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Kim and teammates studied worker comfort via data collected in a “typical” office building.  As they report, “Personal Comfort Systems (PCS) provide individual occupants local heating and cooling to meet their comfort needs without affecting others in the same space. . . . Recently developed Internet-connected PCS chairs . . . [can generate] continuous streams of heating and cooling usage data, along with occupancy status and environmental measurements. . . . we carried out a study with PCS chairs . . . . The data analysis shows that (1) local temperatures experienced by individual occupants vary quite widely across different parts of the building, even within the same thermal zone; (2) occupants often have different thermal preferences even under the same thermal conditions; . . . (4) PCS chairs produce much higher comfort satisfaction (96%) than typically achieved in buildings. . . . PCS not only provide personalized comfort solutions but also offer individualized feedback that can improve comfort analytics and control decisions in buildings.”

Joyce Kim, Fred Bauman, Paul Raftery, Edward Arens, Hui Zhang, Gabe Fierro, Michael Andersen, and David Culler.  2019. “Occupant Comfort and Behavior: High-Resolution Data from a 6-Month Field Study of Personal Comfort Systems with 37 Real Office Workers.”  Building and Environment, vo. 148, pp. 348-360,

Particular sorts of outdoor play spaces have more positive effects on children’s health and mental development.  Researchers lead by Dankiw and Baldock determined that understanding “the importance of nature play could transform children’s play spaces, supporting investment in city and urban parks, while also delivering important opportunities for children’s physical, social and emotional development. . . . . [for] children aged 2-12 years . . . nature play improved children’s complex thinking skills, social skills and creativity. . . . this study . . . supports the development of innovative nature play spaces in childcare centres and schools. ‘In recent years, nature play has become more popular with schools and childcare centres, with many of them re-developing play spaces to incorporate natural elements, such as trees, plants and rocks. But as they transition from the traditional ‘plastic fantastic’ playgrounds to novel nature-based play spaces, they’re also looking for empirical evidence that supports their investments,’ Dankiw says. . . . nature play improved children’s levels of physical activity, health-related fitness, motor skills, learning, and social and emotional development.”

“Mother Nature: Reshaping Modern Play Spaces for Children’s Health.”  2020. Press release, University of South Australia,

Ingvarsdottir and Balkenius probed the relationship between the apparent weight of an object and how shiny/matte its finish is.  They determined that when objects that are identical except for finish glossiness are picked up, one that has a shiny finish will be perceived to be heavier than one with a matte finish.  

Kristin Ingvarsdottir and Christian Balkenius.  2020. “The Visual Perception of Material Properties Affects Moto Planning in Prehension:  An Analysis of Temporal and Spatial Components of Lifting Cups.”  Frontiers in Psychology,

Besser and team studied the responses of several older user groups to neighborhood design.  More specifically, they “examined whether neighborhood built environment (BE) and cognition associations in older adults vary by apolipoprotein E (APOE) genotype, a genetic risk factor for Alzheimer's disease (AD). . . .  Neighborhood characteristics included social and walking destination density (SDD, WDD), intersection density, and proportion of land dedicated to retail. Individuals were categorized as APOE ε2 (lower AD risk), APOE ε4 (higher AD risk), or APOE ε3 carriers. Among APOE ε2 carriers, greater proportion of land dedicated to retail was associated with better global cognition, and greater SDD, WDD, intersection density, and proportion of land dedicated to retail was associated with better processing speed. These associations were not observed in APOE ε3 or ε4 carriers.”  So, the cognitive benefits that might result from living in neighborhoods that could promote walkability, etc., may be most available to people with a relatively lower risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

Lilah Besser, James Galvin, Daniel Rodriguez, Teresa Seeman, Walter Kukull, Stephen Rapp, and Jennifer Smith. 2019.  “Associations Between Neighborhood Built Environment and Cognition Vary By Apolipoproteain E Genotype:  Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis.”  Health and Place, vol. 60, 102188,

Stappers and colleagues investigated how user perceptions of neighborhood walkability influence movement by different groups.  They determined via data collected in The Netherlands that “individuals with a lower level of education or health-related problems spent more time in the home neighborhood. The perceived neighborhood walkability only affected [empirically measured] NB-PA [neighborhood-based physical activity] for individuals spending a relatively large amount of time in their home neighborhood. PA-facilitating features in the home neighborhood, for example, aesthetics, were only associated with more NB-PA for individuals without health-related problems or with a higher level of education. . . . the presence of PA-facilitating characteristics was only associated with MVPA [moderate to vigorous physical activity] for higher educated individuals, or individuals without health-related problems. On the contrary, the absence of PA-hindering factors, such as the lack of parking spaces, was only associated with more MVPA for the less advantaged [based on educational level and health-related problems].” The questionnaire assessing perceived walkability covered “access to facilities, aesthetics, infrastructure and safety for walking, traffic hazards, crime, lack of parking spaces, hilliness, and physical barriers.”  

N. Stappers, J. Schpperijn, S. Kremers, , M. Bekker, M. Jansen, N. de Vries, and D. Van Kann. “Combining Accelerometry and GPS to Assess Neighborhood-Based Physical Activity:  Associations with Perceived Neighborhood Walkability.”  Environment and Behavior, in press,

Kuwabara, Alonso, and Ayala studied perception across cultures.  As they report “Previous studies investigating cultural differences in attention and perception have shown that individuals from Western countries (e.g., the U.S.) perceive more analytically [in a piecemeal fashion, with special attention to focal elements] whereas individuals from East Asian countries (e.g., Japan) perceive more holistically (e.g., Nisbett & Miyamoto, 2005). These differences have been shown in children as young as three years old (Kuwabara & Smith, 2016). . . . we focused on one of such visual environments that young children are exposed to regularly. . . . 37 U.S. picture books and 37 Japanese picture books were coded for visual contents – how visually crowded. . . . the U.S. picture books are more visually crowded than the Japanese books . . . [and] contained more objects than the Japanese books as expected, which reflect well with the cultural differences in attention observed in young children in previous studies.”

Megumi Kuwabara, Jannette Alonso, and Darlene Ayala. “Cultural Differences in Visual Contents in Picture Books.”  Frontiers in Psychology, in press, doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00304

Madzharov continues to conduct interesting studies related to sensory experiences.  In a recent study, she looked at the implications of touching food directly with hands (instead of indirectly via utensils such as forks) while it is being eaten; eventually being able to extend her findings beyond this context would be useful.  Madzharov determined that “for consumers who apply self-control in their food consumption (high self-control consumers) touching food directly with hands enhances the sensory experience and increases hedonic [pleasure-related] evaluations of the food [it seems tastier and more satisfying]. Importantly, direct touch increases the consumption volume for high self-control consumers. These findings contribute to understanding of how touch as a proximal sensory factor affects food evaluation and consumption, and thus offer retailing implications in the context of in-store food sampling, food catering, presentation and consumption of food in restaurants.”

Adriana Madzharov.  2019.  “Self-Control and Touch:  When Does Direct Versus Indirect Touch Increase Hedonic Evaluations and Consumption of Food.”  Journal of Retailing, vol. 95, no. 4, pp. 170-185,

Skavronskaya and colleagues studied how responses to novel experiences can evolve over time.  They determined via an assessment of tourism related situations that  “Novel experiences, whether positive or negative, were identified as critical to experience memorability. . . . Novelty contributes to how spatial, temporal and contextual details of tourism experiences are remembered and reconstructed due to the elicitation of intense emotions. Analysis revealed negative experiences deemed as novel were found to be re-evaluated and often remembered as a positive experience.”

Liubov Skavronskaya, Brent Moyle, and Noel Scott. “The Experience of Novelty and the Novelty of Experience.”   Frontiers in Psychology, in press, doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00322

Walker, Rett, and Bonawitz link design cues and learning. They studied if an object’s “design can facilitate recognition of abstract causal rules [systems]. In Experiment 1, . . . three-year-olds were presented with evidence consistent with a relational rule (i.e., pairs of same or different blocks activated a machine) using two differently designed machines. In the standard-design condition, blocks were placed on top of the machine; in the relational-design condition, blocks were placed into openings on either side. In Experiment 2, we assessed whether this design cue could facilitate adults’ . . . inference of a distinct conjunctive cause (i.e., that two blocks together activate the machine). Results of both experiments demonstrated that causal inference is sensitive to an artifact’s design: Participants in the relational-design conditions were more likely to infer rules that were a priori unlikely. . . . These findings have clear implications for creating intuitive learning environments.”

Caren Walker, Alexandra Rett, and Elizabeth Bonawitz. 2020. “Design Drives Discovery in Causal Learning.”  Psychological Science, vol. 31, no. 2, pp. 129-138,

A large team lead by Jackson determined that languages vary in how they link emotions; their findings may be useful to people conducting research in different parts of the world, for example.  The group studied 24 terms for emotions in thousands of spoken languages, and report that “Many human languages have words for emotions such as ‘anger’ and ‘fear,’ yet it is not clear whether these emotions have similar meanings across languages, or why their meanings might vary. We estimate emotion semantics across a sample of 2474 spoken languages using ‘colexification’—a phenomenon in which languages name semantically related concepts with the same word.  Analyses show significant variation in networks of emotion concept colexification, which is predicted by the geographic proximity of language families. We also find evidence of universal structure in emotion colexification networks, with all families differentiating emotions primarily on the basis of hedonic valence [positive or negative] and physiological activation.  Our findings contribute to debates about universality and diversity in how humans understand and experience emotion.” So, in short, the Jackson team looked at how concepts such as happiness or love are related in different languages.  They determined that in Persian the same word is used to convey grief and regret, for example, and that it some dialects spoken in Russia the same word expresses both grief and anxiety.  In some languages spoken in Russia anger was linked to envy but in some Austronesian ones it was tied to terms such as hate, and bad, and proud.  These findings indicate that emotional universals may not be as prevalent as cross-cultural researchers would find useful, although there clearly are some consistencies regarding emotions across groups.

Joshua Jackson, Joseph Watts, Teague Henry, Johann-Mattis List, Robert Forkel, Peter Mucha, Simon Greenhill, Russell Gray, and Kristen Lindquist.  2019. “Emotion Semantics Show Both Cultural Variation and Universal Structure.”  Science, vol. 366, no. 6472, pp. 1517-1522, DOI:  10.1126/science.aaw8160


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