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Research conducted by Tarlao, Steffens, and Guastavino confirms the many factors can influence perceptions of sound being experienced besides the actual noises themselves. The team reports that “Previous soundscape research has shown a complex relationship between soundscapes, public space usage and contexts of users’ visits to the space. . . . The present study is a comparative analysis of in situquestionnaires collected over four study sites in Montreal . . . . in both French and English. . . .  The analyses. . .. . suggest[s] that younger people, women, and extraverted people occupy the public space more in groups, and that people in groups rate the soundscape as more pleasant and less eventful. Older people and women were found to be more sensitive to noise, and more sensitive people tended to perceive the soundscape as less pleasant and less monotonous.”

Cynthia Tarlao, Jochen Steffens, and Catherine Guastavino.  “Investigating Contextual Influences on Urban Soundscape Evaluations with Structural Equation Modeling.”  Building and Environment, in press, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.buildenv.2020.107490 

Researchers studying gestures across cultures have identified similarities and differences in their use that are relevant to people designing systems interfaces and other places/objects to be used by people from varying cultures. Zhang, Gai, Wu, Liu, Oiu, Wang, and Wang’s work with people from the US and China is discussed in a Penn State press release:  “Imagine changing the TV channel with a wave of your hand or turning on the car radio with a twist of your wrist.  Freehand gesture-based interfaces in interactive systems are becoming more common. . . . The team found that while many preferred commands were similar among both cultural groups, there were some gesture choices that differed significantly between the groups. For example, most American participants used a thumbs up gesture to confirm a task in the virtual reality environment, while Chinese participants preferred to make an OK sign with their fingers. To reject a phone call in the car, most American participants made a horizontal movement across their neck with a flat hand, similar to a “cut” motion, while Chinese participants waved a hand back and forth to reject the call.”  Findings are published in the International Journal of Human-Computer Studies.

“Researchers Study Influence of Cultural Factors on Gesture Design.”  2020.  Press release, Pennsylvania State University, https://news.psu.edu/story/640350/2020/11/30/research/researchers-study-...

Methorst and colleagues investigated links between nearby species biodiversity and human wellbeing. The researchers report that they “examine[d] the relationship between species diversity and human well-being at the continental scale, while controlling for other known drivers of well-being. We related socio-economic data from more than 26,000 European citizens across 26 countries with macroecological data on species diversity and nature characteristics for Europe. Human well-being was measured as self-reported life-satisfaction and species diversity as the species richness of several taxonomic groups (e.g. birds, mammals and trees). . . . bird species richness is positively associated with life-satisfaction across Europe. We found a relatively strong relationship, indicating that the effect of bird species richness on life-satisfaction may be of similar magnitude to that of income. . . . this study argues that management actions for the protection of birds and the landscapes that support them would benefit humans.”

Joel Methorst, Katrin Rehdanz, Thomas Mueller, Bernd Hansjurgens, Aletta Bonn, and Katrin Bohning-Gaese.  “The Importance of Species Diversity for Human Well-Being in Europe.”  Ecological Economics, in press, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolecon.2020.106917

Research completed by a Mullen-lead team not only confirms the value of air outside being fresh, but also the advantages of air brought into buildings being “scrubbed.”  The investigators report that  “Fine particulate air pollution is harmful to children in myriad ways. While evidence is mounting that chronic exposures are associated with reduced academic proficiency, no research has examined the frequency of peak exposures. . . . [the researchers examined] the percentage of third grade students who tested below the grade level in math and English language arts (ELA) in Salt Lake County, Utah primary schools . . . where fine particulate pollution is a serious health threat. More frequent peak exposures were associated with reduced math and ELA proficiency, as was greater school disadvantage. High frequency peak exposures were more strongly linked to lower math proficiency in more advantaged schools. Findings highlight the need for policies to reduce the number of days with peak air pollution.”

Casey Mullen, Sara Grineski, Timothy Collins, and Daniel Mendoza. 2020.   “Effects of PM2.5 on Third Grade Students’ Proficiency in Math and English Language Arts.”  International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 17, no. 18, 6931, https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17186931

Research confirms that our experiences are influenced by language being spoken and culture. Gianola, Losin, and Llabre found, via a study published in Affective Science, that “the language a bilingual person speaks can affect their physical sensations, depending on the cultural association tied to each vernacular. . . . bilingual Hispanic/Latino participants . . . participate[d] in separate English and Spanish testing sessions. During both sessions, they received a pain-induction procedure, when an experimenter applied painful heat to their inner forearm. The primary difference between the two experimental visits was the language being spoken (English or Spanish). . . . participants who engaged more with the Hispanic culture showed higher pain when speaking Spanish, while more U.S.-American identified participants reported higher pain in English. People who were fairly balanced in their engagement with U.S.-American and Hispanic culture had pain outcomes that didn’t differ much across languages. The study also suggests that bodily responses to the pain played a larger role in determining pain ratings among more Hispanic oriented bilingual participants.”

“Language, Cultural Identity Can Affect Pain.”  2020. Press release, University of Miami. https://news.miami.edu/stories/2020/12/language-cultural-identity-can-af...

Salvador, in the course of a furniture design project, completed a literature review focused on the psychological implications of experiencing wooden materials.  He reports that “A literary review based study revealed woodenmaterials in interiors and objects to have a positive psychological influence in humans, with a pacifying and relaxing effect.”

C. Salvador. 2019.  “Human Interaction, Emotion and Sustainability:  Designing Wooden Children’s Furniture.”  In F. Rebelo and N. Soares (eds.)  Advances in Ergonomics in Design, AHFE 2018 International Conference on Ergonomics in DesignOrlando, FL, Springer International Publishing, Cham Switzerland, pp. 599-606.

Douce and Adams studied combined sensory experiences in retail environments.  They report that their lab and field experiments indicate that “when a third high arousal cue is added sensory overload (i.e., rise in perceived arousal and decrease in perceived pleasantness) occurs under the condition that this third cue is processed by a higher sense (i.e. visual or auditory sense). Furthermore, a decrease in approach behavior and evaluations is also observed when these conditions are met. . . . Retailers, and other individuals responsible for the holistic experience of environments, should consequently remain attentive to the combined arousing qualities of all cues, especially if these cues are processed by the higher sense of sight and audition as well as when color(s) are a dominant factor. . . . If the target-arousal is high, then it could be that adding high arousal cues is appropriate and would not lead to a decrease in pleasure.”

Lieve Douce and Carmen Adams. 2020.  “Sensory Overload in a Shopping Environment:  Not Every Sensory Modality Leads to Too Much Stimulation.” Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, vol. 57,  102154, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jretconser.2020.102154

Yildirim and team assessed the implications of indoor plants in restaurants.  They found using digital images that “restaurants designed with indoor plants had a more positive effect on the shopping decisions of participants than restaurants designed without indoor plants. . . . higher education graduate participants showed more positive opinions about the plant designed restaurant than secondary education graduate participants. . . . Results of the study suggest that retailers and designers may be able to make easily stores more appealing for customers by designing them with indoor plants.”

Kemal Yildirim, Kaya Yildirim, Nazende Nazli, and Ferdi Olmus. 2020.  “The Effects of Indoor Plants on Customers’ Shopping Decisions in a Restaurant Environment.”  International Journal of Retail and Distribution Management, vol. 48, no. 12, pp. 1301-1314, https://doi.org/10.1108/IJRDM-02-2020-0053

Research linking clothing worn and food selections may indicate an effect that can be broadened to environmental design; future research will confirm such a link, or not. Wang and teammates found that “formal and informal clothes styles can activate different clothes-image associations and thus make consumers more likely choose a food type (healthy or unhealthy) that is congruent with a specific set of clothes-image associations, referred to as clothes-food congruence. For example, wearing formal clothes can activate such formal-clothes associations as being self-controlled and organized. Formal- (vs. informal-) clothes associations are perceived to be congruent with healthy (vs. unhealthy) food choices. Hence, we suggest that clothes-food congruence mediates the relationship between clothes-image associations and food choice.”

Xuehua Wang, Xiaoyu Wang, Jing Lei, and Mike Chao.  “The Clothes That Make You Eat Healthy:  The Impact of Clothes Style on Food Choice.”  Journal of Business Research, in press, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusres.2020.10.063

Research confirms that trees do indeed add value to our lives.  Kuo, Klein, Browning, and Zaplatosch collected data for 450 schools and 50,000 students in communities ranging from rural to urban in Washington State and report that “‘Hundreds of studies show a positive link between contact with nature and learning outcomes. . . . We wanted to make sure the same pattern was true in this vulnerable and overlooked population,’ says Ming Kuo. . . . Even after taking a whopping 17 variables into account including student demographics, school resources, and neighborhood characteristics, Kuo and her co-authors found that the more tree cover around a school, the better its standardized test scores in both math and reading. . . . [researchers] compared the importance of greenness in different buffer zones around schools, within 250 meters (around two blocks) and 1000 meters. It turned out trees closer to the schools made all the difference, even when controlling for greenness at farther distances. In other words, even if the larger neighborhood was leafy, students were no better off if the schoolyard wasn’t.” This study is published in Landscape and Urban Planning.

“Trees Set Sixth-Graders Up for Success.”  2020.  Press release, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, https://aces.illinois.edu/news/trees-set-sixth-graders-success

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