaction has remained steady in American suburbs. . . . Combining data from the American Housing Surveys with a geolocalised dataset of three million suburban houses, I find that new constructions at the top of the house size distribution lower the satisfaction that neighbors derive from their own house size. Upward-looking comparisons are stronger among people living in larger houses and decrease with the distance from McMansions. I provide further evidence that homeowners exposed to the construction of big houses in their neighborhood put lower prices on their home, are more likely to upscale to a bigger house and take up more debt.”

Clement Bellet. 2019.  “The McMansion Effect:  Top Size Inequality, House Satisfaction and Home Improvement in U.S. Suburbs.”  SSRN,

Research recently published in PLoS ONE indicates that holding some classes outdoors can be a positive experience for both teachers and students.  This finding supports the design of outdoor teaching spaces.  Investigators studied, via interviews and focus groups with students (age 9-11) and teachers at primary schools in Wales, the implications of implementing “an outdoor learning programme, which entailed teaching the curriculum in the natural environment for at least an hour a week. . . . Lead author of the study Emily Marchant . . . explained: ‘We found that the pupils felt a sense of freedom when outside the restricting walls of the classroom. They felt more able to express themselves, and enjoyed being able to move about more too. They also said they felt more engaged and were more positive about the learning experience. We also heard many say that their well-being and memory were better, and teachers told us how it helped engage all types of learners. . . . once outdoor learning was embedded within the curriculum, [teachers] spoke of improved job satisfaction and personal wellbeing.’”

“Study Reveals How Just an Hour or Two of Outdoor Learning Every Week Engages Children, Improves Their Wellbeing and Increases Teachers’ Job Satisfaction.”  2019.  Press release, Swansea University,

White and colleagues investigated how much exposure to nature we need to remain healthy and happy. They “examined associations between recreational nature contact in the last seven days and self-reported health and well-being. . . . Analyses controlled for residential greenspace and other neighbourhood and individual factors. Compared to no nature contact last week, the likelihood of reporting good health or high well-being became significantly greater with contact ≥120 min[utes]s (e.g. 120–179 mins: . . . ). Positive associations peaked between 200–300 mins per week with no further gain. The pattern was consistent across key groups including older adults and those with long-term health issues. It did not matter how 120 mins of contact a week was achieved (e.g. one long vs. several shorter visits/week).”

Mathew White, Ian Alcock, James Grellier, Benedict Wheeler, Terry Hartig, Sara Warber, Angie Bone, Michael Depledge, and Lora Fleming.  2019. “Spending at Least 120 Minutes a Week in Nature is Associated with Good Health and Wellbeing.” Scientific Reports, vol. 9, no. 7730,

Townsend and Barton link our current responses to various sorts of trees to our experiences as a young species.  Their review of existing research indicates “that humans across the globe find broad spreading tree form beautiful. This form recalls the trees of the ancient African savanna where our species evolved.”  The researchers also report that their work leads to predictions that “humans prefer sleeping on the second story, elevated off the ground, because we associate elevation off the ground with safety. . . . [and] that humans prefer enmeshed multiple tree canopy as opposed to stand alone trees because connected canopy allows movement within the canopy from one tree to the next. . . . [and] humans prefer horizontal branching rather than ascending or descending patterns because horizontal branching makes climbing easier.”

Joseph Townsend and Susan Barton.  2018. “The Impact of Ancient Tree form on Modern Landscape Preferences.”  Urban Forestry and Urban Greening, vol. 34, pp. 205-216,

Research by Biswas and colleagues links perceptions of how food tastes to the posture of the person eating it; it is possible that their findings can be extended to other contexts. The researchers report that “The results of six experiments show that vestibular sensations related to posture (i.e., sitting vs. standing) influence food taste perceptions.  Specifically, standing (vs. sitting) postures induce greater physical stress on the body, which in turn decreases sensory sensitivity. As a result, when eating in a standing (vs. sitting) posture, consumers rate the taste of pleasant-tasting foods and beverages as less favorable, the temperature as less intense, and they consumer smaller amounts.  The effects of posture on taste perception are reversed for unpleasant-tasting foods. . . . Given the increasing trend toward eating while standing, the findings . . . have practical implications for restaurant, retail, and other food-service environment designs.”

Dipayan Biswas, Courtney Szocs, and Annika Abell.  “Extending the Boundaries of Sensory Marketing and Examining the Sixth Sensory System: Effects of Vestibular Sensations for Sitting Versus Standing Postures on Food Taste Perception.”  Journal of Consumer Research, in press,

Castella and colleagues demonstrate that there are cognitive benefits to intense experiences such as bungee-jumping; finding ways to apply their findings to more mundane designed experiences may be challenging.  The researchers “explored the effects of high arousal on cognitive performance when facing a situation of risk. . . . a field study was carried out in a real-life situation with . . . volunteer participants performing a bungee jumping activity and a control group. . . . Working memory capacity . . . selective attention . . . and decision-making . . . were assessed at 3 time points. . . .  The results indicate that high arousal accompanied by high positive valence [emotional state] scores after jumping either improved performance or led to a lack of impairment in certain cognitive tasks.”

Judit Castella, Jaume Boned, Jorge Mendez-Ulrich, and Antoni Sanz.  “Jump and Free Fall!  Memory, Attention, and Decision-Making Processes in an Extreme Sport.”  Cognition and Emotion, in press,

Noguchi and colleagues studied the experience of “perching.”  As the researchers explain, “Potential alternatives for conventional sitting and standing postures are hybrid sit-stand postures (i.e. perching). . . . participants completed 19 1-min static trials, from sitting (90°) to standing (180°), sequentially in 5° trunk–thigh angle increments. The perching phase was determined to be 145–175° for males and 160–175° for females. . . . Chair designs aimed at reducing the lower limb demands within 115–170° trunk–thigh angle may improve the feasibility of sustaining the perched posture. . . . Perching can improve lumbar posture at a cost of increased lower limb demands, suggesting potential avenues for chair design improvement.”

Mamiko Noguchi, Michel Glinka, Graham Mayberry, Kimihiro Noguchi, and Jack Callaghan.  2019.  “Are Hybrid Sit-Stand Postures a Good Compromise Between Sitting and Standing.” Ergonomics, vol. 62, no. 6, pp. 811-822,

Douglas, Russell, and Scott add to the body of research on resident responses to neighborhoods. They report that “Data [used in their analyses] are drawn from a household survey questionnaire completed by 483 residents living in three neighbourhoods in Dublin, Ireland – an inner city neighbourhood, a suburb and a peri-urban settlement. Positive perceptions of green and open space were identified as important predictors of high levels of neighbourhood satisfaction, surpassed only by dwelling characteristics. This suggests that development strategies which fail to provide for properly planned green and open spaces may be detrimental to neighbourhood quality of life.”

Owen Douglas, Paula Russell, and Mark Scott.  2019. “Positive Perceptions of Green and Open Space as Predictors of Neighbourhood Quality of Life: Implications for Urban Planning Across the City Region.”  Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, vol. 62, no. 4, pp. 626-646,

Our opinions of people influence our evaluations of places.  Assessments of familiar individuals transfer to imagined places that are linked to them; knowing about this tie may be useful when synthesizing research findings, for example.   Benoit, Paulus, and Schacter found that “Humans have the adaptive capacity for imagining hypothetical episodes. Such episodic simulation is based on a neural network. . . . This network draws on existing knowledge (e.g., of familiar people and places) to construct imaginary events (e.g., meeting with the person at that place). . . . . In two experiments, we demonstrate how imagining meeting liked versus disliked people (unconditioned stimuli, UCS) at initially neutral places (conditioned stimuli, CS) changes the value of these places. . . . attitude changes induced by the liked UCS are based on a transfer of positive affective value between the representations (i.e., from the UCS to the CS). . . . mere imaginings shape attitudes towards elements (i.e., places) from our real-life environment.”

Roland Benoit, Philipp Paulus, and Daniel Schacter. 2019.  “Forming Attitudes Via Neural Activity Supporting Affective Episodic Simulations.”  Nature Communications, vol. 10, article number 2215,

Skov conducted a literature review of neuroscience-based aesthetics research. He determined that “Aesthetic appreciation is not driven only by object properties. . . . . [neuroimaging] evidence suggests that identical stimuli can give rise to diverse computational representations, both in perceptual networks and in the reward circuit, as well as different hedonic [pleasure-related] values, when contextual circumstances vary. This flexible nature of aesthetic appreciation reflects its functional purpose. . . . . For example, chocolate is valued higher when blood sugar levels are low, and lower when these are high, because this variance in hedonic value helps decide if it is advantageous or not to consume chocolate.”

Martin Skov. “Aesthetic Appreciation:  The View from Neuroimaging.”  Empirical Studies of the Arts, in press,


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