Latest Blog Posts
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.
People who design public spaces where crowding can be an issue will be intrigued by the findings of a new paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B (and available free of charge here: https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2021.2089). A related press release reports that “A new model . . . takes the point of view of an individual crowd member, and is remarkably accurate at predicting actual crowd flow, its developers say. The model . . . illustrates the role of visual perception in crowd movement. It shows how crowd members who are visible from a participant’s viewpoint determine how that participant follows the crowd and what path they take. . . . findings from case studies like this could be extrapolated to other situations in which people or animals unconsciously coordinate their behavior — such as on social media. . . . In both situations, there is the same strong tendency for a person to imitate others around them. . . . [but] when one group starts to diverge too much from a person’s current ‘direction,’ the person will reject that group and follow another group moving in a less divergent direction.”
“Seen and ‘Herd’: Collective Motion in Crowds is largely Determined by Participants’ Field of Vision.” 2022. Press release, Brown University, https://www.brown.edu/news/2022-03-21/flocking
Work by a research team lead by Van Den Eeden provides additional evidence that living near green spaces is good for our health. The team reports that they “sought to determine if residential green cover was also associated with direct healthcare costs. We linked residential Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) satellite data for 5,189,303 [people] . . . to direct individual healthcare costs for 2003–2015. . . . we examined the association between direct healthcare costs and green cover within 250, 500, and 1000 meters (m) of an individual’s residence. . . . We observed a significant inverse association between higher levels of residential green cover and lower direct healthcare costs. The relative rate of total cost for the highest compared to the lowest decile of NDVI was 0.92 . . . for the 500 m buffer. . . . Individuals in the top decile of residential green cover had adjusted healthcare costs of $374.04 . . . per person per year less than individuals living in the bottom or least green decile.”
Stephen Van Den Eeden, Matthew Browning, Douglas Becker, Jun Shan, Stacey Alexeeff, G. Ray, Charles Quesenberry, and Ming Kuo. 2022. “Association Between Residential Green Cover and Direct Healthcare Costs in Northern California: An Individual Level Analysis of 5 Million Persons.” Environment International, vol. 163, 107174, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2022.107174
Research indicates that urban design is affecting neighborhood temperatures. A study conducted in Australia by Rouhollahi, Boland, and others determined that “New housing subdivisions, smaller yards and a dependence on air conditioning have resulted in a 30 per cent decline in Australian residential trees in the past decade, leading to hotter neighbourhoods and increased energy costs.”
“Neighbourhoods Feeling the Heat as Medium Density Housing Robs Suburbs of Street and Garden Trees.” 2022. Press release, University of South Australia, https://www.unisa.edu.au/media-centre/Releases/2022/neighbourhoods-feeli...
A recent study confirms the negative health effects of noise exposure and supports the use of sound insulation. Avel Moreyra lead a study that determined that “People experiencing high levels of noise from cars, trains or planes were more likely to suffer a heart attack. . . . Patients were divided into those experiencing high levels of transportation noise (an average of 65 decibels or higher over the course of the day) and those with low noise exposure (a daily average of less than 50 decibels). A noise level of 65 decibels is similar to a loud conversation or laughter. Since noise levels were averaged over the course of the day, Moreyra said that many people may have experienced periods of relative quiet that were interrupted by louder bursts such as trucks, trains or aircraft going by. Overall results found that 5% of hospitalizations for heart attacks were attributable to elevated high noise levels in the state. The heart attack rate was 72% higher in places with high transportation noise exposure.”
“Living Near Noise Pollution Tied to Greater Risk of Heart Attack.” 2022. Press release, American College of Cardiology, https://www.acc.org/About-ACC/Press-Releases/2022/03/22/19/59/Living-Nea...
Svanas-Hoh, Sanchez, and Tsay evaluated how mood influences evaluations of music; their findings can likely be extended to other situations in which assessments are made. The team reports that “Across two studies, participants . . . listened to a recital (set) of six pieces and provided moment-to-moment evaluations of emotional intensity, as well as global REs [retrospective evaluations] of the pieces and the entire set. Trend was manipulated (between-subjects) by ordering pieces by increasing (Low-High) or decreasing (High- Low) emotional intensity. The peak-end did not contribute substantially to REs for individual pieces. REs of the recital relied on averages of global ratings of individual pieces rather than momentary affect. . . . The Low-High group produced higher REs of emotional intensity than the High-Low group, demonstrating a trend effect. The average is proposed as the most appropriate predictor for REs in affective—including musical—experiences, with overweighting of certain moments based on memorability (rather than the peak-end).”
Emily Svanas-Hoh, Janice Sanchez, and Chia-Jung Tsay. “How Momentary Affect Impacts Retrospective Evaluations of Musical Experiences.” Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, in press, https://doi.org/10.1037/aca0000474