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Research by Cowen, Keltner, Fang, and Sauter indicates that there are 13 consistent emotional responses to music; future research, indicating if these findings can be generalized to experiences beyond hearing music, will be useful. Researchers “surveyed more than 2,500 people in the United States and China about their emotional responses to . . . songs from genres including rock, folk, jazz, classical, marching band, experimental and heavy metal.The upshot? The subjective experience of music across cultures can be mapped within at least 13 overarching feelings: Amusement, joy, eroticism, beauty, relaxation, sadness, dreaminess, triumph, anxiety, scariness, annoyance, defiance, and feeling pumped up.”  Also, “While both U.S. and Chinese study participants identified similar emotions — such as feeling fear when hearing the ‘Jaws’ movie score — they differed on whether those emotions made them feel good or bad. . . . Across cultures, study participants mostly agreed on general emotional characterizations of musical sounds, such as anger, joy and annoyance. But their opinions varied on the level of ‘arousal,’ which refers in the study to the degree of calmness or stimulation evoked by a piece of music.” This study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Ooh La La!  Music evokes at Least 13 motions.  Scientists Have Mapped Them.”  2020.  Press release (written by Yasmin Anwar), University of California Berkeley,

Research published in PLoS ONE sheds light on Neolithic housing; these findings may have consequences for modern design.  Investigators report that “Human behaviour is influenced by many things, most of which remain unconscious to us. One of these is a phenomenon known among perception psychologists as ‘pseudo-neglect’. This refers to the observation that healthy people prefer their left visual field to their right and therefore divide a line regularly left of centre. . . . A Slovak-German research team has investigated the alignment of early Neolithic houses in Central and Eastern Europe. Scientists . . . were able to prove that the orientation of newly built houses deviated by a small amount from that of existing buildings and that this deviation was regularly counterclockwise. Archaeologist Dr. Nils Müller-Scheeßel . . . says: ‘. . . We see ‘Pseudoneglect’ as the most likely cause of this.’ . . . similar changes in orientation also seem to apply to more recent prehistoric periods.”

“Always Counterclockwise: Puzzle of Early Neolithic House Orientations Finally Solved.”  2020. Press release, Christian-Albrechts-Universitat zu Kiel,

Patania and colleagues the experiences of people exercising while listening to music with different tempos. They evaluated data collected “during endurance (walking for 10’ at 6.5 km/h on a treadmill) and high intensity (80% on 1-RM) exercise under four different randomly assigned conditions: without music (NM), with music at 90 - 110 bpm [beats per minute] (LOW), with music at 130 - 150 bpm (MED) and with music at 170 - 190 bpm (HIGH). During each trial, heart rate (HR) and the rating of perceived exertion (RPE) were assessed. . . . RPE showed more substantial changes during the endurance exercises (11%,) than during high intensity exercise (6.5%,) between HIGH and NM conditions. The metabolic demand during the walking exercise increased between NM and HIGH bpm conditions. This study indicates the benefits of music under stress conditions as well as during endurance and high intensity training. The results demonstrate that the beneficial effects of music are more likely to be seen in endurance exercise.”

Maria Patania, Johnny Padulo, Enzo Iuliano, Luca Ardigo, Drazen Cular, Alen Miletic, and Andrea De Giorgio. “The Psychophysiological Effects of Different Temp Music on Endurance Versus High-Intensity Performances.”  Frontiers in Psychology, in press, doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00074

Research published in Sustainabilityindicates that even apparently low levels of outdoor light at night can degrade human lives.  A research team lead by Grubisicdetermined that “even low light intensities of urban skyglow can suppress melatonin production. Melatonin synchronizes the day-night-rhythm in animals and humans. It adjusts the circadian clocks of cells, tissues and organs, and regulates other seasonal processes like reproduction. . . . The sensitivity threshold for humans is 6 lux – street lighting is typically higher.  Artificial light at night can disturb the nocturnal melatonin production. . . . For comparison, the illuminance levels at night: On a starry night, the illuminance is 0.001 lux. On a full-moon night it reaches a maximum of 0.3 lux. The skyglow of a city, a form of light pollution, can reach illuminances of up to 0.1 lux, and outdoor lighting on the order of 150 lux.. . .The light from artificial lighting shines into the night sky, brighter with rain and snow, and is reflected by clouds and particles, which is called skyglow.”

“Light Pollution Can Suppress Melatonin Production in Humans and Animals.”  2019.  Press release, Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries,

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,

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,

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,

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,

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,

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,


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