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Researchers at the Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer and the US General Services Administration (GSA) conducted important research related to at-work alertness and nighttime sleep.  During their study “luminaires, mounted near the participants’ computer monitors provided: (1) morning saturated blue light delivering a circadian stimulus (CS) of 0.4, (2) midday polychromatic white light delivering a CS of 0.3, and (3) afternoon saturated red light delivering a CS close to zero. . . . participants exhibited more consolidated rest–activity patterns, indicating better circadian entrainment, and woke up earlier during the intervention compared to baseline. The morning blue light appears to have advanced participants’ circadian phase, causing participants to wake up earlier in the morning. The afternoon red light elicited an acute alerting response close to the post-lunch dip (around 3 p.m.), reducing subjective sleepiness and increasing subjective vitality and energy. . . . The study results showed that office workers felt much less sleepy with the use of supplemental electric lighting and, as hypothesized, they also reported feeling significantly more vital, energetic, and alert compared to baseline.”  Tools available at the Rensselaer website provide important guidance for implementing these findings as well as useful background information and definitions.

“LRC Research Collaboration with GSA Finds Morning Blue Light and Afternoon Red Light Promote Entrainment and Increase Alertness in Office Workers.”  2019.  Press release, Lighting Research Center, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute,

Choe, Jorgensen, and Sheffield investigated mindfulness in the presence of different images, some depicting more natural spaces than others.  They determined that “Interventions (mindfulness, relaxation-based intervention) in natural environments led to greater nature connectedness, lower negative feelings and reduced depression and stress than those in non-natural environments. . . . Participants’ stress levels decreased significantly from baseline to one-week follow-up only in the mindfulness group in natural environments. . . . the mindfulness programme was more effective when carried out in a natural environment. In addition, the mindfulness group in natural environments continued to improve even after the intervention was completed.”  The images presented were  of a woodland, parkland, an urban setting (a historical area of a city with no visible vegetation, not a “busy commercial area” or a “main road”), and a room with white walls (no vegetation visible).  All images were accompanied by corresponding sounds: “such as bird song and wind rustling the leaves of trees-in the simulated natural settings; typical urban noises-such as people talking in the distance and distant traffic-in the simulated urban setting; and a ticking clock in the indoor setting.”

Eun Choe, Anna Jorgensen, and David Sheffield.  “Simulated Natural Environments Bolster the Effectiveness of a Mindfulness Programme: A Comparison with a Relaxation-Based Intervention.”  Journal of Environmental Psychology, in press,

Dai and Boos studied interdisciplinary team collaborations, similar to those many designers participate in, and make recommendations for increasing these groups’ effectiveness in an article available free of charge at the website noted below.  Their write-up includes very effective diagrams detailing team interactions.  The Dai/Boos team reports that they identified “two distinct patterns of knowledge integration. . . . The first, which we refer to as the theory-method interdisciplinary collaborative pattern, involves one party providing a theoretical understanding, and the other offering methods for collecting and analysing the data. . . . .The second pattern, namely the technical interdisciplinary collaborative pattern, occurs when interdisciplinary collaborations are established to merely share the participants’ respective technological approaches or assets, such as a particular algorithm or a loaned microscope. In this pattern, a single shared scientific concept may be the only interface between two disciplines necessary to establish an interdisciplinary collaboration project.”  To optimize collaboration Dai and Boos suggest “Have a kick-off meeting to set goals and rules for collaboration. . . . Identify the right tools for the collaboration. . . .  Combine collaborative patterns. . . . Facilitate project assessments.”

Lianghao Dai and Margarete Boos.  2019. “Mapping the Right Fit for Knowledge Sharing:  Practical Tips for Effective Interdisciplinary Collaborations.”  Nature,

IIzadi and colleagues learned that creativity is influenced by whether we’re facing into or away from the current of air movement in a room. The researchers, conducting research in laboratories and in the field, found that “frontal airflow (air blowing on the front of the body) boosts energetic activation and fuels enhanced performance on creative tasks, compared to dorsal airflow (air blowing on the back of the body).”  An important study detail: creative engagement was “operationalized . . . as improved performance on creative tasks.”  

Anoosha Izadi, Melanie Rudd, and Vanessa Patrick.  “The Way the Wind Blows:  Direction of Airflow Energizes Consumers and Fuels Creative Engagement.”  Journal of Retailing, in press,

How does music heard influence exercising? Terry and colleagues reviewed previously published studies and found that “Music was associated with significant beneficial effects on affective valence [mood] . . . physical performance . . . perceived exertion . . . and oxygen consumption. . . . No significant benefit of music was found for heart rate. . . . Overall, results supported the use of music listening across a range of physical activities to promote more positive affective valence, enhance physical performance (i.e., ergogenic effect), reduce perceived exertion, and improve physiological efficiency.”

Peter Terry, Costas Karageorghis, Michelle Curran, Olwenn Martin, and Renee Parsons-Smith.  “Effects of Music in Exercise and Sport:  A Meta-Analytic Review.”  Psychological Science, in press,

Krauss and teammates evaluated how the context in which art is shown influences human responses to it via a study in an actual museum.  They report that their “study set out to assess the aesthetic experience and psychophysiological responses of participants in an art museum viewing 6 artworks of Flemish expressionism. Participants were randomly assigned to one of the experimental conditions, either receiving elaborative information or descriptive information on the artworks. Aesthetic experiences were assessed via a questionnaire and through psychophysiological markers. A systematic influence of contextual information on aesthetic experience could not be shown. However, artworks had effects on aesthetic experience and heart rate, heart rate variability, skin conductance, and skin conductance variability. The results indicate that the characteristics of the artwork itself have a stronger impact than provided contextual information, at least when they are perceived as originals in a museum.”

Luisa Krauss, Celine Ott, Klaus Opwis, Andrea Meyer, and Jens Gaab.  “Impact of Contextualizing Information on Aesthetic Experience of Psychophysiological Responses to Art in a Museum:  A Naturalistic Randomized Controlled Trial.”  Psychology of Aesthetics Creativity and the Arts, In press,

McArthur simulated the experience of being in “large offices in all climate zones . . . with various outdoor air rates,” and documented the significant performance/economic benefits that result from relatively high outdoor air ventilation rates.  The researcher shares that “A benefit-cost analysis considered energy costs and carbon emission offsets to achieve net-zero carbon operation for large office buildings across international climate zones with ventilation rates ranging from 125% to 1000% ASHRAE 62.1 minimums. Key findings: (1) the productivity benefit was substantially larger than the incremental energy costs; (2) carbon offset costs were relatively low compared with energy costs and had a negligible effect on results; (3) increasing outdoor air resulted in consistently increasing net benefits on an area basis; and (4) the benefit-cost ratio was inversely proportional to the severity of the climate, with the most moderate climates actually showing a net energy decrease with elevated outdoor air.” A definition: “ANSI/ASHRAE 62.1 defines the minimum allowable outdoor air for all building types excluding low-rise residential buildings.”

J. McArthur.  2020.  “Rethinking Ventilation:  A Benefit-Cost Analysis of Carbon-Offset Increased Outdoor Air Provision.”  Building and Environment, vol. 169, no. 106551,

Paton and colleagues investigated human responses to sounds that water can make.  They report that “16 water sounds, with very different acoustic characteristics in the number of harmonics, fundamental frequencies, spectral information and fractal dimension (=complexity), were sampled. . . .  Relationships between sound parameters and comfort responses show that information related to harmonics is behind the preferences. . . . we demonstrated that fountains with large waterfalls or jets, produce a marked acoustic aversion to humans. It is to be expected that the same effect will happen with birds and other small vertebrates present in cities. Instead, we recommend in the design of urban parks and gardens, the adoption of artificial water channels with small jumps whose acoustic characteristics are ideal causing deep and sustained relaxation.”

Daniel Paton, Pedro Delgado, Carmen Galet, Javier Muriel, Maria Mendez-Suarez, and Matias Hidalgo-Sanchez.  2020.  “Using Acoustic Perception to Water Sounds in the Planning of Urban Gardens.”  Building and Environment, vol. 168, no. 106510,

Jeon and Jo studied the effects of visual and acoustic information on satisfaction with urban environments and it is likely that their findings are applicable in other contexts.  The duo determined that when “Actual site conditions were simulated using immersive virtual reality technology in which subjects were provided with visual information via a head-mounted display (HMD) and audio information via head-tracking technology using the first-order ambisonics (FOA) of headphone-based three-dimensional auralization. . . . It was shown that the availability of visual information affects the auditory perception of a number of human-made and natural sounds and the availability of audio information affects the visual perception of various visual elements. . . . One new finding was that audio information affects the perception of the naturalness of a landscape. Audio and visual information had effects of 24 and 76%, respectively, on overall satisfaction.”

Jin Jeon and Hyun Jo. 2020. “Effects of Audio-Visual Interactions on Soundscape and Landscape Perception and Their Influence on Satisfaction with the Urban Environment.”  Building and Environment, vol. 169, no. 106554,

Via aseries of studies, Wijaya and colleagues explored aspects of our sense of touch.  They determined that materials experienced as smooth, slippery, and soft were perceived as pleasant when rubbed on a human forearm.

Maria Wijaya, Darwin Lau, Sophie Horrocks, Francis McGlone, Helena Ling, and Annett Schirmer.  “The Human ‘Feel’ of Touch Contributes to Its Perceived Pleasantness.”  Journal of Experimental Psychology:  Human Perception and Performance, in press, doi: 10.1037/xhp0000705


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