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Coutrot and colleagues set out to learn more about how where we grew up influences our sense of direction; what they’ve learned may help explain previously baffling programming research findings, for example.  The Coutrot-lead team report that “how the environment in which one grew up affects later cognitive abilities remains poorly understood. Here we used a cognitive task embedded in a video game to measure non-verbal spatial navigation ability in 397,162 people from 38 countries across the world. Overall, we found that people who grew up outside cities were better at navigation [had a better sense of direction]. More specifically, people were better at navigating in environments that were topologically similar to where they grew up. Growing up in cities with a low street network entropy (for example, Chicago [less heterogeneous, more gridlike, for example]) led to better results at video game levels with a regular layout, whereas growing up outside cities or in cities with a higher street network entropy [more heterogeneous, streets not meeting at right angles frequently, for instance] (for example, Prague) led to better results at more entropic video game levels.” So, the design/form of where you grow up influences your sense of direction/wayfinding ability for the rest of your life.

A.Coutrot, E. Manley, S. Goodroe, C, Gahnstrom, G. Filomena, D. Yesiltepe, R. Dalton, J. Wiener, C. Holscher, M. Hornberger, and H. Spiers.  2022. “Entropy of City Street Networks Linked to Future Spatial Navigation Ability.”  Nature, vol. 604, pp. 104-110, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-022-04486-7

Santangelo and associates studied the effects of hearing music on decisions made.  They determined that music is frequently played while we are engaged in other activities that rely on decision-making (e.g., driving). . . . We analyzed response times and accuracy from more than 100-thousand decisions and mapped the effects of music onto decision-process components with a mechanistic model of decision-making. We found evidence . . . . [that] decisions—across domains—were faster but less accurate with music. . . . Overall, our results suggest that background music shapes our decisions by making us less cautious.”

Agustin Santangelo, Casimir Ludwig, Joaquin Navajas, Mariano Sigman, and Maria Leone.  “Background Music Changes the Policy of Human Decision-Making:  Evidence from Experimental and Drift-Diffusion Model-Based Approaches on Different Decision Tasks.”  Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, in press, https://doi.org/10.1037/xge0001189

Llinares and colleagues studied how classroom wall color hue influences student performance.  They determined via a virtual reality project that “Cold hues improve attention and memory performance. . . .  The objective of the present study is to analyse the impact that warm and cold hue coloured classroom walls have on the cognitive attention and memory functions of university students. . . . performance was quantified through psychological (attention and memory tasks) and neurophysiological (heart rate variability and electroencephalogram) metrics related to the cognitive functions analysed.”

Carmen Llinares, Juan Higuera-Trujillo, and Jua Serra.  2021. “Cold and Warm Coloured Classrooms.  Effects on Students’ Attention and Memory Measured Through Psychological and Neurophysiological Responses.”  Building and Environment, vol. 196, 107726, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.buildenv.2021.107726

Nanu and colleagues investigated how hotel lobby design influences opinions formed of hotels.  They report that their “study investigates preferences of millennial and non-millennial travelers towards hotel lobby design concerning style (contemporary vs. traditional) and biophilic elements [plants] (present vs. absent). This quantitative study is designed as an online, virtual, scenario-based experiment. . . . The findings of the study reveal that the lobby interior design style has a significant impact on booking intention across different generations. Moreover, millennials are more impacted by the design style of the hotel lobby than non-millennials. Biophilic design has also been found to impact the satisfaction and emotions of guests across different generations. . . . This study revealed that millennials do prefer modern-looking designs. . . . The combination of a modern interior with interesting plant additions would make the lobby of hotels fit for social media as well, which would increase general customer awareness.”

Luana Nanu, Faizan Ali, Katerina Berezina, and Cihan Cobanoglu. 2020. “The Effect of Hotel Lobby Design on Booking Intentions:  An Intergenerational Examination.” International Journal of Hospitality Management, vol. 89, 102530, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijhm.2020.102530

Another study indicates that there are intriguing similarities between our online experiences and those we have in real life.  A press release related to the new research indicates that “The more the video quality of an online meeting degrades, the louder we start talking, a new study by researchers at Radboud University and the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics finds. People also tend to change up their gestures to compensate. Their findings were published today in the Royal Society Open Science journal. . . .     When conversing over Zoom or Skype, we use some of the same tactics to make ourselves heard as we use in the real world, says James Trujillo, first author of the paper and a cognitive scientist at Radboud University and the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. ‘If you’re talking to someone in a busy area with a lot of background noise, you typically use gestures to support your speech, and you start talking louder.’”

“Why We Shout During Zoom Calls If the Image Gets Blurry.”  2022.  Press release, Radboud University, https://www.ru.nl/en/research/research-news/why-we-shout-during-zoom-cal...

Arshamian and teammates determined that worldwide people tend to find the same odors pleasant to smell.  As they report, they “asked 225 individuals from 9 diverse nonwestern cultures—hunter-gatherer to urban dwelling—to rank . . . odorants from most to least pleasant. Contrary to expectations, culture explained only 6% of the variance in pleasantness rankings, whereas individual variability or personal taste explained 54%. Importantly, there was substantial global consistency, with molecular identity explaining 41% of the variance in odor pleasantness rankings. . . . Taken together, this shows human olfactory perception is strongly constrained by universal principles. . . . Our results demonstrate the perception of odor pleasantness is largely independent of cultural factors. . . and can be predicted from physicochemical properties of odorants. . . . Critically, we show there is a universal bedrock of olfactory perception shared among all people.”

Artin Arshamian, Richard Gerkin, Nicole Kruspe, Johan Lundstrom, Joel Mainland, and Asifa Majid.  2022.  “The Perception of Odor Pleasantness is Shared Across Cultures.”  Current Biology, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2022.02.062

New research verifies that sensory experiences vary by culture.  For a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences n international research team led by Elizabeth Margulis and Devin McAuley “asked hundreds of people what stories they imagined when listening to instrumental music. . . . listeners in Michigan and Arkansas imagined very similar scenes, while listeners in China envisioned completely different stories. . . . For example, a musical passage identified only as W9 brought to mind a sunrise over a forest, with animals waking and birds chirping for American listeners, while those in Dimen [China] pictured a man blowing a leaf on a mountain, singing a song to his beloved. . . . the same music sparked very similar visuals in hundreds of listeners — unless they had grown up in a different cultural context.” The researchers were careful to use musical pieces that had not been part of movie soundtracks, etc.

“What Do You See When You Listen to Music?”  2022.  Press release, Princeton University, https://www.princeton.edu/news/2022/04/08/what-do-you-see-when-you-liste...

Rossel and teammates’ research confirms that many factors influence what we see.  The team shares that “Our study investigated the influence of expectations based on prior experience and contextual information on the perceived sharpness of objects and scenes. . . .  We manipulated the availability of relevant information to form expectations about the image’s content: one of the two images contained predictable information while the other one unpredictable. At an equal level of blur, predictable objects and scenes were perceived as sharper than unpredictable ones. . . . Expectations about the visual environment help us understand it more easily, but also makes us perceive it better.”

Pauline Rossel, Carole Peyrin, Alexia Roux-Sibilon and Louise Kauffmann.  2022. “It Makes Sense, So I See It Better!  Contextual Information About the Visual Environment Increases Its Perceived Sharpness.”  Journal of Experimental Psychology:  Human Perception and Performance, vol. 48, no. 4, pp. 331-350, https://doi.org/10.1037/xhp0000993

Eneix reports on recent developments in the field of archaeoacoustics in an intriguing article available free at the web address noted below—her work confirms that there are lots of people out there studying interesting things. Eneix shares, for example, that “Researching a subject about prehistory that cannot be photographed or handled requires input from a wide range of disciplines combined with informed observation. Those of us working with Archaeoacoustics: the archaeology of sound in ancient ritual and ceremonial spaces, have always thought that the next step was a collection of on-site biofeedback. Happily, Neuroscience is now filling in the gap of knowledge about the psycho-physiological impact of certain resonant sound which is present in the world’s oldest monuments.”

Linda Eneix. 2021.  “Megaliths, Music and the Mind – The Latest in Archaeoacoustics.”  Academic Letters, 4242, https://doi.org/10.20935/AL4242

Bafna and colleagues studied how home design can support the wellbeing of older individuals (mean age of participants in their study was 69.5).  The investigators report on “a quantitative study of the relationship between a characteristic of the physical home environment—the degree of interconnectedness of its rooms—and the cognitive ability of adults. . . . we found that the cognitive functioning determined by the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) score was significantly associated with the average connectivity and mean depth of the homes while controlling participants’ age and education. Regression analysis suggested home connectivity independently explained a little more than 4% of the variance in the MoCA scores. . . .  The study points to directions for further work, including causal modeling, based on recommendations that could be developed for homes to support older adults’ abilities to continue to reside in their own homes as they grow older.”

Sonit Bafna, Kinsuk Maitra, Yoonjeong Lim, Manasi Shah, and Yi-An Chen. 2021. “Association Between Home Layout Connectivity and Cognitive Ability in Community Dwelling Older Adults:  Implications for Occupational Therapy.”  Journal of Design for Resilience in Architecture and Planning, vol. 2, https://doi.org/10.47818/DRArch.2021.v2si033.

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