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Ross and team’s research confirms that responses to sensory experiences by children do not always directly align with those of adults, a finding that supports user age group-specific research.  The investigators report that “When adults are presented with basic multimodal sensory stimuli, the Colavita effect suggests that they have a visual dominance, whereas more recent research finds that an auditory sensory dominance may be present in children under 8 years of age. . . . Here we presented children and adults with multimodal social stimuli consisting of emotional bodies and voices, asking them to recognize the emotion in one modality while ignoring the other. We found that adults can perform this task with no detrimental effects on performance regardless of whether the ignored emotion was congruent or not. However, children find it extremely challenging to recognize bodily emotion while trying to ignore incongruent vocal emotional information. In several instances, they performed below chance level. . . . this is the first evidence, to our knowledge, of an auditory dominance in children when presented with emotionally meaningful stimuli.”  

Paddy Ross, Beth Atkins, Laura Allison, Holly Simpson, Catherine Duffell, Matthew Williams, and Olga Ermolina.  2021. “Children Cannot Ignore What They Hear: Incongruent Emotional Informaiton Leeds to an Auditory Dominance in Children.”  Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, vol. 204, 105068, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jecp.2020.105068

Research completed by Rogers and Hart confirms that experiencing visual clutter is undesirable.  The duo found that when people feel that their homes are cluttered, their wellbeing is degraded,  “although the correlation between objective and subjective clutter was strong, 47.3% of those who scored in the healthy range of clutter on the objective clutter scale, reported that clutter has negatively impacted their quality of life. . . . This suggests that even when people manage clutter reasonably well, it can impact their quality of life. . . . regardless of people’s objective clutter levels, their subjective clutter scores consistently predicted their wellbeing, while their objective clutter level had little predictive power. . . . . In general populations, clutter considerations are neither mundane nor trivial but central and important to wellbeing. Clutter, regardless of its volume, is a subjective construct, individually defined and experienced . . . . when things are in their place, wherever that might be, and home expresses self-identity, wellbeing is more likely to be present.”

Caroline Rogers and Rona Hart.  “Home and the Extended-Self:  Exploring Associations Between Clutter and Wellbeing.”  Journal of Environmental Psychology, in press, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2021.101553

Researchers have identified fundamental differences in how men and women experience space.  Wood and Jones report in a study published in Nature Human Behaviour that the increasingly gendered division of labor in human societies during the past 2.5 million years dramatically shaped how our species uses space, and possibly how we think about it.  Underlying these conclusions is a huge and detailed trove of travel data revealing stark differences in the ways men and women among the nomadic Hadza people of Tanzania use space. A contemporary hunter-gatherer society, the Hadza provide a window into a highly mobile lifestyle, which was the norm for our species before the widespread adoption of agriculture. . . . . Research in many human populations suggests men and women are better at different types of spatial tasks. On average, women tend to excel on spatial memory tasks, while men tend to score higher on two basic measures of spatial cognition associated with movement: mental rotation of objects and accurately pointing to distant locations.”

“Men and Women on the Move.” 2021.  Press release, Stanford University, https://earth.stanford.edu/news/gender-and-spatial-behavior#gs.rg6nib

Design researchers will find research recently published by Guilbeault, Baronchelli, and Centola (in Nature Communications) readily applicable. The team reports that “In an experiment in which people were asked to categorize unfamiliar shapes, individuals and small groups created many different unique categorization systems while large groups created systems that were nearly identical to one another. . . . researchers assigned participants to various sized groups — ranging from 1 to 50 — and then asked them to play an online game in which they were shown unfamiliar shapes, which they were asked to categorize in a meaningful way. All of the small groups invented wildly different ways of categorizing the shapes. Yet, when large groups were left to their own devices, each one independently invented a nearly identical category system.”

“Why Independent Culture Think Alike When it Comes to Categories:  It’s Not in the Brain.”  2021. Press release, University of Pennsylvania, https://www.asc.upenn.edu/news-events/news/why-independent-cultures-thin...

The Lighting Research Center, Rensselaer, has released materials that can support the development of energy efficient circadian lighting n classrooms and hospitals.  As a press release from the LRC reports the LRC team “published new guidance documents for designing circadian-effective lighting in K-12 classrooms and hospital patient rooms while avoiding increased energy use. . . . For circadian entrainment and improvements in sleep quality and psychological health, high daytime light levels at the eye are necessary, followed by low evening/nighttime light levels in order to achieve a robust 24-hour light-dark pattern. However, the recommended light levels in K-12 classrooms and for general (non-exam) lighting in hospital patient rooms are generally too low for daytime circadian stimulation. . . .  Designers can also increase the circadian-effectiveness of the overhead lighting by increasing overall light levels to 500 lx on the workplane for at least 2 hours during the daytime and using correlated color temperatures (CCTs) of 3500 K or higher. The most energy-efficient technique for designers to consider, however, is the addition of a supplemental layer of narrowband short-wavelength (blue) light in conjunction with typical overhead lighting.” The guidance documents from the LRC are located at    https://www.lrc.rpi.edu/programs/energy/energy_design.html      and at https://www.lrc.rpi.edu/programs/energy/energy_lights.html

“LRC Issues New Guidance for Implementing Circadian-Effective Lighting in Schools and Hospital Patient Rooms While Minimizing Energy Use.”  2021.  Lighting Research Center, Rensselaer, https://www.lrc.rpi.edu/resources/newsroom/pr_story.asp?id=470#.YASwLC2ZNsM

Candido and colleagues surveyed people working in Australian office buildings to learn more about their experiences.  They report that “A total of 1,121 post-occupancy evaluation (POE) surveys conducted in 9 offices were analyzed. All these premises hold a certification from the Green Building Council of Australia and two achieved a WELL rating. . . . Highest scores for overall satisfaction, workability, perceived productivity and health were reported on WELL-rated premises. Offices incorporating active design principles outperformed others on workability, satisfaction with work area, collaboration, unwanted interruptions, perceived productivity and health. ABW environments outperformed the traditional offices on spatial comfort, thermal comfort, noise and privacy, personal control, comfort of furnishing, adjustability of the work area and space to collaborate. People using sit–stand workstations reported spending significantly less time seated. . . . The best-performing offices implemented active and biophilic design, prioritized overall ergonomics and different spaces designed to support a variety of work-related activities.”

Christhina Candido, Samin Marzban, Shamila Haddad, Martin Mackey, and Angela Loder.  “Designing Healthy Workspaces:  Results from Australian Certified Open-Plan Offices.” Facilities, in press, https://doi.org/10.1108/F-02-2020-0018

Data collected in Jordan illustrate the complexities of moving into certified-green offices  from other types of structures.  Researchers report that “localised green building codes, especially in the developing world, often do not systematically recognise IEQ or health as crucial issues. . . . we follow 120 employees of a single organisation as they transition from four conventional office buildings to the first green building (GB), designed to the local Jordanian Green Building Guide. . . . Statistically significant differences in thermal conditions, positively biased towards the GB, were observed across the move, and this enhanced occupant thermal comfort. Surprisingly, no significant improvement in occupant perception of air quality, visual and acoustic comfort was detected after moving to the GB, while odour, mental concentration, and glare were perceived to be poor in the GB. . . . our results support the growing concern that green buildings may create unintended consequences in terms of occupant comfort and health in the pursuit of a better thermal environment and energy efficiency.”

Rana Elnaklah, Ian Walker, and Sukumar Natarajan.  “Moving to a Green Building:  Indoor Environment Quality, Thermal Comfort and Health.”  Building and Environment, in press, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.buildenv.2021.107592

Fay and Maner studied links between physical and social warmth.  They found that “Laboratory studies have linked variability in temperature to the psychology of social affiliation. In colder ambient environments, for example, people report greater loneliness, and they pursue both physical warmth and social affiliation (i.e., social warmth). Here, a field experiment tested whether tactile warmth [basically, touching something warm] eliminates the effect of colder ambient temperatures on desires for social affiliation. Consistent with previous research, people expressed greater intentions to affiliate on colder days. However, tactile warmth eliminated this effect. On colder (but not warmer) days exposure to a tactile warmth manipulation eliminated heightened desires for social affiliation. Findings suggest that seemingly subtle changes in temperature can have important implications for the psychology of social affiliation, and such findings apply to real-world contexts outside the laboratory.”

Adam Fay and Jon Maner.  2020. “Interactive Effects of Tactile Warmth and Ambient Temperature on the Search for Social Affiliation.”  Social Psychology, vol. 51, no. 3, pp. 199-204, https://doi.org/10.1027/1864-9335/a000407

Hou and colleagues studied brain synchronization between musicians and people listening to their music; potential applications of their findings in other contexts are intriguing.  The researchers report that they “used dual near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) to assess whether inter-brain synchronization between violinist and audience underlies the popularity of violin performance. In the experiment, individual audience members . . . watched pre-recorded videos, each lasting 100 s or so, in which a violinist performed 12 musical pieces. The results showed that the popularity of the performance correlated with the left-temporal inter-brain coherence (IBC) between the audience and the violinist. . . . Music appreciation involves the brains of music producers and perceivers in a temporally aligned network through which audiences perceive the intentions of the performer and show positive emotions related to the musical performance.”

Yingying Hou, Bei Song, Yinying Hu, Pafend Pan, and Yi Hua. 2020. “The Averaged Inter-Brain Coherence Between the Audience and a Violinist Predicts the Popularity of Violin Performance.” NeuroImage, vol. 211, 116655, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.116655

Dzhambov and colleagues studied the effects of indoor and outdoor greenery on the wellbeing of people during the COVID pandemic.  They determined via a survey that “Greenery experienced both indoors and outdoors supported mental health. . . . We employed two self-reported measures of greenery experienced indoors (number of houseplants in the home and proportion of exterior greenery visible from inside the home) and two measures of greenery experienced outdoors (presence/absence of a domestic garden and availability of neighborhood greenery). . . . The relative abundance of greenery visible from the home or in the neighborhood was associated with reduced depressive/anxiety symptoms and lower depression/anxiety rates. Having more houseplants or a garden was also associated with some of these markers of mental health. . . . [Study participants] who spent most of their time at home during the COVID-19 epidemic experienced better mental health when exposed to more greenery. Our findings support the idea that exposure to greenery may be a valuable resource during social isolation in the home.”

Angel Dzhambov, Peter Lercher, Matthew Browning, Drozdstoy Stoyanov, Nadezhda Petrova, Stoyan Novakov, and Donka Dimitrova.  “Does Greenery Experienced Indoors and Outdoors Provide an Escape and Support Mental Health During the COVID-19 Quarantine?” Environmental Research, in press, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2020.110420

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