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Wang and colleagues extensively reviewed links between indoor environmental quality (IEQ) and mental achievement presented in the peer-reviewed literature.  They report that “The present review decomposes IEQ into five factors—indoor air quality, the thermal environment, lighting, noise, and non-light visual factors. It divided cognition into five categories—attention, perception, memory, language function, and higher order cognitive skills. . . .  results show that poor IEQ conditions are but not always associated with reduced cognition. However, the effects of a specific IEQ factor on different cognitive functions are quite distinct. Likewise, a specific cognitive function could be affected by different IEQ factors to varying degrees. . . . Overall, there is a preponderance of the evidence that almost all IEQ factors, including indoor air quality, thermal environment, noise, lighting, and non-light visual factors could affect cognitive performance to varying degrees.” Many condition specific details are provided in the text of this article.

Chao Wang, Fan Zhang, Julian Wang, James Doyle, Peter Hancock, Cheuk Mak, and Shichao Liu. 2021.  “How Indoor Environmental Quality Affects Occupants’ Cognitive Functions: A Systematic Review.”  Building and Environment, vol. 193, 107647,

A new book reviews how future cities should be designed; conclusions are drawn from data collected during visits to 53 cities in 30 different countries and conversations with a variety of experts.  The Ideal City’s website reports that “our vision for the cities of tomorrow is built around five guiding principles. . . . A resourceful city manages to be both ecologically and economically sustainable. . . .  An accessible city is built for diversity, inclusion, and equality. . . . A shared city fosters a sense of community, collaboration, and togetherness. . . .  a safe city ensures a healthy environment to live in while providing access to resources such as food, water, shelter, and care, and fosters physical and mental wellbeing through access to healthcare and green spaces. . . . A desirable city is one that is a pleasure to be in. It is designed on a human scale, making everything accessible within a 15-minute walk.”  SPACE10, one of the authors of  The Ideal City, describes itself on the book’s website as “proudly supported by and entirely dedicated to IKEA.”

SPACE10 and gestalten.  The Ideal City. Gestalten; New York.,

Recent research verifies that being depressed influences how people see the world, literally.   Salmela, Socada, Söderholm, Heikkilä, Lahti, Ekelund, and Isometsä “confirmed that the processing of visual information is altered in depressed people, a phenomenon most likely linked with the processing of information in the cerebral cortex. The study was published in the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience.”  These findings indicate how important it is to test particular design options with user groups, particularly at counseling centers or other locations where more users than usual are likely to be depressed.

“Depression Affects Visual Perception.”  2021. Press release, University of Helsinki,

Kiss and Linnell investigated how listening to the music that they prefer to hear as they work on a task that requires attention influences a person’s cognitive performance. The researchers share that while people “completed a variation of the Psychomotor Vigilance Task—that has long been used to measure sustained attention—in silence and with their self-selected or preferred music in the background. We collected subjective reports of attentional state (specifically mind-wandering, task-focus and external distraction states) as well as reaction time (RT) measures of performance. . . . In summary, the current study demonstrated that preferred background music enhanced task-focus on a low-demanding [simpler] sustained-attention task by decreasing mind-wandering. . . . Overall, these results provide evidence for a positive effect of background music on task-focused attention during an easy, low-demanding task.”

Luca Kiss and Karina Linnell.  2020.”The Effect of Preferred Background Music on Task-Focus in Sustained Attention.” Psychological Research,

Yang and colleagues studied how the noises that people hear in highway tunnels influences their driving performance;  their findings are likely relevant in other contexts.  The investigators report on a driving simulation-based assessment that they conducted:  “Five different sound scenarios were tested: original highway tunnel sound and a mix of it with four other sounds (slow music [72 beats per minute], fast music [96 beats per minute], voice prompt [woman’s voice], and siren, respectively). The subjects' physiological state and driving behavior data were collected through heart rate variability (HRV) and electroencephalography (EEG). . . . slow music was the best kind of sound related to driving comfort, while the siren sound produced the strongest driver reaction in terms of mental alertness and stress level. The voice-prompt sound most likely caused driver fatigue and overload, but it was the most effective sound affecting safety. The subjective opinion of the drivers indicated that the best sound scenario for the overall experience was slow music (63%), followed by fast music (21%), original highway tunnel sound environment (13%), and voice-prompt sound (3%).” All sounds were experienced at 70 dB.

Yanqun Yang, Yang Feng, Said Easa, Xiujing Yang, Jiang Liu, and Wei Lin.  2021.  “Sound Effects on Physiological State and Behavior of Drivers in a Highway Tunnel.” Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 12,

Hian and colleagues used virtual reality to study the psychological implications of vertical (e.g., on the sides of buildings) greenery.  They report that they “examined the buffering effects of vertical greenery, an increasingly popular form of urban nature in high-density cities, by using VR to simulate the experience of walking through a noisy downtown area where buildings’ exteriors were covered with vertical greenery. Our results suggest that vertical greenery on city buildings can buffer against the negative psychophysiological consequences of stress. . . . Our findings have important practical implications for city planning and design, especially for high-density urban areas. It suggests that vertical greenery systems, and possibly even artificial plants, may provide buffering effects to minimize the detrimental consequences of stress. While our study focused on outdoor environments, it is possible that vertical greenery can be applied to indoor environments such as metro stations or shopping malls where spaces are limited.”

Sarah Hian, May Chan, Lin Qiu, Gianluca Esposito, and Ky Mai. 2021.  “Vertical Greenery Buffers Against Stress:  Evidence from Psychophysiological Responses in Virtual Reality.”  Landscape and Urban Planning, vol. 213, 104127,

Belanche and colleagues evaluated responses to robots providing services; their conclusions are can be applied to design robot waiters or robot concierges in workplaces, for example.  The investigators report that their  “study analyzes to what extent robots' perceived physical human-likeness, perceived competence, and perceived warmth affect customers' service value expectations and, subsequently, their loyalty intentions. . . . human-likeness positively affects four dimensions of service value expectations [functional, social, monetary, and emotional value]. Perceived competence of the robot influences mainly utilitarian expectations (i.e., functional and monetary value), while perceived warmth influences relational expectations (i.e., emotional value). . . When serving a customer base that has a high need for social interaction, the ideal robot looks human-like but warmth is less valued. . . . on a service level some contexts are more likely to attract customers with a need for social interaction (e.g., services that require advice, such as in travel agencies, financial services) than others (e.g., relatively standardized services, such as fast-food restaurants).”

Daniel Belanche, Luis Casalo, Jeroen Schepers, and Carlos Flavian.  2021.  “Examining the Effects of Robots’ Physical Appearance, Warmth, and Competence in Frontline Services:  The Humanness-Value-Loyalty Model.”  Psychology and Marketing,

Noble and Devlin studied patient experiences in psychotherapy waiting rooms.  They found via an online survey that “waiting rooms that were welcoming and comfortable as well as large and spacious rated higher for the quality of care and comfort in the environment anticipated by the participant; those that were cramped and crowded rated lower.”

Lilly Noble and Ann Devlin. 2021. “Perceptions of Psychotherapy Waiting Rooms:  Design Recommendations.”  HERD:  Health Environments Research and Design Journal, vol. 14, no. 3, pp. 140-154,

Wichrowski and research partners investigated how nature imagery influences rehabilitation patient experiences.  They share that “In settings where patients have high degrees of medical acuity and infection control is a major concern, exposure to the benefits of real nature may be precluded. . . . In these settings, the presence of nature imagery may provide benefits which positively impact patient experience. . . . physical rehabilitation patients on a medically complex/cardiopulmonary rehabilitation unit filled out questionnaires assessing their perceptions of their room and various indexes of patient satisfaction. . . . the presence of biophilic nature imagery in the hospital rooms had a significant effect on patients’ room ratings and positively influenced indexes of patient satisfaction.”

Matthew Wichrowski, John Corcoran, Fancois Haas, Greg Sweeney, and Arlene Mcgee.  2021. “Effects of Biophilic Nature Imagery on Indexes of Satisfaction in Medically Complex Physical Rehabilitation Patients:  An Exploratory Study.”   HERD:  Health Environments Research and Design Journal, vol. 14, no. 3, pp. 288-304,

Gola and teammates studied how 20-30 minutes of contact with nature influences wellbeing.  They learned that “The Scientific Community . . . has already demonstrated the importance of greenery and nature on the psychophysical well-being of people and, in a moment of emergency, contact with the nature can be therapeutic and quite influential on the mental health of staff subject to stress.During the lockdown, an Italian multidisciplinary working group promoted an experience-based survey . . .for measuring the psychophysical well-being of hospital staff.. . .   a short break in green spaces strongly influenced the mental and psychophysical well-being of hospital staff, emphasizing the importance of nearby green spaces in architectures for health. Even a brief break in nature can regenerate users, especially in times of a stressful health emergency.”

Marco Gola, Monica Botta, Anna D’Aniello, and Stefano Capolongo.  2021. “Influence of Nature at the Time of the Pandemic:  An Experience-Based Survey at the Time of SARS-CoV-2 to Demonstrate How Even a Short Break in Nature Can Reduce Stress for Healthcare Staff.” HERD: Health Environments Research and Design Journal, vol.14, no. 2, pp. 49-65,


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