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Wang and Ackerman studied factors that influence how crowded people feel in a space.  They determined that  “People sometimes perceive social environments as unpleasantly crowded. Previous work has linked these experiences to incidental factors such as being hungry or hot and to the relevance of the social environment for an individual’s current goals. Here. . . . Eight studies test whether infectious disease threats, which are associated with crowded conditions, increase such reactions. Across studies, pathogen threat made dense social environments seem more crowded and generated more negative affect [feelings] toward these environments. These perceptions and negative feelings were more influenced by pathogen threat relative to other threats of physical danger.”

Iris Wang and Joshua Ackerman.  2019. “The Infectiousness of Crowds: Crowding Experiences are Amplified by Pathogen Threats.”  Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, vol. 45, no. 1, pp. 120-132,

Kuper investigated the cognitive refreshment/restoration related implications of viewing different sorts of nature scenes.  He found that “Respondents rated flowering and autumn-colored views significantly higher in RP [restorative potential] and preference than foliated [green leaves only on trees]. . . . Flowering plants and red or yellow autumn-colored foliage may increase users’ preference and RP.”

Rob Kuper. “Effects of Flowering, Foliation, and Autumn Colors on Preference and Restorative Potential for Designed Digital Landscape Models.”  Environment and Behavior, in press,

Yadon and Daugherty explored how personality influences responses to sound.  They report that “Sensory gating allows an individual to filter out irrelevant sensory information from the environment, potentially freeing attentional resources for more complex tasks. . . . [study] Participants with more robust . . . sensory gating reported a significantly greater degree of conscientiousness; conscientiousness (but not the other Big Five factors) predicted sensory gating ability.”

Carly Yadon and Timothy Daugherty.  “Auditory Sensory Gating and the Big Five Personality Factors.”  Journal of Psychophysiology, in press,

Helm and colleagues’ research indicates that consumers still value the experience of visiting physical stores.  The team found via “a content analysis of reader comments [US consumers] in response to articles featuring reports on large-scale store closures, and structured online consumer interviews. . . . many consumers lamenting the disappearance of physical retailers. Most expect negative consequences for themselves and society. However, many consumers also describe physical retailers as often unable to deliver on basic retail functions, and many are accepting of a future with very few physical stores."

Sabrina Helm, Soo Hyun, Kim Silvia, and Van Piper. “Navigating the ‘Retail Apocalypse’:  A Framework of Consumer Evaluations of the New Retail Landscape.” Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, in press,

YouGov, a respected research organization, investigated in-office experiences.  The investigators determined that “In just the past six months, open office workers in major cities across the U.S. [New York, LA, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Detroit, Seattle, San Francisco and Houston] have: Gone to a closet or hallway to take a phone call: Almost 1 in 3 (31%);  Gone to the bathroom to take a phone call: 1 in 8 (12%); . . . Had difficulty finding a private area within their office to take a work-related call: More than 1 in 4 (27%);  Held back their true thoughts and opinions while on calls in the office because they don’t want co-workers to hear and judge them: Nearly 1 in 3 (31%).”  Also, “1 in 4 (27%) U.S. open office workers feel self-conscious on work-related calls because they feel as if their co-workers and bosses are eavesdropping, suggesting a lack of focus in the office.” Data were collected via an online poll of 4,037 adults in a nationally representative sample (which included 434 open office workers) in 2018 and through a 2018 online survey of 3,037 adults in New York, LA, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Detroit, Seattle, San Francisco and Houston, with about 300 participants in each of these cities.

Room.  “2018 Open Office Woes Report.”  2018.

Urban/regional planning seems to have political ramifications. Researchers from the University of Waterloo determined that “Urban planning decisions from decades past are likely a contributing factor to the rise of right-wing populism. . . . development patterns that led to the reliance on the automobiles may also be fueling political attitudes that favour comfort and convenience and resist sustainable development. . . . In reviewing the data, the researchers found that the increasing use of the automobile heavily influenced land-use decisions and life-style choices. The combination of automobile dependency and continued urban sprawl normalized economic and cultural norms associated with unsustainable suburban living.  It has also led to many suburbanites resisting calls for change that would impact them personally.”  The study detailing these findings. “Enduring Features of the North American Suburb: Built Form, Automobile Orientation, Suburban Culture and Political Mobilization,” was published in Urban Planning Open Access Journal.

“Urban Planning Policy Contributes to Political Polarization.”  2018. Press release, University of Waterloo,

Schutz and Stefanucci studied consumer preferences for product sounds.  They determined that “Interfaces play a crucial role in a device’s success or failure. Although visual aspects generally receive more attention, findings from sonic interaction design increasingly illustrate the importance of auditory aesthetics in creating desirable products. Here we show that small changes to the amplitude envelope (i.e., ‘sound shape’) of tones affect user preference. Specifically, participants are willing to pay 9% more for products using sounds with decaying-amplitude envelopes rather than abruptly ending envelopes that are common in many device sounds.”

Michael Schutz and Jeanine Stefanucci.  “Exploring the Effects of ‘Sound Shape’ on Consumer Preference.”  Ergonomics in Design, in press,

Research by Foraster and her team indicates the value of noise-conscious urban/regional planning and effective sound insulation.  The investigators determined that “Long-term exposure to road traffic noise over time may increase the risk of obesity. . . .we further identified a stronger association between road traffic noise and BMI [body mass index] among participants with cardiovascular disease and an association between railway noise and BMI among participants reporting bad sleep. Associations were independent of the other noise sources, air pollution.”

Maria Foraster, Ikenna Eze, Danielle Vienneau, Emmanuel Schaffner, Ayoung Jeong, Harris Heritier, Franziska Rudzik, Laurie Thiesse, Reto Pieren, Mark Brink, Christian Cajochen, Jean-Marc Wunderli, Martin Roosli, and Nicole Probst-Hensch. 2018.  “Long-Term Exposure to Transportation Noise and Its Association with Andiposity Markers and Development of Obesity.”  Environment International, vol. 121, part 1, pp. 879-889,

Researchers have determined that the importance of sensory information received through various channels (via vision, touch, etc.) varies by culture.  As a press release from the University of York details, “the accepted hierarchy of human senses – sight [most important sense], hearing, touch, taste and smell [least important] – is not universally true across all cultures. . . . Researchers found that rather than being able to predict the importance of the senses from biology, cultural factors were most important. . . . cultures which placed particular value on their specialist musical heritage were able to communicate more efficiently on describing sounds, even when non-musicians were tested. Similarly, living in a culture that produces patterned pottery made people better able to talk about shapes. The findings could prove significant for a range of practices in education and other professions to help further enhance how people understand and utilise their sensory perceptions of the world.”

“Is There a Universal Hierarchy of Human Senses?” 2018.  Press release, University of York,

Bottalico studied noise levels in restaurants and their implications.  He reports that “Previous studies have demonstrated that uncomfortably loud levels of background noise can result in decreased customer satisfaction and business for the restaurant. . . . [study participants with normal hearing]read passages to a listener in the presence of typical restaurant noise . . . with the level varying between 35 dBA and 85 dBA. . . . to improve the acoustic environment of restaurants, background noise levels should be lower than 50-55 dB(A). This will minimize the vocal effort of patrons and the disturbance in their communication. Concurrently, this will increase business for the restaurant since patrons would be willing to spend more time and money to eat in a restaurant with a background noise lower than 50-55 dB(A).”

Pasquale Bottalico.  2018. “Lombard Effect in Restaurant Setting: How Much Would You Spend to Eat at This Restaurant.”   Presented November 8, 3018 Victoria British Columbia, Canada, at the Joint Meeting 176thASA Meeting and 2018 Acoustics Week in Canada,


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