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Trupp and colleagues learned that there are significant psychological benefits to looking at visual art and cultural content electronically, even for brief periods of time.  The researchers report that “When experienced in-person, engagement with art has been associated—in a growing body of evidence—with positive outcomes in wellbeing and mental health. . . . Participants [in this study] . . . were asked to engage with one of two online exhibitions from Google Arts and Culture (a Monet painting or a similarly-formatted display of Japanese culinary traditions).  With just a 1-2 min exposure, both improved negative mood, state-anxiety, loneliness, and wellbeing. . . . improvements in mood correlated with aesthetic appraisals and cognitive-emotional experience of the exhibition. . . . The ‘non-art’ stimulus. . . . explored a diagram in the shape of a bento box, containing photos and facts introducing the viewer to the history and traditions of Japanese food, and included images of food and food-related activities, such as harvesting or drinking.”

MacKenzie Trupp, Giacomo Bignardi, Kirren Chana, Eva Specker, and Matthew Pelowski.  2022. “Can a Brief Interaction with Online, Digital Art Improve Wellbeing?  A Comparative Study of the Impact of Online Art and Culture Presentations on Mood, State-Anxiety, Subjective Wellbeing, and Loneliness.”  Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 13, https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.782033

Krpan and van Tilburg add to our knowledge of what is perceived to be beautiful.  They share that they “developed and empirically evaluated the Aesthetic Quality Model, which proposes that the link between [visual] complexity and beauty depends on another key visual property—randomness. According to the model, beauty judgements are determined by an interaction between these two properties, with more beautiful patterns featuring comparatively high complexity and low randomness. The model further posits that this configuration of complexity and randomness leads to higher beauty because it signals quality (i.e., creativity and skill). Study 1 confirmed that black and white binary patterns were judged as more beautiful when they combined high complexity with low randomness. Study 2 replicated these findings using an experimental method and with a more representative set of patterns, and it pointed to quality attribution as a candidate mechanism underlying the beauty judgements.”

Dario Krpan and Wijnand van Tilburg. “The Aesthetic Quality Model:  Complexity and Randomness as Foundations of Visual Beauty by Signaling Quality.”  Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, in press, https://doi.org/10.1037/aca0000511

Jiang and teammates studied humans’ responses to multicolor light in the context of space travel, but their findings are likely to be relevant in other situations.  The group shares that “The goal of this study . . . was to test whether multicolour lighting can improve people’s psychological state in an isolated and confined environment over a period of seven days. . . . [participants] were randomly divided into two groups:  one group that was exposed to multicolour lighting and a control group, which was exposed to a static, monotonous white interior. . . . The results of the control group showed that the participants’ negative emotions and anxiety continued to increase over time, whereas the group randomly exposed to multicolour lighting that changed every three hours did not show any significant increase in negative emotions and anxiety. Moreover, the random change of light colour . . . appeared to help the participants increase their sense of surprise, thereby counteracting monotony.”  The multicolor light studied was produced by Philips Hue Bluetooth wireless 16 million color dynamic light bulbs.

Ao Jiang, Irene Schlacht, Xiang Yao, Bernard Foing, Zhixiong Fang, Stephen Westland, Caroline Hemingray, and Wenhao Yao.  2022. “Space Habitat Astronautics:  Multicolour Lighting Psychology in a 7-Day Simulated Habitat.”  Space:  Science and Technology, vol. 2022, no. 9782706, https://doi.org/10.34133/2022/9782706

What neighborhoods can kids and their parents benefit from being in?  Hunter and colleagues set out to answer this question.  Their goal was “To identify features parents perceived as being relevant for their child’s active play, their own active recreation, and their coactivity. Parents . . . with preschoolers . . . living in Edmonton, Canada were recruited. . . . Parents reported demographic information and the importance of several neighborhood features (destinations, design, social, safety, esthetics) for their child’s active play, their own active recreation, and their coactivity via six-item Likert scales. . . . The majority of parents reported that 23 of the 32 neighborhood features were perceived as being relevant for all activity domains. These included destinations (parks, playgrounds, arenas, schools, sport fields, arenas/ice rinks, river valley/ravine), design features (quiet streets, trails, sidewalks), social features (friends/family, child’s friends, other children playing outside, knowing neighbors, trusting neighbors), safety features (street lighting, crime, traffic, daylight, sidewalk maintenance, crosswalks), and esthetic features (cleanliness, natural features).”

Stephen Hunter, Scott Leatherdale, John Spence, and Valerie Carson.  2022. “Perceived Relevance of Neighborhood Features for Encouraging Preschoolers’ Active Play, Parents’ Active Recreation, and Parent-Child Coactivity.”  Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, vol. 54, no. 3, pp. 249-255, https://doi.org/10.1037/cbs0000304

Research completed at the University of Florida confirms that there are significant psychological benefits linked to gardening.  Researchers determined via a study published in PLoS ONE that “many people may indeed reap mental health benefits from working with plants — even if they’ve never gardened before. . . . gardening activities lowered stress, anxiety and depression in healthy women who attended twice-weekly gardening classes. None of study participants had gardened before. . .  . In the gardening sessions, participants learned how to compare and sow seeds, transplant different kinds of plants, and harvest and taste edible plants.”

“Gardening Can Cultivate Better Mental Health.”  2022.  Press release, University of Florida, https://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/news/2022/07/06/gardening-can-cultivate-better-mental-health/

Thielsch, Forthmann, Brau, and Eisbach probed the factors that influence responses to product aesthetics, focusing on household appliances.  The researchers report that “we have developed the Product Aesthetics Inventory (PAI) and its short version, the PAI-S. . . . data [collected] were used to determine the number of product aesthetics factors . . . We found an eight-factor structure consisting of the dimensions Visual Aesthetics, Operating Elements, Logo, Feedback Sounds, Operating Sounds, Haptic, Interaction Aesthetics, and Impression.”

Meinald Thielsch, Boris Forthmann, Henning Brau, and Simon Eisbach. “All That Glitters Is Gold: Development and Validation of the Product Aesthetics Inventory (PAI).”  Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, in press, https://doi.org/10.1037/aca0000494

Researchers have investigated the consequences of smelling the sorts of odors present in deserts when it rains.  Nabhan, Daugherty, and Hartung found that “Desert dwellers know it well: the smell of rain and the feeling of euphoria that comes when a storm washes over the parched earth. That feeling, and the health benefits that come with it, may be the result of oils and other chemicals released by desert plants after a good soaking. . . . ‘The Sonoran Desert flora is one of the richest in the world in plants that emit fragrant volatile oils, and many of those fragrances confer stress-reducing health benefits to humans, wildlife and the plants themselves,’ said Gary Nabhan. . . . ‘The fragrant volatile organic compounds from desert plants may in many ways contribute to improving sleep patterns, stabilizing emotional hormones, enhancing digestion, heightening mental clarity and reducing depression or anxiety,’ Nabhan said.”

“The Smell of Desert Rain May Be Good for Your Health.”  2022.  Press release, The University of Arizona, https://news.arizona.edu/story/smell-desert-rain-may-be-good-your-health

It may be possible to apply research findings related to the implications of seeing oneself during Zoom calls to other contexts, for example, to seeing oneself in a mirrored surface during a conversation.  Researchers determined via a study published in Clinical Psychological Science that “the more a person stares at themself while talking with a partner in an online chat, the more their mood degrades over the course of the conversation. . . . the findings point to a potentially problematic role of online meeting platforms in exacerbating psychological problems like anxiety and depression. . . . participants answered questions about their emotional status before and after the online conversations. . . . Participants could see themselves and their conversation partners on a split-screen monitor. 

“Staring at Yourself During Virtual Chats May Worsen Your Mood, Research Finds.”  2022. Press release, University of Illinois, https://news.illinois.edu/view/6367/117509126

Faur and Laursen link classroom seat locations and friendships via a study whose findings are consistent with much prior research.  Study participants were in grades 3-5.  The researchers found that “students sitting next to or nearby one another were more likely to . . . be involved in reciprocated friendships than students seated elsewhere in the classroom. Longitudinal analyses indicated that classroom seating proximity was associated with the formation of new friendships. . . . Seat assignments were not random. Most teachers indicated that students had no input in seat selection and all teachers indicated that friendship was not a factor.”

Sharon Faur and Brett Laursen.  2022. “Classroom Seat Proximity Predicts Friendship Formation.”  Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 13, 796002, https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.796002

Zu, Jiang, and Zhao evaluated preferences for landscapes that varied by season.  They report  that “Seasonality is a typical feature of landscapes in temperate regions. Seasonality’s effects on visual aesthetic quality (VAQ) are widely recognised but not well understood. . . . 10 sample sites were selected to represent the diversity of urban green spaces in Xuzhou, eastern China, which has a typical temperate monsoon climate. Photographs of the 10 sites were acquired in eight typical months to capture seasonality. Online surveys were used to evaluate the VAQ of the photographs. . . . The results indicated that: (1) the autumn landscape was the most preferred, and the winter landscape was the least preferred; (2) there was a significantly inverted U-shaped relationship between year-round VAQ and seasonal diversity.”

Wenyan Zu, Bin Jiang, and Jingwei Zhao.  2022. “Effects of Seasonality on Visual Aesthetic Preference.”  Landscape Research, vol. 47, no. 2, pp. 388-399, https://doi.org/10.1080/01426397.2022.2039110

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