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Weuve and teammates studied links between noise levels experienced at home and cognitive issues. The researchers report that “Participants of the Chicago Health and Aging Project (≥65 years) underwent triennial [every 3 years] cognitive assessments. For the 5 years preceding each assessment, we estimated 5227 participants’ residential level of noise from the community using a spatial prediction model, and estimated associations of noise level with prevalent mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and AD [Alzheimer’s disease], cognitive performance, and rate of cognitive decline. Among these participants, an increment of 10 A-weighted decibels (dBA) in noise corresponded to 36% and 29% higher odds of prevalent MCI . . . and AD. . . . Noise level was associated with worse global cognitive performance, principally in perceptual speed . . .but not consistently associated with cognitive decline. These results join emerging evidence suggesting that noise may influence late-life cognition and risk of dementia.”  These findings indicate the potential value of sound management programs and residential acoustical shielding.

Jennifer Weuve, Jennifer D’Souza, Todd Beck, Denis Evans, Joel Kaufman, Kumar Rajan, Carlos de Leon, and Sara Adar. “Long-Term Community Noise Exposure in Relation to Dementia, Cognition, and Cognitive Decline in Older Adults.”  Alzheimer’s and Dementia, in press,

Researchers investigated how to encourage people to maintain desired interpersonal distances via signage. Guchait, Do, and Wang found (study published in The Service Industries Journal) that “Despite guidelines plastered on the walls and floors of grocery and retail stores encouraging customers to maintain six-feet of physical distance, many do not. . . . negativity and anthropomorphism, or attributing human characteristics to nonhuman objects . . . improve the persuasiveness of those appeals. . . . adding intimidating human attributes to the otherwise invisible coronavirus, such as a scary red face with long sharp teeth and tentacles, significantly strengthens that message.. . . preventive messaging emphasized potential costs and negative outcomes: If you don’t maintain physical distance, you could get infected and endanger your life. In contrast, promotive messaging highlighted potential benefits and positive outcomes: Maintaining physical distance protects you from infection and secures your life. . . . ‘Preventive language was significantly more effective . . . because people are persuaded by loss language, especially in high-risk, health-related situations. . . .’ said Guchait,”

“How Fear Encourages Physical Distancing During Pandemic.”  2020.  Press release, University of Houston,

The implications of working from home are multidimensional.  Sjolie, Francisco, Mahon, Kaukko, and Kemmis (study published in Journal of Praxis in Higher Education) report that they “collected data from students and academic staff. . . . working from a home office, or as a distributed team, provides significantly increased flexibility for the work situation, it could provide less flexibility in carrying out the work, both in terms of meeting colleagues, collaborating and teaching. This flexibility issue, or paradox, is largely related to a much greater need for structure, planning and clear communication in the digital modality. . . .  the digital form makes it difficult to deviate from the plan. We lose the ability to pick up cues from the room. . . . the threshold for making small and necessary clarifications with collaborators is significantly higher in the digital realm. . . . the opportunity to convene physically is still important, not only for each of us to meet our social needs, but also for the employer and for the quality of the work.”

“The Hidden Threat of the Home Office.”  2020. Press release, Norwegian SciTech News,

Wang and colleagues investigated how frequency of home moves influences charitable donations.  Their findings have broader repercussions, particularly for situations when feelings about others are pertinent.  The team reports that “Extant research shows that consumers are more likely to donate to close than distant others, making donations to geographically distant beneficiaries a challenge. This paper introduces residential mobility as a novel variable that can lead to increased donations towards distant beneficiaries. This paper proposes that residential mobility (vs. stability) leads consumers to have a stronger global identity, whereby they see themselves as world citizens. This global identity results in higher donations to distant beneficiaries. A multi-method approach provides evidence for this prediction. An analysis of a national panel dataset demonstrates that high residential mobility is correlated with donations to distant beneficiaries. Lab experiments, including one with real monetary donations, replicate these effects using both actual moving experience and a residential mobility mindset.”

Yajin Wang, Amna Kirmani, and Xiaolin Li.  “Not Too Far to Help:  Residential Mobility, Global Identity, and Donations to Distant Beneficiaries.”  Journal of Consumer Research, in press,

Van den Bogerd and colleagues studied the effects of having plants in a university and secondary school classrooms.  They report that after students attended one lecture in a classroom with plants in it that “Perceived environmental quality of classrooms with (rather than without) indoor nature was consistently rated more favourably. Secondary education students also reported greater attention, lecture evaluation, and teacher evaluation after one lecture in classrooms with indoor nature compared to the classroom without.”

Nicole van den Bogerd, S. Dijkstra, Karin Tanja-Dijkstra, Michiel de Boer, Jacob Seidell,  Sander Koole, and Jolanda Maas. 2020.  “Greening the Classroom:  Three Field Experiments on the Effects of Indoor Nature on Students’ Attention, Well-Being, and Perceived Environmental Quality.”  Building and Environment, vol. 171, 106675,

Ko and colleagues evaluated how windows influence space user experiences.  They report that they “assessed the influence of having a window with a view [of nature] on thermal and emotional responses as well as on cognitive performance. . . . The chamber kept the air and window surface temperature at 28 °C, a slightly warm condition. . . . In the space with versus without windows, the thermal sensation was significantly cooler ( . . .  equivalent to 0.74 °C lower), and 12% more participants were thermally comfortable. Positive emotions (e.g., happy, satisfied) were higher and negative emotions (e.g., sad, drowsy) were lower for the participants in the window versus the windowless condition. Working memory and the ability to concentrate were higher for participants in the space with versus without windows, but there were no significant differences in short-term memory, planning, and creativity performance.”

Won Ko, Stefano Schiavon, Hui Zhang, Lindsay Graham, Gail Brager, Iris Mauss, and Yu-Wen Lin. 2020. “The Impact of a View from a Window on Thermal Comfort, Emotion, and Cognitive Performance.” Building and Environment, vol. 175, 106779,

Peeters, Smolders, and de Kort report on variations in lighting experiences among people working in the same office.  The researchers report that when they “tracked office workers’ personal exposure during two three-week field intervention studies, one in winter, one in late spring. . . .  the person-based data revealed large differences between - and within - participants in terms of light received at the eye. . . . When designing the lighting plan for a space, the location and placement of light fixtures is a factor that should be considered. Furthermore, large differences occur depending on distance from a window, with individuals being situated further away from a window receiving less light. . . .  one could consider paying more attention to the qualities of views outside as a way to stimulate gaze directions towards the window or designing spaces in such a way that it influences the behavior of occupants, encouraging them to move towards lighter spaces during breaks and other activities that do not require desk work.”

S. Peeters, K. Smolders, and Y. de Kort.  “What You Set Is (Not) What You Get:  How a Light Intervention in the Field Translates to Personal Light Exposure.”  Building and Environment, in press,

Researchers investigated responses to social distancing tools.  Taylor lead a team that determined that in restaurant dining rooms “consumer perceptions of the dining room that utilized partitions [to enforce social distancing rules] were significantly greater than those that used mannequins. . . . ‘Results of the current study suggest that consumers have differing perceptions of the cleanliness of the two socially distant servicescapes that were assessed,’ Taylor reported.  ‘However, it was not just cleanliness that was found to be perceived significantly differently between the two servicescapes, as respondents indicated that the dining room that has partitions between tables was more visually attractive, cleaner looking, more welcoming, safer looking, more entertaining, more sanitary and more comfortable than the dining room with mannequins.’” This study of responses to servicescapes is published in the Internal Journal of Hospitality Management.

Chris Stipes. 2020.  “Customers Prefer Partitions Over Mannequins in Socially-Distanced Dining Rooms.”  Press release, University of Houston,

People on the autism spectrum seem to have tactile experiences that are different from those of individuals not on the autism spectrum.  This has implications for the design of spaces that are likely to be used by these individuals.  A study published in Neurology reports that “‘More than 70% of people with autism have differences in their sensory perception,’ said study author Sung-Tsang Hsieh. . . .   53% of the people with autism had reduced nerve fiber density. . . . People who had reduced nerve fiber density also were more likely to report feeling pain from the heat stimulus at a higher temperature than the control group. . . . response to touch in people with autism differed according to whether or not they had nerve fiber damage. People who had normal nerves were more likely to say they disliked being touched and were uncomfortable with some textures, while people with nerve fiber damage were more likely to say they preferred going barefoot and could be unaware that they had gotten scratched or bruised.”  

“Nerves That Sense Touch May Play Role in Autism.”  2020. Press release, American Academy of Neurology,

We seem to have a special ability to remember the locations of high-calorie foods—no wonder our society is tubbier than it should be. De Vries and colleagues “explored whether human spatial cognition is enhanced for high-calorie foods, in a large multisensory experiment that covertly tested the location memory of people who navigated a maze-like food setting. We found that individuals incidentally learned and more accurately recalled locations of high-calorie foods – regardless of explicit hedonic [pleasure-related] valuations or personal familiarity with foods. In addition, the high-calorie bias in human spatial memory already became evident within a limited sensory environment, where solely odor information was available. These results suggest that human minds continue to house a cognitive system optimized for energy-efficient foraging within erratic food habitats of the past.”

Rachelle de Vries, Paulina Morquecho-Campos, Emely de Vet, Marielle de Rijk, Elbrich Postma, Kees de Graaf, Bas Engel, and Sanne Boesveldt. 2020.   “Human Spatial Memory Implicitly Prioritizes High-Calorie Foods.” Scientific Reports, vol. 10, no. 15174,


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