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Zheng and colleagues studied how color is experienced.  They determined that “After prolonged exposure to a color linguistic context, which depicted red, green, or non-specific color scenes, participants immediately performed a color detection task, indicating whether they saw a green color square in the middle of a white screen or not. We found that participants were more likely to perceive the green color square after listening to discourses denoting red compared to discourses denoting green or conveying non-specific color information, revealing that language comprehension caused an adaptation aftereffect at the perceptual level.”  In other words: “Sentences denoting color-related information were followed by a color square detection task. We found that listening to discourses denoting a certain color (red) improved the sensitivity to its complementary color (green).” This Zheng-lead research indicates that language processing and perceptual processing of color related information are linked.

L. Zheng, P. Huang, X. Zhing, T. Li, and L. Mo. 2017.  “Color Adaptation Induced from Linguistic Description of Color.”  PLoS One, vol. 12, no. 2, e0173755, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0173755

Researchers used mathematical models to investigate planning issues in poor urban neighborhoods.  The team “used satellite imagery and municipal data to develop mathematical algorithms that reveal slums and planned neighborhood are fundamentally different.Their models clearly identify distinctions between the informal arrangement of underserviced urban areas and the formal structure of city neighborhoods. . . . the physical layout of some unplanned neighborhoods does not allow space for sewer lines, roads or water pipes.. . .the researchers’ algorithm provides a mathematical way of describing all cities.”  

“Mathematics Can Assist Cities in Addressing Unstructured Neighborhoods.”  2018.  Press release, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, https://www.ornl.gov/news/mathematics-can-assist-cities-addressing-unstr...

Researchers linked working in open bench seating areas to users’ daytime stress (perceived and physiological) and activity levels. A group lead by Casey Lindberg determined that “Workers in open office seating had less daytime stress and greater daytime activity levels compared to workers in private offices and cubicles. . . .That greater physical activity at the office was related to lower physiological stress during after-work hours outside the office. . . . The study evaluated 231 people who work in federal office buildings and wore stress and activity sensors around the clock for three workdays and two nights. . . . workers in open bench seating arrangements were 32 percent more physically active at the office than those in private offices and 20 percent more active than those in cubicles. Importantly, workers who were more physically active at the office had 14 percent less physiological stress outside of the office compared to those with less physical activity at the office” [quote from press release].  These stress and activity-related findings were published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine.In that article, the investigators report that “Workers in open bench seating were more active at the office than those in private offices and cubicles (open bench seating vs private office . . . (31.83% higher on average). . .  open bench seating vs cubicle . . . (20.16% higher on average). . . . Furthermore, workers in open bench seating experienced lower perceived stress at the office than those in cubicles . . . (9.10% lower on average). . . . Finally, higher physical activity at the office was related to lower physiological stress (higher heart rate variability in the time domain) outside the office . . . (14.18% higher on average).”  Professional performance was not evaluated by investigators.

Casey Lindberg, Karthik Srinivasan, Brian Gilligan, and 11 others. 2018.   “Effects of Office Workstation Type on Physical Activity and Stress. ”  Occupational and Environmental Medicine,http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/oemed-2018-105077

“Your Office May Be Affecting Your Health.”  2018. Press release, University of Arizona, https://uanews.arizona.edu/story/your-office-may-be-affecting-your-health

There’s new evidence indicating that it’s a good idea to build “in-nature” places for adults to speak with children.  Cameron-Faulkner and her team have determined by working with parents and their 3- to 4-year old children that “Natural environments improve parent-child communication. . . .parent-child communication is more responsive and connected in a natural environment compared to an indoor environment. . . . Natural settings may constitute optimal environments for communication.”

Thea Cameron-Faulkner, Joanna Melville, and Merideth Gattis.  2018.  “Responding to Nature:  Natural Environments Improve Parent-Child Communication.”  Journal of Environmental Psychology, vol. 59, pp. 9-15, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2018.08.008

Hirst and her team added to the body of evidence indicating that children and adults vary in how they experience the world around themselves.  The researchers share that “Across development, vision increasingly influences audio-visual perception. . . . Our findings support a developmental shift in sensory dominance. . . . the influence of vision over audition increases across development, reaching adult-like dominance by 10–12 years.” So sound is a more dominant sense than vision in children and with children what is heard can affect perceptions of what is seen, while vision becomes a more powerful sense among adults and with adults what is seen can influence perceptions of what is heard.

Rebecca Hirst, Jemaine Stacey, Lucy Cragg, Paula Stacey and Harriet Allen.  2018.  “The Threshold for the McGurk Effect in Audio-Visual Noise Decreases with Development.” Scientific Reports, vol. 8, article no. 12372, https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-30798-8

There are some times when we’re much more attentive to the scents around us than others.  Forster and Spence had study  “participants perform[ed] a visual search task with either a high or low perceptual load (a well-established attentional manipulation) while exposed to an ambient coffee aroma. . . . 42.5% fewer participants in the high- than in the low-load condition reported noticing the coffee aroma. . . . because of unique characteristics of olfactory habituation, the consequences of inattentional anosmia can persist even once attention becomes available.”  So, when people are focusing very intently, they are less likely to perceive smells around them and this “smell-blindness” persists even after the period of intense concentration ends.  This finding may help explain user variations in reports of scents present, for example.

Sophie Forster and Charles Spence.  “’What Smell?’ Temporarily Loading Visual Attention Induces a Prolonged Loss of Olfactory Awareness.”  Psychological Science, in press, https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797618781325

Fiebelkom, Pinsk, and Kastner investigated how our sensory systems work.  They report that “spatial attention leads to alternating periods of heightened or diminished perceptual sensitivity. . . . Imagine New York’s Times Square: tall buildings, flashing lights, a swarm of people. Given the brain’s limited processing resources, this scene represents an overload of sensory information. To overcome its processing limits, the brain uses various filtering mechanisms, broadly referred to as selective attention. . . .  spatial attention samples the visual environment in rhythmic cycles. . . .  That is, the metaphorical spotlight of spatial attention blinks, leading to alternating periods of either heightened or diminished perceptual sensitivity.”  

Ian Fiebelkom, Mark Pinsk, and Sabine Kastner.  2018. “A Dynamic Interplay Within the Frontoparietal Network Underlies Rhythmic Spatial Attention.”  Neuron, vol. 99, pp. 842-853, DOI:  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2018.07.038

Research recently published indicates the value of providing opportunities in workplaces for people to spend time apart.  Bernstein, Shore, and Lazer report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of Americaon their study of the performance of three-person groups doing a complex problem-solving assignment in three different situations.  In some of the groups, members never interacted with each other, in another set of groups members interacted constantly, and in the final set of groups, members interacted intermittently with each other. The investigators found that “the groups in which members never interacted [were] the most creative, coming up with the largest number of unique solutions—including some of the best and some of the worst. . . . the groups that constantly interacted . . . produce[d] a higher average quality of solution, but that they . . . fail[ed] to find the very best solutions as often. . . . Groups that interacted only intermittently preserved the best of both worlds. . . . they had an average quality of solution that was nearly identical to those groups that interacted constantly. . . . these groups also preserved enough variation to find some of the best solutions, too.”  The researchers note that “open offices . . . often have some group spaces (booths, meeting rooms) and individual spaces (phone booths, pods) in which interaction can be paused for a period of time. . . . these design-based tools for achieving intermittent rather than constant interaction may be even more important for organizational productivity and performance than previously thought.”

“Collaborate, But Only Intermittently, According to New Study by Harvard Business School Professor and Colleagues.”  2018. Press release, Harvard Business School, https://www.hbs.edu/news/releases/Pages/ethan-bernstein-collaborate-only...

Anyone who’s ever been challenged by the need to identify a mysterious odor will be interested in study findings published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.  By studying a large dataset, a research team lead by Bainbridge has learned that “1 in 15 Americans (or 6.5 percent) over the age of 40 experiences phantom odors.”  

“That Stinks!  One American in 15 Smells Odors That Aren’t There.” 2018.  Press release, National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/news/2018/1-american-in-15-smells-odors-that-a...

The Fitwel team is making a bibliography of studies that support their program available free of charge at https://fitwel.org/resources.  At the noted website, Fitwel reports that “The Fitwel Strategies are based on a strong foundation of data and evidence from scientific publications and documented best practices, along with input and guidance from experts from the fields of design and public health. This resource outlines a subset of citations that support the Fitwel Strategies in the Fitwel Scorecards for Workplace and Multifamily Residential.”

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