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Researchers studying beauty have found that math can be beautiful, just like landscapes and sonatas. A study by Steinerberger and Johnson, published in Cognition,reports that “average Americans can assess mathematical arguments for beauty just as they can pieces of art or music. The beauty they discerned about the math was not one-dimensional either: Using nine criteria for beauty — such as elegance, intricacy, universality, etc. — 300 individuals had better-than-chance agreement about the specific ways that four different [mathematical] proofs were beautiful. . . . For the study, they [researchers] chose four each of mathematical arguments, landscape paintings, and [classical] piano sonatas.  . . . The researchers’ nine dimensions elaborated from Hardy’s six were: seriousness, universality, profundity, novelty, clarity, simplicity, elegance, intricacy, and sophistication. . . . for both the artworks and math arguments a high rating for elegance was most likely to predict a high rating for beauty.”

“Study Show We Like Our Math Like We Like Our Art:  Beautiful.” 2019.  Press release, Yale University, https://news.yale.edu/2019/08/07/study-shows-we-our-math-we-our-art-beau...

Ng and colleagues investigated the benefits tenants link to science parks; some benefits reported have design implications.  The team, via an online survey completed by tenants in multiple science parks in the Netherlands, identified three types of science park tenants: “The three tenant types sought different benefits through different attributes. Commercially-orientated firms associated science park attributes as ways for being near customers. Mature science-based firms associated attributes with a wider range of benefits, such as image benefits, being near customers and other firms. Young technology-based firms were more cost-driven and focused on image benefits.  The associations between various types of facilities and the benefits that tenant types seek, provide insights for practitioners in terms of the design and management of science parks.”  Science parks were defined “as physical areas where multiple knowledge-intensive organisations and institutes co-locate and where innovation is formally and informally leveraged.”

Wei Ng, Robin Junker, Rianne Appel-Meulenbroek, Myriam Cloodt, and Theo Arentze.  “Perceived Benefits of Science Park Attributes Among Park Tenants in the Netherlands.”  The Journal of Technology Transfer, in press, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10961-019-09744-x

Li and colleagues investigated how crowding at malls influences routes travelled.  They determined that “High crowdedness (evenly distributed between routes) does not impact wayfinding strategies or initial route choices. Navigators tend to avoid crowds by moving close to the boundaries of the environment in high crowdedness. . . . Participants were asked to locate a store inside the virtual building as efficiently as possible. . . . The results showed that crowdedness did not affect wayfinding strategies or initial route choices, but did affect locomotion in that participants in the high crowdedness condition were more likely to avoid crowds by moving close to the boundaries of the environment.”

Hengshan Li, Tyler Thrash, Christoph Holscher, and Victor Schinazi.  “The Effect of Crowdedness on Human Wayfinding and Locomotion in a Multi-Level Virtual Shopping Mall.” Journal of Environmental Psychology, in press, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2019.101320

Reese, Oettler, and Katz set out to learn more about how people bond to places.  As they describe, “Place attachment – the cognitive-emotional bond people have to specific places – is associated with various psychological outcomes and behaviors. While it is well-established that both important social as well as physical features determine how strongly people attach to a place, it is largely unexplored how the loss of such features causally affects place attachment. . . .  Results [of research conducted by the Reese-lead team] revealed that imagining the loss of both a physical and a social feature combined resulted in lowest anticipated attachment to the place. Closer data inspection suggests that social features seem more important than physical features. . . . . Findings suggest that proposed changes (e.g., in urban policy decisions) may affect attachment.”

Gerhard Reese, Leonie Oettler, and Laura Katz.  “Imagining the Loss of Social and Physical Place Characteristics Reduces Place Attachment.”   Journal of Environmental Psychology, in press, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2019.101325

Bild and colleagues studied responses to soundscapes in public spaces.  They determined via data collected in Amsterdam that “solitary and socially interactive respondents [people in the public spaces investigated] evaluate their soundscapes differently. . . . The sounds of people were considered as the main source of both disruption and stimulation for both groups; while conversations and the sounds of others in general were referred to as stimulating, loud conversations and children crying were disrupting. Surprisingly, the sounds of traffic were not mentioned as a main source of disruption; unsurprisingly, ‘natural’ sounds were mentioned as a main source of stimulation (with only socially interactive respondents mentioning birds among stimulating sources). . . . we asked users to evaluate their soundscapes from three perspectives: in terms of disruption, stimulation and overall suitability. . . . Stimulation is a common term. . . we use it as an active verb (‘to stimulate’). . .  we selected “to disrupt” as an antonym for ‘stimulate.’”

Edda Bild, Karin Pfeffer, Matt Coler, Ori Rubin, and Luca Bertolini. 2019.  “Public Space Users’ Soundscape Evaluations in Relation to Their Activities.  An Amsterdam-Based Study.” Frontiers in Psychology, https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01593

A Kao-lead team linked what we’re looking at with what we choose to eat; we make healthier choices when looking at nature images than we do otherwise.  The researchers found that “Visual exposure to natural versus urban scenes leads to healthier dietary choices. . . .  Successful weight loss requires individuals to focus on distant health gains while sacrificing immediate culinary pleasures. Time discounting refers to the tendency to discount larger future gains in favor of smaller immediate rewards. Hence, lower discounting should lead to better dietary practices and healthier dietary choices. . . . The current study examined whether viewing pictures of natural scenes induces lower discounting, leading to healthier dietary choices. . . . . participants who viewed pictures of natural scenes chose a smaller amount of sugar for their reward drinks compared with participants viewing the urban scene and the control condition. The discounting rate mediated the association between exposure to natural landscapes and a smaller amount of sugar chosen for the reward drink (i.e., a healthier dietary choice).”

Chien-Che Kao, Wen-Hisung Wu, and Wen-Bin Chiou.  “Exposure to Nature May Induce Lower Discounting and Lead to Healthier Dietary Choices.”  Journal of Environmental Psychology, in press, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2019.101333

Staats and Groot investigated where solo individuals choose to sit in a crowded café when there are already people sitting in some of the coffee house seats.  The researchers report that  “we manipulated two aspects of intimacy (eye contact and distance to others), and one aspect of privacy (architectural anchoring) in separate scenario’s and registered participants’ seat choice on floor plans of the three hypothetical cafés. We found that more often participants chose a seat that was at a larger distance to other café-goers. Study 2 . . . replicated the design of the first study. . . . This time we found that participants more often chose low-eye contact and anchored seats.”  An important clarification: “privacy was manipulated by altering the amount of possible input regulation by ‘anchoring’ one of two tables to a wall. . . . This shielded the vacant seat from café-goers seated at other tables, but not from those that were seated at the same table.”  

Henk Staats and Piet Groot. 2019.  “Seat Choice in a Crowded Café: Effects of Eye Contact, Distance, and Anchoring.”  Frontiers in Psychology, https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00331

Zalejska-Jonsson investigated people’s acoustic experiences in their homes.  She found that “experiencing noise from neighbours occurred relatively seldom; however, this factor has the strongest effect on satisfaction with acoustic quality.” Data were collected in multistory residential buildings.

Agnieszka Zalejska-Jonsson. 2019.  “Perceived Acoustic Quality and Effect on Occupants’ Satisfaction in Green and Conventional Residential Buildings.”  Buildings, vol. 9, no. 1, https://doi.org/10.3390/buildings9010024

Pedestrians’ apparent lack of awareness of their surroundings may not raise safety issues. A team lead by Harms reports that “Pedestrians are commonly engaged in other activities while walking. The current study assesses (1) whether pedestrians are sufficiently aware of their surroundings to successfully negotiate obstacles in a city, and (2) whether various common walking practices affect awareness of obstacles and, or, avoidance behavior. To this end, an obstacle, i.e., a signboard was placed on a pavement in the city centre of Utrecht, the Netherlands. . . . More than half of the participants (53.8%) was unaware of the signboard, still none of them had bumped into it. Mind wandering, being engaged in secondary tasks such as talking with a companion or using a mobile phone, and being familiar with a route, did not affect awareness nor avoidance behavior. In conclusion, despite being very common there was no evidence that walking without awareness necessarily results in risk.”

Ilse Harms, Joke van Dijlen, Karel Brookhuis, and Dick de Waard. 2019.  “Walking Without Awareness.”  Frontiers in Psychology, https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01846

Lymeus, Lindberg, and Hartig assessed mindfulness training in different environments.  They found that “The setting matters in meditation. . . .  Many mindfulness-based health interventions emphasize effortful attention training exercises in sparsely furnished indoor settings. However, many beginners with attention regulation problems struggle with the exercises and drop out. In contrast, restoration skills training (ReST) – a five-week course set in a garden environment – builds on mindfulness practices adapted to draw on restorative processes stimulated effortlessly in nature contacts. Expecting that the ReST approach will facilitate the introduction to mindfulness, we compared drop-out and homework completion records from four rounds of ReST vs. conventional mindfulness training. . . . Randomly assigned ReST participants had lower drop-out and more sustained homework completion over the course weeks. . . . The improved acceptability with ReST means that more people can enjoy the long-term benefits of establishing a meditation practice.”  The gardens chosen as study settings were cogntively restrative.

Freddie Lymeus, Per Lindberg, and Terry Hartig.  2019. “A Natural Meditation Setting Improves Compliance with Mindfulness Training.”  Journal of Environmental Psychology, vol. 64, pp. 98-106, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2019.05.008

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