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New research confirms the desirable effects of parks on wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic.  A press release from Drexel, discussing a study published in the Journal of Extreme Events (written by Montalto, Alizadehtazi,  Tangtrakul, Woerdeman, Gussenhoven, and Mostafavi) reports that “Parks played an important role for people seeking respite from the toll of social isolation during the pandemic, and according to new research from Drexel University, they did so without increasing the spread of COVID-19. The study looked at how people used 22 parks in Philadelphia and New York during the height of the pandemic and it found no strong correlation between park use and the number of confirmed cases in surrounding neighborhoods.

“Study Parks Not Only Safe, But Essential During the Pandemic.”  2021.  Press release, Drexel University, https://drexel.edu/now/archive/2021/May/pandemic-park-use-Phila-NYC/

Walshe and Moula confirm that children (age 7 and 8) link nature to positive experiences; the Walshe/Moula study is published in Child Indicators Research.  The research duo determined that “Young children in deprived areas see nature and outdoor spaces as being associated with “happy places”. . . . [the researchers asked study participants] to draw their happy place. . . .  More than half of the children created drawings that included aspects of nature and outdoor spaces, such as trees, grass, parks, gardens, lakes, rivers, outdoor playgrounds, rainbows or sunlight. Trees, in particular, were drawn by a third of the children. However, the study found the elements of nature mainly existed in the background of the drawings. Other aspects of wellbeing, such as a sense of safety, positive relationships with family and friends, and the need for love and happiness, were more explicit in the pictures.”

“Nature Draws Out a Happy Place for Children.”  2021. Press release, Anglia Ruskin University, https://aru.ac.uk/news/nature-draws-out-a-happy-place-for-children

Sidhu and colleagues have extended research findings previously derived with nonwords to English words.  The group reports that “Sound symbolism refers to associations between language sounds (i.e., phonemes) and perceptual and/or semantic features. One example is the maluma/takete effect: an association between certain phonemes (e.g., /m/, /u/) and roundness [as, for example, with maluma], and others (e.g., /k/, /ɪ/) and spikiness [as, for instance, with takete]. While this association has been demonstrated in laboratory tasks with nonword stimuli. . . . Here we examined whether the maluma/takete effect is attested in English, across a broad sample of words. . . . We found evidence that phonemes associated with roundness are more common in words referring to round objects, and phonemes associated with spikiness are more common in words referring to spiky objects.”  

David Sidhu, Chris Westbury, Geoff Hollis, and Penny Pexman.  “Sound Symbolism Shapes the English Language:  The Maluma/Takete Effect in English Nouns.”  Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, https://doi.org/10.3758/s13423-021-01883-3

Choudhury has integrated findings from his and other’s working from anywhere-related research to detail emerging best practices; his article is available without charge at the web address noted below.  Choudhury’s material is useful to anyone developing a working from anywhere program or looking for insights into environments that support working from anywhere.  As Choudhury states in the overview for his article, “The pandemic has hastened a rise in remote working for knowledge-based organizations. This has notable benefits: Companies can save on real estate costs, hire and utilize talent globally, mitigate immigration issues, and experience productivity gains. . . .  Workers get geographic flexibility (that is, live where they prefer to), eliminate commutes, and report better work/life balance. However, concerns persist regarding how WFA affects communication, including brainstorming and problem-solving; knowledge sharing; socialization, camaraderie, and mentoring; performance evaluation and compensation; and data security and regulation.”

Prithwiraj Choudhury. 2020. “Our Work-from-Anywhere Future.”  Harvard Business Review (online version), https://hbr.org/2020/11/our-work-from-anywhere-future

Vink and colleagues have thoroughly studied how physical comfort is evaluated in different countries. They report that “A questionnaire was sent to participants out in nine countries (Brazil, Canada, the USA, China, Indonesia, Thailand, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands). . . . All countries score the comfort of a luxurious bed higher than a simple bed, first-class seats higher than economy class and all countries rate the comfort lower when the duration of sitting increases. The study suggests that in the USA and Canada softer beds, hammocks, more luxurious seats and softer pillows are scored as more comfortable compared with the other countries. There are indications that China and Germany prefer a harder mattress than in the other countries. For pillows, the differences between countries are large, which might show that much is influenced by habitude or hesitation to use something new. The Asian countries score the comfort of a brace neck pillow higher.”

Peter Vink, Shabila Anjani, Sumalee Udomboonyanupap, Golnoosh Torkashvand, Thomas Albin, Symone Miguez, Wenhua Li, Christian Reuter, and Amalia Vanacore.  2021. “Differences and Similarities in Comfort and Discomfort Experience in Nine Countries in Asia, the Americas and Europe.”  Ergonomics, vol. 64, no. 5, https://doi.org/10.1080/00140139.2020.1853248

Erkan investigated how temperature influences “architectural liking.”   Study participants experienced “a virtual reality environment at three different temperatures (15°C, 22°C, 30°C). . . .  An EEG device was used to determine the cognitive activities of the participants during space navigation. In addition, an eye-tracking device was used in virtual reality goggles to identify the areas that participants were looking at. It was determined that the architectural preferences of the people changed depending on the temperature of the space. . . . The architectural liking score average was at the lowest at the temperature of 30°C. The architectural liking average was higher at the 15°C temperature than the architectural liking at the 30°C, but lower than that of 22°C.”

Ilker Erkan. 2021.  “Cognitive Response and How It Is Affected by Changes in Temperature.” Building Research and Information, vol. 49, no. 4, pp. 399-416, https://doi.org/10.1080/09613218.2020.1800439

Gheewalla and colleagues assessed how distracting different sorts of noises are.  They learned, by having study participants complete reading comprehension tasks, that “Compared to working silence, white noise also reduced the efficiency of text comprehension.”

Fateema Gheewalla, Alastair McClelland, and Adrian Furnham. 2021.   “Effects of Background Noise and Extraversion on Reading Comprehension Performance.”  Ergonomics, vol. 64, no. 5, https://doi.org/10.1080/00140139.2020.1854352

Recently completed research confirms that teachers understand that classroom design influences learning outcomes.  A press release from Universitat Oberta de Cataluny reports that “6 out of every 10 teachers [hold the opinion] that changing the design of the classroom is key to improving learning. . . . Currently, most teachers negatively rate the organization of the environment in their classroom.  This is one of the findings of the study, whereby low or moderate scores were obtained regarding the suitability of current classrooms to serve as comprehensive learning spaces.”  These findings are based on data collected from preschool, primary, and secondary school teachers working at 40 different schools.

“Six Out of Every 10 Teachers Believe That Changing the Design of the Classroom is Key to Improving Learning.”  2021. Press release, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-04/uodc-soo042921.php

Anyone who’s puzzled over similarities and differences between online and physical privacy issues will be intrigued by research done by Shariff and colleagues.  This team reports that “Although people report grave concern over their data privacy, they take little care to protect it. We suggest that this privacy paradox can be understood in part as the consequence of an evolutionary mismatch: Privacy intuitions evolved in an environment that was radically different from the one found online. This evolved privacy psychology leaves people disconnected from the consequence of online privacy threats. . . . Human privacy intuitions emerged in an ancestral environment that differed radically from the digital environment in which those intuitions are now being tested. . . . . In this current environment, online interfaces befuddle intuitions that have otherwise allowed people to adaptively decide what to share, how much, and with whom.”  The interesting points made by the Shariff team, linking primordial and current privacy concepts, are available, without charge, in the article at the web address noted below.

Azim Shariff, Joe Green, and William Jettinghoff.  “The Privacy Mismatch:  Evolved Intuitions in a Digital World.”  Current Directions in Psychological Science, in press, https://doi.org/10.1177/0963721421990355

Devlin and colleagues evaluated how classroom images seen by prospective college students influence their opinions of colleges and universities.  Their findings are likely applicable both in this context and others. The Devlin-lead team found that when “participants read a scenario about a college too far away to visit and viewed a website picture of a seminar room (unrenovated or renovated) before responding to measures of classroom satisfaction and college academic life more broadly (e.g., student retention).. . . . Classroom status . . . significantly influenced estimates of first-year student retention . . . with higher estimates of retention for the renovated classroom.. . . images of the classroom environment can affect judgments beyond the classroom itself, including estimates of student retention and the quality of the faculty at the institution.”  The Devlin group also shared that architects knowledgeable about the renovation reported that “‘the original arrangement consisted of mismatched tables with one row of plastic chairs around the tables and another at the perimeter of the room. . . . The new configuration consists of a large oval seminar table surrounded by comfortable, flexible chairs.’” The Devlin team also shares that Douglas and Gifford in 2001 reported that three classroom design elements seem to drive classroom evaluations “a view to the outdoors, seating comfort, and seating arrangement.”

Ann Devlin, Alaina Anderson, Sarah Hession-Kunz, and Amy Zou. “Is a Picture Always Worth 1000 Words? Website Images of Classrooms and Perceptions of the Institution.”  Learning Environments Research, in press, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10984-021-09358-x

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