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Decades ago Csikszentmihalyi introduced the world to “flow.”  Isham and colleagues integrated the concepts of flow and environmental management and report that “Csikszentmihalyi suggested that engaging in challenging, flow-conducive activities is a means by which individuals can improve well-being without substantially affecting the environment. . . . we test this proposal by examining data concerning the daily experiences and well-being of 500 U.S. families. We show that individuals who experience stronger characteristics of flow in their leisure activities tend to have greater momentary well-being, whereas those experiencing flow more frequently report greater retrospective well-being. Moreover, a small negative relationship was found between an activity’s flow score and its environmental impact [i.e., more flow, less impact].”

Amy Isham, Birgitta Gatersleben, and Tim Jackson.  “Flow Activities As a Route to Living Well With Less.”  Environment and Behavior, in press,

Research indicating how distracting the presence of smartphones is continues to accumulate; smartphones have a significant effect even when we’re not speaking on them.  This collection of findings indicates how important it is to effectively eliminate other distractions in workplaces and otherwise support research-informed design, as smartphones will be a continuing a presence in work environments.  The Ward-lead team found that “even when people are successful at maintaining sustained attention—as when avoiding the temptation to check their phones—the mere presence of these devices reduces available cognitive capacity. . . . these cognitive costs are highest for hose highest in smartphone dependence.”

Adrian Ward, Kristen Duke, Ayelet Gneezy, and Maarten Bos.  “Brain Drain:  The Mere Presence of One’s Own Smartphone Reduces Available Cognitive Capacity.”  Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, vol. 2, no. 2, pp. 140-154,

For an interesting review of how workplace design can influence how organizations function (and vice versa, among other topics), read Steven Levy’s oral history of Apple (“An Oral History of Apple’s Infinite Loop, Wired2018), available at

Cottet and her team evaluated how the components of urban views influence assessments of them.  The group studied “the influences of landscape composition on the landscape perceptions and valuations of city dwellers. . . . We considered three scenes located along a green promenade that borders an urban river. . . . The natural section of the river is where we observed distinct gaze behaviors that can be interpreted as signs of fascination, which is known to promote attention recovery. We conclude that the restoration of the natural states of rivers in cities is likely to be important for increasing urban well-being. . . . Rivers should therefore be considered essential when managing urban landscapes. . . . river restoration might impart valuable social benefits such as restoring human attention and inducing relaxation. . . .one specific component of the landscape was the main cause of fascination: the river in its natural section (featuring spontaneous vegetation, sediments within the riverbed, and no concrete banks).”

Marylise Cottet, Lise Vaudor, Herve Tronchere, Dad Roux-Michollet, Marie Augendre, and Vincent Brault.  “Using Gaze Behavior to Gain Insights Into the Impacts of Naturalness on City Dwellers’ Perceptions and Valuation.”  Journal of Environmental Psychology, in press,

Jachimowicz and colleagues investigated ways to encourage people to use energy more responsibly.  Their findings indicate the benefits of being able to communicate Earth-friendly concern to others, via conservation-supportive gas and electric meters that can easily be read by neighbors or similar signaling devices, for example. People are likely to use fewer resources if they believe that their neighbors care about living in a resource-responsible manner.  The Jachimowicz-lead team reports that “Recent research suggests that second-order normative beliefs are more powerful predictors of behaviour than first-order personal beliefs. . . . We explored the role that second-order normative beliefs—the belief that community members think that saving energy helps the environment—play in curbing energy use. . . . We found that second-order normative beliefs predicted energy savings but first-order personal beliefs did not. A subsequent . . . experiment provides causal evidence for the role of second-order normative beliefs in predicting energy conservation above first-order personal beliefs. Our results suggest that second-order normative beliefs play a critical role in promoting energy conservation and have important implications for policymakers concerned with curbing the detrimental consequences of climate change.”  In summary: we use fewer resources when conservation seems more important to our neighbors.

Jon Jachimowicz, Oliver Hauser, Julia O’Brien, Erin Sherman and Adam Galinsky. 2018.  “The Critical Role of Second-Order Normative Beliefs in Predicting Energy Conservation.”  Nature Human Behaviour,

Bouterse and Wall-Scheffler investigated walking speeds in different parts of the world and their findings have implications for the design of circulation spaces such as sidewalks.  Their work also indicates how important it can be consider cultural, etc., group membership during the design process.  The Bouterse/Wall-Scheffler team reports that “While sex differences in the speed of paired walkers have been established by others, the dynamics of how walkers adjust their speed in more varied groups . . . remains unexplored. . . . we examine walking behavior in the Northwestern United States and in Central Uganda. . . . Our data . . . indicate that Ugandans walk more slowly in groups than when alone, while Americans walk more quickly in groups. . . .  Ugandans alone walked faster than Americans alone, even though all group types of Ugandans walked slower than their American counterparts. . . .  Ugandans slow down when children are present, while Americans speed up.”

Leah Bouterse and Cara Wall-Scheffler.  2018. “Children Are Not Like Other Loads: A Cross-Cultural Perspective on the Influence of Burdens and Companionship on Human Walking.’  PeerJ, vol. 6, e5547,

Trees in schoolyards have again been linked to improved academic performance.  Kuo lead a study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, which “investigated the link between greenness and academic achievement in 318 of Chicago’s public elementary schools. The district serves a predominantly low-income minority population with 87 percent of third-graders qualifying for free lunch during the study year (2009-2010). . . . Previous studies have documented a positive relationship between greenness and academic achievement, but, until now, no one had examined the relationship in high-poverty schools. . . . Schoolyard tree cover predicted academic performance. . . . Grass, it turns out, does nothing for learning. . . . schoolyard trees positively predicted math scores. Reading scores tended to be better with more schoolyard trees, but the effect fell just short of statistical significance.” Kuo reports in the press release from the University of Illinois that “’you don’t have to plaster the schoolyard with trees - just bringing schools up to average looks like it could have a substantial effect.’”

“Schoolyard Tree Cover Predicts Math Performance in High-Poverty Urban Schools.” 2018.  Press release, University of Illinois,

Zhang and colleagues investigated the effects on cognitive performance of working at a treadmill desk. They tested executive function (specifically, inhibition, updating, and task shifting) when people were sitting, standing, and walking at a treadmill desk at two different speeds (a self-selected speed averaging 2.3 kilometers/hour and a faster one averaging 3.5 kilometers/hour).  For more on executive function, read this article:  The Zhang-lead research team report that the “accuracy of [the updating] task in self-paced walking was significantly lower than that in sitting condition . . . and in standing condition. . . . But there was no difference in accuracy of [updating] task between self-paced walking condition and faster walking condition. . . .walking at an active workstation had a selective impact on the three components of executive function, in which Updating was impaired to a certain extent while Inhibition and Shifting were not affected. Since Updating is highly correlated to the working memory, it is indicated that active workstation use might be more compatible with non-working memory-intensive tasks.”  Working memory is reviewed here:

Zhanjia Zhang, Bing Zhang, Chunmei Cao and Weiyun Chen. 2018.  “The Effects of Using an active Workstation on Executive Function in Chinese College Students.”  PLoS One,

Marquet and colleagues link working in a walkable area and employee physical activity.  As they report, via a study of employed women with an average age of 53 “wearing a GPS device and accelerometer on the hip for 7 days . . . .[they determined that] working in high walkable environments was associated with higher levels of moderate to vigorous physical activity while at work, and with higher moderate to vigorous physical activity gained within the work neighborhood. Increasing walkability levels around workplaces can contribute to increasing physical activity of employees. . . .this study used objective measures of the environment and accelerometer-measured PA [physical activity] to find that walkability around the workplace is associated with higher amounts of MVPA [moderate to vigorous physical activity] gained in the workplace and within the workplace neighborhood.”

Oriol Marquet, Myron Floyd, Peter James, Karen Glanz, Viniece Jennings, Marta Jankowska, Jacqueline Kerr, and Aaron Hipp.  “Associations Between Worksite Walkability, Greenness, and Physical Activity Around Work.” Environment and Behavior, in press,

Nielsen and colleagues studied patient responses to art in hospitals.  They conducted “Fieldwork . . . over a two-week period. During the first week, dayrooms were configured without the presence of art and in the second week were configured with the artworks. Semi-structured interviews, observation, participant observation and informal conversation were carried out and were informed by thermal cameras, which monitored the usage, patient occupation and flow in two of the dayrooms. The study shows that art contributes to creating an environment and atmosphere where patients can feel safe, socialize, maintain a connection to the world outside the hospital and support their identity. . . . the presence of visual art in hospitals contributes to health outcomes by improving patient satisfaction as an extended form of health care.”

Stine Nielsen, Lars Eich, Kirsten Roessler, and Michael Mullins. 2017.  “How Do Patients Actually Experience and Use Art in Hospitals?  The Significance of Interaction:  A User-Oriented Experimental Case Study.”  International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Health and Well-Being, vol. 12, no. 1, no pagination,  doi: 10.1080/17482631.2016.1267343


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