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Astolfi and colleagues investigated the effects of classroom acoustics on the educational experiences of young people, age 6 to 7. They determined that “findings of the study suggest that long reverberation times, which are associated to poor classroom acoustics as they generate higher noise levels and degraded speech intelligibility, bring pupils to a reduced perception of having fun and being happy with themselves. Furthermore, bad classroom acoustics is also related to an increased perception of noise intensity and disturbance, particularly in the case of traffic noise and noise from adjacent school environments.”
Arianna Astolfi, Giuseppina Puglisi, Silvia Murgia, Greta Minelli, Franco Pellerey, Andrea Prato, and Tiziana Secco. “The Influence of Classroom Acoustics on Noise Disturbance and Well-Being for First Graders.” 2019. Frontiers in Psychology, doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02736
Sjolander and colleagues examined the effects of showing people having colonoscopies nature videos during the procedure and found that the patients exposed to the nature videos experienced less stress. As they describe “One of the four endoscopy rooms was rebuilt to include a large digital screen showing calm nature films. . . . The presence of calm nature films during colonoscopy decreased the release of cortisol, increased prolactin levels, and enhanced oxygen saturation. These effects were more apparent in patients who were unfamiliar with the procedure and the environment, patients who underwent the examination without analgesics or sedation, and patients whose examination procedure was relatively difficult and took a long time.” The nature video was shown on a 85.8 inch x 52.4 inch digital screen “mounted on the wall directly in front of the patient. . . . A loudspeaker playing nature sounds such as birdsong or flowing water was placed under the pillow. . . . patients could choose to have the sound on or off. . . . [films] showed scenes such as trees with leaves moving in the wind or a brook with running water.”
Annica Sjolander, Eva Ung, and Tores Theorelli, Asa Nilsson, and Kjell-Arne Ung. “Hospital Design With Nature Films Reduces Stress-Related Variables in Patients Undergoing Colonoscopy.” HERD: Health Environments Research and Design Journal, vol. 12, no. 4, pp. 186-196, https://doi.org/10.1177/1937586719837754
Kim, Burr, and Alais studied how recently viewed art influences perceptions of subsequently seen pieces. Their results “showed that the current painting earned significantly higher aesthetic ratings when participants viewed a more attractive painting on the previous trial, compared to when they viewed a less attractive one. . . . findings show that aesthetic judgments are not sequentially independent.” So, the impressions you form of a painting you are seeing now are related to the attractiveness of whatever painting you saw before it. Paintings presented to study participants were landscapes or still lifes.
Sujin Kim, David Burr, and David Alais. 2019. “Attraction to the Recent Past in Aesthetic Judgments: A Positive Serial Dependence for Rating Artwork.” Journal of Vision, vol. 19, no. 19, https://doi.org/10.1167/19.12.19
Wind can effectively support ventilating room and regulating their temperature; gentle movement is an important aspect of biophilic design. Researchers determined that “wind can increase ventilation rates by as much as 40% above that which is driven by a temperature difference between a room and the outdoors. . . . researchers found that the rate of ventilation depends less on temperature and more on wind. Anyone who has tried to cool down on a hot night by opening the window will no doubt be familiar with how ineffective this is when there is no wind. This is because in many rooms, windows are positioned halfway up the wall, and when they are opened, the warm air near the ceiling can’t easily escape. Without the ‘mixing’ effect provided by the wind, the warm air will stay at the ceiling, unless there is another way for it to escape at the top of the room.” Study results are published in Building and Environment.
“Wind More Effective Than Cold Air at Cooling Rooms Naturally.” 2019. Press release, University of Cambridge, https://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/wind-more-effective-than-cold-air-at...
Van Geert and Wagemans researched how image order and complexity are related to preference for images. They “explored which factors might contribute to aesthetic preferences for . . . images of a set of objects, or parts of objects, organized in a neatly or tidy way. . . Images high in order and high in complexity were perceived as more fascinating, whereas images high in order but low in complexity were perceived as more soothing. . . . In general, images of neatly organized compositions were perceived as pleasant to look at. . . . both soothingness and fascination seemed to relate positively with aesthetic preferences [so greater levels of soothingness and of fascination were linked to higher preference].” Ratings of order, complexity, fascination, and soothingness were all perceptions of study participants. The researchers “define objective complexity as aspects related to the quantity and variety of information in the stimulus, and objective order as aspects related to the structure and organization of the information in the stimulus (Van Geert & Wagemans, 2019).”
Eline Van Geert and Johan Wagemans. “Order, Complexity, and Aesthetic Preferences for Neatly Organized Compositions.” Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, in press, http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/aca0000276
Christensen, Lindén, Nakamura, and Barkat determined that white noise can improve ability to hear other sounds and their work is published in Cell Reports. The investigators found via studies with mice that “With a background of continuous white noise, hearing pure sounds becomes even more precise. . . .the more precisely we can distinguish sound patterns, the better our hearing is. But how does the brain manage to distinguish between relevant and less relevant information – especially in an environment with background noise? . . . The team was able to demonstrate that the brain’s ability to distinguish subtle tone differences improved when white noise was added to the background. Compared to a quiet environment, the noise thus facilitated auditory perception.”
“Good Noise, Bad Noise: White Noise Improves Hearing.” 2019. Press release, University of Basel, https://www.unibas.ch/en/News-Events/News/Uni-Research/Good-noise--bad-n...
Research indicates that listening to instrumental music can relieve cardiac stress. A press release reporting research by Alves, Garner, do Amaral, Oliveira and Valenti states “Stress while driving is a risk factor for the development of cardiovascular disease and sudden cardiac complications such as heart attack (myocardial infarction), according to studies published in recent years. . . . A study by researchers at São Paulo State University (UNESP) in Marília, Brazil, suggests that listening to instrumental music [while driving during rush hour], for example, may relieve cardiac stress [comparison condition was not listening to music].” Cardiac stress was estimated via measurements of heart rate variability. Study findings are published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine.
“Listening to Music While Driving Reduces Cardiac Stress.” 2019. Press release [Elton Allison] Agência FAPESP, http://agencia.fapesp.br/about-us/2/
Laurent and colleagues confirm the value of spending time in both “real” and “virtual” nature. The team report that they “conduct[ed] an experiment with healthy undergraduate students that tests the effects of six minutes of outdoor nature exposure with six minutes of exposure to a 360-degree VR [virtual reality] nature video, which is recorded at the outdoor nature exposure location. . . . We find that both types of nature exposure increase physiological arousal, benefit positive mood levels, and are restorative compared to an indoor setting without nature; however, for outdoor exposure, positive mood levels increase and for virtual nature, they stay the same. . . . Settings where people have limited access to nature might consider using VR nature experiences to promote emotional health.”
Heidemarie Laurent, Steven LaValle, Katherine Mimnaugh, and Matthew Browning. “Can Simulated Nature Support Health? Comparing Short, Single-Doses of 360-Degree Nature Videos in Virtual Reality with the Outdoors.”Frontiers in Psychology, in press, doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02667
Crossan and Salmoni’s work confirms previous studies which have determined that nature experiences are mentally refreshing. The research team reports that “Attention restoration theory (ART) predicts that top-down processing during everyday activities can cause attentional fatigue and that bottom-up processing that occurs when people experience nature will be restorative. This study exposed participants to three different conditions . . . : a control condition during which participants walked on a typical treadmill; a nature condition during which participants walked on the same treadmill, experiencing a simulated nature walk; and a perturbation condition that included the same simulated nature scene but also required top-down processing during the walk. The findings supported ART predictions. . . . . top-down processing [note the description of this sort of mental work, above] in a simulated natural environment nullified the restorative effects and the nature condition produced a significant improvement in directed attention performance compared to the control and perturbation conditions after a 10-min walk.”
Corey Crossan and Alan Salmoni. “A Simulated Walk in Nature: Testing Predictions from the Attention Restoration Theory.” Environment and Behavior, in press, https://doi.org/10.1177/0013916519882775
A press release from Drexel indicates that plants may not be as effective at cleaning indoor air as thought. This finding does not relate to plants’ ability to support cognitive refreshment, professional performance, and creativity, for example, as reported previously by Research Design Connections. The Drexel team (Waring and Cummings) found that “Plants can help spruce up a home or office space, but claims about their ability to improve the air quality are vastly overstated. . . . A closer look at decades of research suggesting that potted plants can improve the air in homes and offices reveals that natural ventilation far outpaces plants when it comes to cleaning the air.‘This has been a common misconception for some time. Plants are great, but they don’t actually clean indoor air quickly enough to have an effect on the air quality of your home or office environment,’ said [Waring]. . . . according to Waring and Cummings’s calculations, it would take between 100 and 1,000 plants per square meter of floor space to compete with the air cleaning capacity of a building’s air handling system or even just a couple open windows in a house.” The Waring/Cummings study was published in the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology.
“Study: Actually, Potted Plants Don’t Improve Air Quality.” 2019. Press release, Drexel University, https://drexel.edu/now/archive/2019/November/potted-plants-do-not-improv...