Latest Blog Posts
What is a sustainable size for a home? Maurie Cohen, who reports on his work in Housing, Theory & Society,reviewed “more than 75 years of housing history and provides estimates for the optimal spatial dimensions that would align with an ‘environmentally tenable and globally equitable amount of per-person living area’ today. . . . Cohen’s article explores the concept of ‘sufficiency limits’ for the average contemporary home — or, a rough baseline metric of ‘enough’ living space to meet one’s individual needs while considering various environmental and social factors, such as global resource availability and equitable material usage. . . . Based on assessments of global resource availability and so-called total material consumption calculations developed by industrial ecologists and others, Cohen estimates that sustainability and equity considerations require that a home for a single person should be no larger than 215 square feet, and for a four-person family the maximum size should be approximately 860 square feet.”
“Downsizing the McMansion: Study Gauges a Sustainable Size for Future Homes.” 2020. Press release, New Jersey Institute of Technology, https://news.njit.edu/downsizing-mcmansion-study-gauges-sustainable-size...
Chang and colleagues studied nature photos from around the world presented on social media. The team determined that “Humans may have evolved a need to connect with nature, and nature provides substantial cultural and social values to humans. . . . We lack answers to fundamental questions: how do humans experience nature in different contexts (daily routines, fun activities, weddings, honeymoons, other celebrations, and vacations) and how do nature experiences differ across countries? We answer these questions by coupling social media and artificial intelligence using 31,534 social media photographs across 185 countries. We find that nature was more likely to appear in photographs taken during a fun activity, honeymoon, or vacation compared to photographs of daily routines. More importantly, the proportion of photographs with nature taken during fun activities is associated with national life satisfaction scores.”
Chia-chen Chang, Gweyneth Cheng, Thi Nghiem, Xiao Song, Rachel Oh, Daniel Richards, and L. Carrasco. 2020. “Social Media, Nature, and Life Satisfaction: Global Evidence of the Biophilia Hypothesis.” Scientific Reports, vol. 10, no. 4125, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-60902-w
Researchers have determined that what we hear influences our balance. The investigators report in a literature review published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck that “What people hear and do not hear can have a direct effect on their balance. . . . . ‘This study found that the sounds we hear affect our balance by giving us important information about the environment. . . . ‘ said senior author Maura Cosetti, MD. . . . people had more difficulty staying balanced or standing still on an uneven surface when it was quiet, but had better balance while listening to sounds. . . . continuous background noise (usually static) was the most helpful for subjects to keep their center of gravity.”
“Sound Can Directly Affect Balance and Lead to Risk of Falling.” 2020. Press release, Mount Sinai Health System, https://www.mountsinai.org/about/newsroom/2020/sound-can-directly-affect...
Pfeifer and Wittmann investigated how humans think when a space is silent. They report that “Research on the perception of silence has led to insights regarding its positive effects on individuals. We conducted a series of studies during which individuals were exposed to several minutes of silence in different contexts. Participants were introduced to different social and environmental settings, either in a seminar room at a university or in a city garden, alone or in a group. . . . participants were exposed to real waiting situations, were asked to just think and to explicitly experience the time interval. . . . Silence was judged to significantly increase relaxation, improve mood states. . . . Findings empirically demonstrate that exposure to silence can be effective in therapeutic and educational contexts to promote relaxation and well-being.”
Eric Pfeifer and Marc Wittmann. “Waiting, Thinking, and Feeling: Variations in the Perception of Time During Silence.” Frontiers in Psychology, in press, doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00602
Kim and Maher studied metaphors that support the development of smart environments, i.e., spaces where technology is embedded. They share that “[the device metaphor]represents performing tasks through users’ direct control. It encompasses providing better service, performance, and ease of control by using an interactive design as a device. . . . A smart environment with embodied interaction is a robot in the sense that it is an intelligent machine capable of performing tasks without explicit human control.. . . A smart environment with embodied interaction is a friend in the sense that the interaction centers around advising and supporting the users.. . . the device metaphor is strongly associated with direct manipulation, the robot metaphor involves automated features and physical movements, and the friend metaphor reflects conversational interaction and a human-like manner.” An important definition: “Embodied interaction is interaction between computer systems and people that involves our physical bodies for the interaction in a natural way, for example, gestures.” This article is available free at the website noted below.
Jingoog Kim and Mary Maher. 2020. “Conceptual Metaphors for Designing Smart Environments: Device, Robot, and Friend.” Frontiers in Psychology, https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00198
Organizations concerned about the wellbeing of their members now have another issue to consider. Cornil, Gomez, and Vasiljevic report that “At work, at school, at the gym club or even at home, consumers often face challenging situations in which they are motivated to perform their best. . . . activating [triggering thoughts of] performance goals, whether in cognitive or physical domains, leads to an increase in consumption of high-calorie foods at the expense of good nutrition. This effect derives from beliefs that the function of food is to provide energy for the body (“food as fuel”) coupled with poor nutrition literacy, leading consumers to overgeneralize the instrumental role of calories for performance.”
Yann Cornil, Pierrick Gomez, and Dimitri Vasiljevic. “Food as Fuel: Performance Goals Increase Consumption of High-Calorie Foods at the Expense of Good Nutrition.” Journal of Consumer Research, in press, https://doi.org/10.1093/jcr/ucaa012
Williams and colleagues evaluated preferences for various painting techniques. They determined that “brushstroke paintings were found to be more pleasing than pointillism paintings.”
Louis Williams, Eugene McSorley, and Rachel McCloy. “Enhanced Associations with Actions of the Artist Influence Gaze Behaviour.” i-Perception, in press, https://doi.org/10.1177/2041669520911059
Nakano and Tanabe studied reactions to air temperature in urban semi-outdoor environments, such as atria, terraces, and sidewalk eating areas. They determined that “Clothing adjustments showed higher correlation with outdoor temperature, not the immediate environment. Occupants in non-HVAC spaces were more responsive to their environment. . . . The comfort zone . . . was found to be 19 - 30°C for HVAC spaces and 15 - 32°C for non-HVAC spaces."
Junta Nakano and Shin-Ichi Tanabe. “Thermal Adaptation and Comfort Zones in Urban Semi-Outdoor Environments.” Frontiers in Built Environment, in press, doi: 10.3389/fbuil.2020.00034
Chen, He, and Yu investigated the brain mechanics underlying attention restoration. They had study participants spend 20 minutes wearing a cap that collected information about brain activity in a “restorative (wooded garden [by a pond]) or a nonrestorative (traffic island [in a heavily trafficked road]) environment. . . . the perceived coherence of the restorative environment may induce fatigue recovery and, hence, attention restoration via alpha-theta oscillations and synchronization. The increased alpha-theta oscillations in the occipital lobes suppress visual processing, allowing the human brain to reorganize itself via alpha-theta synchronization. . . . The reduced load in external visual information processing allows the brain to focus more on self-restoration, which eventually leads to fatigue recovery and, consequently, improved attention-related cognitive performance.” An important clarification: “Environmental coherence reflects orderly organization with simple distinct regions, repeating themes and unifying textures.”
Zheng Chen, Yujia He, and Yuguo Yu. “Attention Restoration During Environmental Exposure Via Alpha-Theta Oscillations and Synchronization.” Journal of Environmental Psychology, in press, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2020.101406
Iravani and Rao looked at links between New Urbanist design and health. They specifically studied “how the 10 New Urbanism principles produce outcomes that affect public health. The outcomes include: (1) higher usage of non-motorized and public transit modes, which results in more physical activity; (2) lower usage of private automobiles, which results in less air pollution; (3) safer streets, which results in fewer traffic accidents; and (4) complete community planning for residents, regardless of income, age or ideas, which results in better access to health resources. These results improve public health. . . . Higher intersection density and roadway connectivity with narrower roads result in an urban form that induces behavioural changes that promote the use of non-motorized modes of transportation and a higher level of physical activity, bringing with them the attendant health and wellness benefits. . . . residents in mixed-use areas walk and/or cycle more frequently and have better health.“
Hamid Iravani and Venkat Rao. 2020. “The Effects of New Urbanism on Public Health.” Journal of Urban Design vol. 25, no. 2, pp. 218-235, https://doi.org/10.1080/13574809.2018.1554997