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Researchers have learned more about language-related variations in emotional experiences; since the forms of physical environments influence moods, this work is relevant to designers. Investigators report in an article published in Sciencethat “Psychology researchers . . . studied [2,500] languages around the world and found that the way humans conceptualize emotions like anger, fear, joy and sadness may differ across speakers of different languages. . . . languages describe emotions differently across the globe. For example, some languages view grief as similar to fear and anxiety, whereas others view grief as similar to regret. . . . all languages distinguish emotions primarily based on whether they are pleasant or unpleasant to experience, and whether they involve low or high levels of arousal. For example, few languages view the low-arousal emotion of sadness as similar to the high-arousal emotion of anger, and few languages viewed the pleasant emotion of ‘happy’ as similar to the unpleasant emotion of ‘regret.’ This suggests that there are universal elements of emotion experience that may stem from biological evolution.”

“The Meaning of Emotions May Differ Across the World, New Research Shows.”  2019.  Press release, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, https://www.unc.edu/posts/2019/12/19/the-meaning-of-emotions-may-differ-...

Van Liempd, Oudgenoeg-Paz, and Leseman studied links between childcare center design and kids’ (aged 6 months to 6 years old) behavior.  They reviewed published studies related to the design of indoor play areas at center-based early childhood care and education spaces, learning that “children of 2–3 years of age felt more free to move further away from the caregiver if the room was divided in open zones so that they could keep eye-contact with the caregiver. . . . such a spatial arrangement apparently . . .  enables them to autonomously explore the physical environment, which is regarded of central importance for cognitive and language development. . . . if a ‘special’ place was created where children could play alone, this place was rather frequently used for solitary play, and if such a place was not present, children turned to other (non-play) areas to be alone. . . .Daycare educators wanting to encourage young children's autonomous exploration of the playroom and to stimulate peer interactions should create playrooms that are divided in zones by way of low visual barriers . . . [with] a variety of designated, appropriately equipped play areas.”

Ine van Liempd, Ora Oudgenoeg-Paz, and Paul Leseman.  “Do Spatial Characteristics Influence Behavior and Development in Early Childhood Education and Care?” Journal of Environmental Psychology, in press, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2019.101385

Bertamini and Sinico’s work confirms that objects designed with relatively more straight lines produce different psychological impressions than those featuring curvier ones.  The duo learned that “The evidence has confirmed a preference for symmetry, high contrast, and smoothness over asymmetry, low contrast, and angularity [preference for curvature does not appear to depend on perceived regularity, complexity, or familiarity]. . . .  We asked a group of 56 expert designers . . . to draw seven objects on paper and for each provide two versions: a smooth version and an angular version. . . . Next, we presented these stimuli to nonexperts. . . . Smooth shapes were perceived as more beautiful, less heavy, less dangerous, and less symmetrical. . . . preference for smooth curvature of objects was found to be equally strong in males and females.”

Marco Bertamini and Michele Sinico.  “A Study of Objects With Smooth or Sharp Features Created as Line Drawings by Individuals Trained in Design.”  Empirical Studies of the Arts, in press, https://doi.org/10.1177/0276237419897048

Mowrey, Parikh, and Gue investigated links between retail store layout and exposure to products for sale.  They report that “A retail store’s layout affects a shopper’s visual experience and correspondingly the time spent in the store, navigation through the aisles, and allocation of attention and money across departments and categories. We show that alternate rack layouts allow for more of a rack’s facing to appear in the shopper’s visual field. . . . Results for the case of unidirectional shopper travel suggest that racks oriented at 30° from the direction of travel exhibit nearly 250% increase in exposure when compared to 90° racks; for bidirectional traffic, acute orientations [around 30° for the test space] still provide up to 150% higher exposure.” This finding is important because “What is not seen is likely not going to be bought unless it was a planned purchase.. . . Improved exposure means more rack locations may now be seen by shoppers during their typical travel-path without unnecessarily elongating their paths.”

Corinne Mowrey, Pratik Parikh, and Kevin Gue.  2019.  “The Impact of Rack Layout on Visual Experience in a Retail Store.”  INFOR: Information Systems and Operational Research, vol. 57, no. 1, Facility Layout Part II, pp. 75-98, https://doi.org/10.1080/03155986.2017.1402475

Researchers are developing a more nuanced understanding of when it is best to use lights of various colors and intensities.  A press release from the University of Manchester reports that “Contrary to common belief, blue light may not be as disruptive to our sleep patterns as originally thought - according to University of Manchester scientists. According to the team, using dim, cooler, lights in the evening and bright warmer lights in the day may be more beneficial to our health. Twilight is both dimmer and bluer than daylight, they say, and the body clock uses both of those features to determine the appropriate times to be asleep and awake. Current technologies designed to limit our evening exposure to blue light, for example by changing the screen colour on mobile devices, may therefore send us mixed messages, they argue. This is because the small changes in brightness they produce are accompanied by colours that more resemble day.”  Study findings are published in Current Biology.

“Researchers Discover When It’s Good to Get the Blues.” 2019.  Press release, the University of Manchester, https://www.manchester.ac.uk/discover/news/researchers-discover-when-its...

Bertramsand colleagues investigated the implications of using a red font for text related to performance reviews; it is likely their findings can be extended to other contexts. The research group shares that “The color red has been shown to affect psychological functioning. In performance settings, it is associated with negative emotions, avoidance motivation, and cognitive restriction. . . . we conducted a web-based experiment in which . . . participants performed an alleged attention test and were then given moderately critical feedback, including hints for improvement. . . . either some of the words within the feedback were presented in red letters or all words were presented in standard black. The participants’ subsequent evaluation of the feedback revealed that using red in the feedback caused the feedback to be perceived as relatively less emotionally positive. There was no direct effect of using a red font in how the feedback was cognitively perceived (i.e., how helpful, fair, or comprehensible it was). . . . red should be used cautiously in critical feedback in order to avoid compromising the functions of feedback.”

Alex Bertrams, Lea Althaus, Tina Boss, Patricia Furrer, Ladina Jegher, Paulina Soszynska, and Vinzenz Tschumi.  “Using Red Font Influences the Emotional Perception of Critical Performance Feedback.” Swiss Journal of Psychology, vol. 79, no. 1, pp. 27-33, https://doi.org/10.1024/1421-0185/a000230

Min and Lee found that surface colors influence memories of places viewed.  As they report that during their study  “Spatial memory was measured in terms of architectural scale and recollection of architectural elements and furniture. Participants . . . viewed a short virtual simulation video of a residential studio and were asked to sketch a map of the architectural elements on distributed grid paper. . . . Contrast and hue had no significant effect on the memorization of proportional scale. However, high‐contrast schemes allowed for a significantly higher recollection of architectural elements than low‐contrast schemes. In comparing the effect of hues, a significant difference was seen in recalling detailed furniture and lighting items. Participants reported significantly better spatial memory of neutral and warm color schemes than of cool color schemes. . . . These results can be applied in the design of color schemes for architectural spaces requiring enhanced spatial cognition and memory.”

Young Min and Soyeon Lee. “Does Interior Color Contrast Enhance Spatial Memory?” Color Research and Application, in press, https://doi.org/10.1002/col.22463

How can parking lot lighting help people in those lots at night feel safe?  Bullough, Snyder, and Kiefer investigated this issue, finding that “Previously published research has indicated that perceptions of safety and security under outdoor illumination are correlated with perceptions of scene brightness, which in turn are influenced by the light level in the lot, by the spectral distribution of the illumination, and the uniformity of illumination. . . . two laboratory experiments were conducted using a scale model parking lot scene and a controllable light-emitting diode (LED) lighting system that allowed parametric variations in light level, spectrum and uniformity. From the results, a mathematical model of overall brightness and safety perceptions was developed to predict how different lighting configurations are perceived.”  The model developed is detailed in this article.In brief: “Increasing short-wavelength output to leverage spectral sensitivity for scene brightness perception, and improving uniformity distributions will both increase perceptions of safety, but when a white light source (e.g. LED) is chosen, the magnitude of the spectral effect is relatively small compared to the impact of more uniform illumination.”

J. Bullough, J. Snyder, and K. Kiefer.  “Impacts of Average Illuminance, Spectral Distribution, and Uniformity on Brightness and Safety Perceptions Under Parking Lot Lighting.” Lighting Research and Technology, in press, https://doi.org/10.1177/1477153519875171

Bhattacharjee and Pal studied the implications of spotlighting paintings in dimly lit rooms with light of different colors.  They determined that “the appearance of paintings changes due to different CCTs [correlated color temperatures] of LEDs having the same illuminance. In addition, the result reveals that for both mediums of paintings considered in this study, in comparison to warm white LED and artificial daylight LED, cool white LED has appeared to be more pleasant having moderately warm feelings to the viewers.” The researchers share information about the light directed at paintings: “a warm white (WW) LED (CCT = 2700 K), a cool white (CW) LED (CCT = 3500 K), and an artificial daylight (AD) LED (CCT = 6500 K) with narrow beam angles (10°) were selected. . . . illuminance was set at 100 lx. . . . measurement of illuminance was taken on the center of the vertical plane of the exhibited paintings. The color‐rendering index for all the LEDs was 90.”  Artworks were displayed on a black background and the two mediums of art noted above were water and oil.

Amrita Bhattacharjee and Swati Pal.  “Effect of Color Temperature on Appearance of Paintings Exhibited Under LED Lighting.” Color Research and Application, vol. 44, no. 5, pp. 762-771, https://doi.org/10.1002/col.22403

Mentzel and colleagues identified ties between an object’s color and how fast it seems to be moving. They had study participants review “the perceived running speed of 48 videos depicting runners on a treadmill at seven different speed settings. . . . The runners in the video were shown wearing either a red, blue, or gray jersey, gray being used to strengthen the cover story. . . . The results showed a significant color effect for speed; runners depicted in red were perceived as running at higher speeds compared to blue. . . . findings indicate that, in situations in which speed must be judged, red might be perceived as going faster.”

Stijn Mentzel, Linda Schucker, Norbert Hagemann, and Bernd Strauss.  “Perceiving Speed—The Color Can Matter.”  Color Research and Application, vol. 44, no. 6, pp. 957-966, https://doi.org/10.1002/col.22429

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