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Nature around our home may help reduce some of the negative psychological effects of the current pandemic.  According to a study published in Ecological Applications, data collected online in Tokyo “quantified the link between five mental-health outcomes (depression, life satisfaction, subjective happiness, self-esteem, and loneliness) and two measures of nature experiences (frequency of greenspace use and green view through windows from home). More frequent greenspace use and the existence of green window views from the home were associated with increased levels of self-esteem, life satisfaction, and subjective happiness, as well as decreased levels of depression and loneliness. ‘Our results suggest that nearby nature can serve as a buffer in decreasing the adverse impacts of a very stressful event on humans,’ said lead author Masashi Soga.”

“A Regular Dose of Nature May Improve Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic.”  Press release, Wiley, https://newsroom.wiley.com/press-releases/press-release-details/2020/A-R...

Research published in Current Biologyindicates why we may experience particular colors in certain ways. Rosenthal, Singh, Hermann, Pantazis, and Conway “decoded brain maps of human color perception. . . .  colors were presented at two luminance levels – light and dark. . . . study participants had unique patterns of brain activity for each color. With enough data, the researchers could predict . . . what color a volunteer was looking at. . . . in a variety of languages and cultures, humans have more distinct names for warm colors (yellows, reds, oranges, browns) than for cool colors (blues, greens). It’s long been known that people consistently use a wider variety of names for the warm hues at different luminance levels (e.g. “yellow” versus “brown”) than for cool hues (e.g. “blue” is used for both light and dark). The new discovery shows that brain activity patterns vary more between light and dark warm hues than for light and dark cool hues.”

“Envision Color:  Activity Patterns in the Brain Are Specific to the Color You See.”  2020.  Press release, National Eye Institute, https://www.nei.nih.gov/about/news-and-events/news/envision-color-activi...

Research completed by Shen, Zhang, and Lian indicates there may be some gender-related differences in the experience of wooden environments.  The team shares that “Previous studies indicate that wood enenvironments could produce more positive emotions, more delightful sense of color, odor, light and less fatigue for occupants. . . .  The results [of the Shen-lead study] showed that: (1) female participants felt more warmth and brightness in the wooden rooms; (2) female participants’ olfactory sensation was 42% higher than male participant in the dark wooden room but experienced a greater decrease after a 50-min adaptation; (3) female participants reported more confusion and fatigue feelings while male participants reported more vigor feelings in different conditions. . . . obvious gender differences existed in human psychological responses to the changes of wooden environment, with different wood colors and coverage rates.”  Additional studies are required to develop a greater understanding of gender-related effects and how they should be reflected in practice.

Jingyun Shen, Xi Zhang, and Zhiwej Lian.  “Gender Differences in Human Psychological Responses to Wooden Indoor Environment.” European Journal of Wood and Wood Products,” in press, https://doi.org/10.1007/s00107-020-01561-6

Kent and Schiavon studied items seen through windows.  They report that when they used images “to represent window views. . . . results showed that people are more satisfied when features are far away. . . . occupants prefer urban features to be viewed from a distance, whereas this same recommendation does not apply for nature.. . .  While distant visual content has the additional benefit of providing visual relief, it may not always be possible to provide these types of window views. If designers are not able to provide distant content in the window view due to barriers imposed by site-selection (e.g. in a city-centre), a countermeasure could be to promote window view quality by integrating nature (e.g. trees and plants) nearby. However, this does not necessarily imply that nature should be viewed as close as possible in the window view as its content might then obstruct other desirable attributes needed in the view (e.g. the sky).”

Michael Kent and Stefano Schiavon.  2020. “Evaluation of the Effect of Landscape Distance Seen in Window Views on Visual Satisfaction.”  Building and Environment, vol. 183, 107160, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.buildenv.2020.107160

Ross, Meloy, and Bolton studied how disorder influences de-cluttering.  The team found that when they “investigate[d] how dis/order (messy vs. tidy items) affects downsizing [they found], across nine focal studies, that a) consumers retain fewer items when choosing from a disorder set because b) order facilitates the comparisons within category that underlie the tendency to retain items. . . . Though consumers’ lay beliefs favor rejecting from order (i.e., choosing what to get rid of from tidy items), our findings point to the usefulness of selecting from disorder (i.e., choosing what to keep from messy items) as a downsizing strategy.  Together, this research has implications for consumer downsizing activities, the burgeoning home organization and storage industries, as well as sustainability.”

Gretchen Ross, Margaret Meloy, and Lisa Bolton.  “Disorder and Downsizing.”  Journal of Consumer Research, in press, https://doi.org/10.1093/jcr/ucaa051

Wang and Zhao evaluated how the presence or absence of evergreen trees influences environmental preferences and psychological restoration.  They report that “Evergreen plants can mediate landscape changes across seasons and increase greenness when deciduous trees are leafless. . . . this study conducted an experiment, in which, based on four photographs taken on a site in four seasons, 24 images were created using the photomontage technique by adding evergreen trees to the original pictures. The results indicated that: (1) evergreen plants significantly improved the landscape preference only in spring; (2) significant effects of evergreen plants on psychological restoration in spring, autumn and winter were noted and (3) types and amounts of evergreen trees had non-significant impacts on year-round preference and restoration. Additionally, seasonal transformation had an essential impact on both preference and restoration.”

Ronghua Wang and Jingwei Zhao.  2020.  “Effects of Evergreen Trees on Landscape Preference and Perceived Restorativeness Across Seasons.”  Landscape Research, vol. 45, no. 5, pp. 649-661, https://doi.org/10.1080/01426397.2019.1699507

Research by Jin, Jin, and Kang confirms that there are complex interrelationships between our sensory experiences.  The trio probed how hearing various sounds at different volumes influences perceived environmental temperatures.  They determined via a lab-based study that “acoustic evaluations were significantly higher for birdsong and slow-dance music than for dog barking, conversation, and traffic sound. . . . In summer, birdsong and slow-dance music effectively improved subjects’ thermal evaluations, while a high sound level of dog barking, conversation, and traffic sound resulted in a decrease; in the transition season, all types of sounds resulted in a decline in the thermal evaluations; meanwhile, in winter and summer, dog barking, conversation, traffic sound and slow-dance music at the low sound level produced higher thermal comfort and thermal acceptability. In terms of the overall evaluations, birdsong and slow-dance music at the low sound level improved overall comfort, while dog barking, conversation, and traffic sound resulted in a significant decrease. For dog barking, conversation, traffic sound and fast-dance music, the overall evaluations at the low sound level were higher than those at the high sound level.”

Yumeng Jin, Hong Jin, and Jian Kang.  2020. “Effects of Sound Types and Sound Levels on Subjective Environmental Evaluations in Different Seasons.” Building and Environment, vol. 183, 107215, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.buildenv.2020.107215

Older individuals whose homes are more accessible are less likely to feel depressed, according to a recently published study.  Vitman-Schorr and colleagues identified, via interviewing people over 65 years old, “a direct negativeeffect between perceived accessibility and depressive symptoms. . . . The findings indicate that policy makers and professionals working with older adults should seek methods for enhancing both accessibility and social relationships in order to alleviate the depressive symptoms of older adults.”  The researchers shared that “Perceived accessibility was measured by asking respondents the following question: ‘How satisfied are you with the options you have to go from place to place?’ . . . The question . . . provides an overall understanding of the perceived accessibility of the environment without asking multiple questions concerning modes of mobility . . . that may corrupt the results. For instance, if an older adult has walking problems but the living environment is well-served by public transportation, the person-environment fit might be high and hence satisfaction from the living environment might be high.”

Adi Vitman-Schorr, Liat Ayalon, and Snait Tamir.  “The Relationship Between Satisfaction with the Accessibility of the Living Environment and Depressive Symptoms.”  Journal of Environmental Psychology, in press, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2020.101527

Walsh and de la Fuente assessed how people manage their at-home acoustic experiences and the repercussions of those actions.  The researchers report that they “propose that home and homeliness [hominess] pertain to the degree to which we can control our auditory involvements with the world and with others. What we term ‘homely listening’ concerns the use of music to make oneself feel at home, in some cases, through seclusion and immersion, and, in others, through either the musical ordering of mundane routines or the use of music to engage in sociality with others. . . . in-depth qualitative interviews concerning mundane instances of musical listening [indicate that] the home is a complex sonic order involving territoriality as well as the aesthetic framing of activity through musical and non-musical sounds. We argue the home represents a negotiated sonic interaction order where individuals skillfully manage involvements with others and activities through their musical and other sound practices.”

Michael Walsh and Eduardo de la Fuente.  2020. “Sonic Havens:  Towards a Goffmanesque Account of Homely Listening.” Housing, Theory and Society, vol. 37, no. 5, pp. 615-631, https://doi.org/10.1080/14036096.2019.1686060

Researchers investigated how to increase the sales appeal of chocolate; it seems likely that lessons learned are relevant to the promotion of other, similar goods.  Brown, Hopfer, and Bakke determined that  “Gold foil, ornate labels and an intriguing backstory are product characteristics highly desired by premium chocolate consumers. . . . [when assessing product options presented to them, participants] focused more on extrinsic cues, such as packaging, rather than intrinsic cues, such as flavor, to judge product quality. For example, almost all consumers found the craft chocolate sample to be novel and exciting, likening it to coffee and wine in terms of flavor and packaging elements. They were wowed by the product’s intricate label design and thick gold foil, with one consumer saying it was ‘like getting a golden ticket from Willy Wonka.’. . . . Meaning was another selling point, with the consumers placing a higher value on chocolate bars made by companies that had an interesting backstory, supported a cause or featured a person’s name.”  This study was published in PLoS ONE.

Amy Duke. 2020. “Golden Ticket:  Researchers Examine What Consumers Desire in Chocolate Products.”  Press release, Pennsylvania State University, https://news.psu.edu/story/638401/2020/11/09/research/golden-ticket-rese...

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