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A research team lead by Sun investigated the implications of how scenes are viewed.  They report that “participants were asked to view the same garden in three different ways: directly, through a pane of glass, or as a projected slide. We tracked their eye-movement during the first minutes of observation to observe different gaze strategies used in the different modalities of viewing.”  A Japanese garden was the visual stimulus because these types of gardens are designed to be viewed while sitting. The slide image was projected at full size and the photo used was taken just before it was assessed “to ensure that the garden scenery and slide image were as identical as possible.”  The researchers conclude that “the subjects were concentrating more on the main elements of the scene when viewing it directly. . . .  when subjects viewed the slide projection, they had less understanding of context and less connection to any particular object in the garden. By contrast, when the subjects viewed the garden directly or through a pane of the glass, they connected more completely with each of the main elements in the scene.”

Minkai Sun, Karl Herrup, Bertram Shi, Yutaka Hamano, Concong Liu, and Seiko Goto.  “Changes in Visual Interaction: Viewing a Japanese Garden Directly, Through Glass or as a Projected Image.” Journal of Environmental Psychology, in press,

Investigators probed the effects of casino design on gambler behavior.  Their research, published in JNeurosci determined that “The blinking lights and exciting jingles in casinos may encourage risky decision-making and potentially promote problem gambling behaviour. . . . ‘We found that an individual’s choices were less guided by the odds of winning when the casino-like audiovisual features were present in our laboratory gambling game,’ said . . . the study’s lead author Mariya Cherkasova. ‘Overall, people took more risks when playing the more casino-like games, regardless of the odds.’ . . . [this] study was prompted by earlier UBC research that found rats were more willing to take risks when their food rewards were accompanied by flashing lights and jingles. . . . ‘Using eye-tracker technology, we were able to see that people were paying less attention to information about the odds of winning on a particular gamble when money imagery and casino jingles accompanied the wins,’ said the study’s senior author Catharine Winstanley.”  

“Casino Lights and Sound Encourage Risky Decision-Making.”  2018.  Press release:  The University of British Columbia,

Porch commissioned research which reveals differences—and similarities—in  European and American opinions about home design.  Their findings, derived after interviewing over 600 people living in the US and Europe about ideal home design, include “For nearly 45 percent of Americans and 52 percent of Europeans, the choice was clear: Waterfront views took home the grand prize. . . . while the ideal home size for Europeans was nearly 1,590 square feet, Americans felt they needed a home over three times that size—4,982 square feet, on average. . . . According to Americans and Europeans, the ranch house design was the most popular exterior style. . . . .The farmhouse and craftsman styles ranked highest for Americans . . . while Europeans opted for cottage- and Mediterranean-style homes instead. . . . Both Americans and Europeans favored wood flooring over any other option. . . .  Americans were more interested in having centralized air conditioning and a laundry room, while Europeans favored solar panels, swimming pools, and libraries.”  Porch shares that “This project relied on self-reporting, and the findings have not been statistically tested. Therefore, these results are intended for entertainment purposes only.”

Porch. 2018.  “The Ideal Home:  Comparing House Preferences in America and Europe.”

Dawson and Sleek review some of the recent research on how quickly times seems to pass in various sorts of places.  As they report, “Compared with participants who completed less awe-inspiring activities, participants in the awe conditions [such as watching awe-inspiring videos . . . [of] waterfalls] reported feeling time passing more slowly. Additional findings . . . suggest that awe caused people to feel more “in the moment” and led them to see time as more abundant.  Nature itself may slow our sense of time. . . . In experiments that included both virtual and actual environments, participants experienced walking through either natural surroundings such as a forest trail or bustling urban locations such as New York City. . . . the participants in the nature condition reported feeling a slower passage of time compared with those in the urban setting. And when the researchers actually took participants for walks in either natural or urban settings, those in the nature condition reported longer objective and subjective perceptions of elapsed time.”

Joe Dawson and Scott Sleek. 2018.  “The Fluidity of Time:  Scientists Uncover How Emotions Alter Time Perception.”  Observer, vol. 31, no. 5, pp. 24-27.

Work by Carter and colleagues indicates the value of designing opportunities for people to take periodic walking breaks into workplaces and other environments; for example, by providing headsets so that individuals can speak on the phone while walking and floor plans that streamline the process of walking and talking simultaneously.  The Carter-lead team reports that “Decreased cerebrovascular blood flow and function are associated with lower cognitive functioning and increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases. . . .  This study explored the effect of uninterrupted sitting and breaking up sitting time on cerebrovascular blood flow and function of healthy desk workers. . . . Prolonged uninterrupted sitting [tested length of 4 hours] in healthy desk workers reduces cerebral blood flow. However, this reduction in cerebral blood flow is offset when frequent short-duration walking breaks [2-minutes of light-intensity walking every 30 minutes] are incorporated into this sitting period. For those who engage in long periods of sedentary behavior, chronically breaking up these sitting periods with frequent active break strategies may have important implications for cerebrovascular health; however, further research should explore this hypothesis."

S. Carter, R. Draijer, S. Holder, L. Brown, D. Thijssen, and N. Hopkins. 2018.  Journal of Applied Physiology, vol. 125, no. 3, pp. 790-798, doi:  10.1152/japplphysiol.00310.2018

Heller recently discussed the design of healthcare facilities in the Harvard Business Review.  She states that “The size and layout of a room, whether a bed sits in the middle or against a wall (even which wall), how much space is maintained for patients to walk versus how many beds or operating equipment can be accommodated, have not been considered predictors of health outcomes in the past. That’s changing.”  Design principles for effective healthcare environments shared include: “Make sure your vision reflects the ultimate objectives. . . .  Seek input from people who don’t think like you [patients, families, physicians, etc.]. . . . Make the invisible visible [via maps, etc., indicate people who talk to each other and facility layouts, for example] . . . to make sure diverse people are seeing the same thing. . . . Shift[ing] the language . . . from verbal to visual uncovers the hidden dynamics that form our thinking and behavior and unleashes new thinking. . . . Experiment continually. . . . Counterbalance long-term planning through constant experimentation.”

Cheryl Heller. 2018.”How the Architecture of Hospitals Affects Health Outcomes.”  Harvard Business Review (online),

Research indicates that people’s media use tendencies influence how they use environmental cues when forming impressions of others.  Lopez and colleagues share that “Media multitasking (MMT)—using and switching between unrelated forms of media [between different devices, such as smartphones and tablets]—has been implicated in altered processing of extraneous stimuli. . . .  We tested the relationship between individual differences in MMT and person perception, by experimentally manipulating the relevance of environmental cues that participants could use to make trait and personality judgements of an unfamiliar social target. Relevant environmental cues consisted of neat or messy arrangements of the target’s belongings, whereas irrelevant cues consisted of similarly neat or messy arrangements of the testing room in which participants viewed a video of the target.. . . high media multitaskers more readily incorporated irrelevant environmental cues into their evaluations of the target’s conscientiousness [an aspect of their personality].These results suggest that high media multitaskers are more responsive to irrelevant environmental cues, which in turn can lead them to form inaccurate impressions of others.”

Richard Lopez, Julia Salinger, Todd Heatherton, and Dylan Wagner.  2018.  “Media Multitasking Is Associated With Altered Processing of Incidental, Irrelevant Cues During Person Perception.”  BMC Psychology, vol. 6, no. 44,

Pearce and Hinds share important insights on effective transitions to open office environments.  Their research focuses on employee place identity, which they define as  “whether employees feel the space aligns with their self-image and enhances their sense of belonging.”  The researchers found, after talking with workers in the United States, France, Israel, India, and China, that “employees who felt a greater sense of place identity . . . experienced the space [a new open office] as more collaborative, social, flexible, energetic, and comfortable, while those who didn’t develop place identity saw the space as noisy and cluttered. Workers who felt a greater personal connection to the space were also more engaged and enthusiastic about their work, believed their communication with colleagues and managers was of higher quality, and felt a greater attachment to the organization.” To build place identity, Pearce and Hinds recommend that the purpose of a new office space design be shared with users prior to moving into the new space, when employees “believed the space was designed to foster creativity, increase collaboration, enhance flexibility, and promote informal communication [workers] had more place identity. . .  when workers were not prepared with a clear vision of the space beforehand, they were more likely to perceive the space as a way to cut costs and expressed more resistance and dissatisfaction.”  To enhance place identity leaders should be positive about the new space and employees should be allowed to customize it, with personal items and by rearranging furniture, for example. With positive leaders and customization, workers voiced more upbeat opinions about concrete aspects of the environment such as its lighting and noise levels.  

Brandi Pearce and Pamela Hinds.  2018.  “How to Make Sure People Won’t Hate Your New Open Office Plan.”  Harvard Business Review (online),

Having a good memory for the layouts of environments and being better able to identify odors were linked by Dahmani and colleagues.  They report that “It was recently proposed that olfaction evolved to aid navigation. . . . Our findings reveal an intrinsic relationship between olfaction and spatial memory that is supported by a shared reliance on the hippocampus and medial orbitofrontal cortex. This relationship may find its roots in the parallel evolution of the olfactory and hippocampal systems.”

Louisa Dahmani, Raihaan Patel, Yiling Yang, Mallar Chakravarty, Lesley Fellows, and Veronique Bohbot.  2018. “An Intrinsic Association Between Olfactory Identification and Spatial Memory in Humans.”  Nature Communications, vol. 9, article no. 4162,

Maier and Rahman have gathered more evidence indicating that languages spoken influence how environments are consciously perceived.  The team determined that “Native Greek speakers . . . who [because their native language is Greek] distinguish categorically between light and dark shades of blue, showed boosted perception for this contrast. . . . Electrophysiological signatures of early visual processing predicted this behavioral advantage. . . . Our native language is thus one of the forces that determine what we consciously perceive."

Martin Maier and Rasha Rahman.  “Native Language Promotes Access to Visual Consciousness.”Psychological Science, in press,


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