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Research completed by Zhou, Wu, Meng, and Kang indicates that the acoustics in hospitals have a significant effect on stress experienced by patients.  The researchers share that “Patients in general wards are often exposed to excessive levels of noise and activity, and high levels of noise have been associated with depression and anxiety. Previous studies have found that an appropriate acoustic environment is beneficial to the patient's therapeutic and treatment process; however, the soundscape is rarely intentionally designed or operated to improve patient recovery, especially for psychological rehabilitation. . . . A digital three-dimensional model of a hospital room was constructed, and experimental subjects wore VR [virtual reality] glasses to visualize a real ward scene. . . . results show that music plays an important role in reducing stress as it can aid in a patient’s physiological (skin conduction levels) and psychological stress recovery. Furthermore, mechanical and anthropogenic sounds exert negative effects on a patient’s stress recovery. However, the effect is only limited to psychological stress indicators.”

Tianfu Zhou, Yue Wu, Qi Meng, and Jian Kang. “Influence of the Acoustic Environment in Hospital Wards on Patient Physiological and Psychological Indices.” Frontiers in Psychology, in press, doi:  10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01600

Chen calculated the financial implications of urban nature. He shares that he “systematically searched and reviewed literature on monetary valuation of urban nature’s health effects. . . . Large monetary values were found. These estimates are useful as an argument for urban planners promoting investment in urban green infrastructure.”

Xianwen Chen. 2020.  “Monetary Valuation of Urban Nature’s Health Effects:  A Systematic Review.”  Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, vol. 63, no. 10, pp. 1716-1737, https://doi.org/10.1080/09640568.2019.1689107

Molto and team’s work indicates that multiple factors influence how far away something seems to be.  The researchers report that “Previous studies have suggested that action constraints influence visual perception of distance.  For example, the greater the effort to cover a distance, the longer people perceive this distance to be.  The present . . . meta-analysis . . . supported the existence of a small action-constraint effect on distance estimation. . . . This effect varied slightly according to the action-constraint category (effort, weight, tool use). . . Our meta-analysis provided extremely strong evidence for the existence of an overall action-constraint effect on distance perception.” As an example of an action-constraint study that had been conducted, Molto and colleagues refer to research by Witt, Profitt, and Epstein (2005) who found that “participants estimated that a target was closer to them when they could use a tool to reach it more easily (low constraint) than when they could not (high constraint).”

Lisa Molto, Ladislas Nalborczyk, Richard Palluel-Germain, and Nicolas Morgado.  2020. “Action Effects on Visual Perception of Distances:  A Mutlilevel Bayesian Meta-Analysis.”  Psychological Science, vol. 31, no. 5, pp. 488-504, DOI: 10.1177/0956797619900336

Researchers at the Lighting Research Center confirm the value of spending time in brightly lit spaces.  They share that “The Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is investigating the impacts of working from home or quarantining indoors due to the COVID-19 pandemic on individual daily light exposures, and how this may be affecting sleep quality and psychological health. In May 2020, the LRC invited people who had been staying home due to the pandemic to complete a short survey about their sleep, mood, and daily light exposure. . . .  Compared to people with ‘somewhat dim’ to ‘very dim’ indoor lighting, people with ‘somewhat bright’ to ‘very bright’ lighting, including having windows without (or with open) curtains or shades, or having several lights turned on, reported:  

  • Fewer sleep disturbances
  • Less anxiety and depression
  • Feeling less tired or less irritable  
  • Feeling generally happier and more positive
  • Less sleep-related impairment.”  

“Survey Results Now Available!  More Daytime Light = Better Sleep and Mood.”  2020.  Press release, Lighting Research Center, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, https://www.lrc.rpi.edu/resources/newsroom/pr_story.asp?id=464#.XujVtC2ZNsM

Yoshikawa, Nittono, and Masaki detail the cognitive benefits of looking at cute images.  They report that “QE [quiet eye] is a gaze phenomenon, and its duration . . . is thought to represent attention control. . . . several studies have confirmed that viewing cute pictures can induce focal attention, thus improving performance in fine motor tasks. . . . We randomly assigned participants to either the baby-animal pictures group or the adult-animal pictures group, based on pictures viewed prior to the task. . . . task precision increased after viewing pictures of baby animals in both the post-test and pressure test. Furthermore, QE duration was also prolonged after viewing cute pictures in the post-test, but not in the pressure test. Neither performance improvement nor QE prolongation were found after viewing pictures of adult animals. These results suggested that simply viewing cute pictures could prolong QE duration without pressure, and might provide a beneficial effect on performance, even in a high-pressure situation.”

Naoki Yoshikawa, Hiroshi Nittono, and Hiroaki Masaki. “Effects of Viewing Cute Pictures on Quiet Eye Duration and Fine Motor Task Performance.”  Frontiers in Psychology, doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01565

Lee and  Contreras  evaluated how walkability and crime are related using data collected in Los Angeles. They determined that “walkability had an especially strong linear effect on robbery rates: a 24% increase in the robbery rate accompanied a 10-point increase in Walk Score on a block, controlling for the effects of local businesses and sociodemographic characteristics. . . . Our final set of models suggests that the walkability–crime relationship might depend on neighborhood social organization: When walkability is high, low-income blocks might experience sharp rises in rates of predatory violence as compared with more advantaged blocks.”

Narae Lee and Christopher Contreras. “Neighborhood Walkability and Crime: Does the Relationship Vary by Crime Type?”  Environment and Behavior, in press, https://doi.org/10.1177/0013916520921843

Yu, Xiong, and  Lee evaluated the shapes of personal spaces among Chinese people. They report that “Participants were required to determine their IPS [interpersonal space] in eight directions (0°, 45°, 90°, 135°, 180°, 225°, 270°, 315°) when approached by male or female confederates. . . .   IPS was significantly influenced by direction . . . with the largest distance in the front (0°) and the closest distance in the rear (135°, 180°, 225°). . . . Participants maintained a larger IPS . . . with a male confederate than a female confederate. . . IPS . . . boundaries could be applied in environmental design, space utilization.”

Xiaoqing Yu, Wei Xiong, and Yu-Chi Lee. 2020. “An Investigation Into Interpersonal and Peripersonal Spaces of Chinese People for Different Directions and Genders.”  Frontiers in Psychology, https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00981

Researchers investigated how green spaces (public parks) influence the wellbeing of city-dwellers; findings are published in the Journal of Public Space.  The Sahakian-lead group evaluated data collected in Chennai, Singapore, Manila, and Shanghai and report that their project “was based on a list of nine ‘protected needs’ that society has the capacity to meet. . . . parks fulfill almost all these needs to varying degrees, with three in particular standing out. . . .  parks play an essential role in the well-being of individuals . . .  they cannot be replaced by other venues where people meet, such as shopping centres.. . .needs [investigated] correspond to what society can offer the population through the public sector’ [Sahakian quoted] . . . . (1) the availability of goods that satisfy vital needs; (2) turning your own idea of everyday life into reality; (3) living in a pleasant environment; (4) growing as a person; (5) self-determination; (6) doing activities that you value; (7) being part of a community; (8) taking part in decisions about the future of society; and (9) being protected by society.”  Three needs in particular supported by public parks were 3, 4, and 7.

“Public Parks Guaranteeing Sustainable Well-Being.”  2020.  Press release, Universite de Geneve, https://www.unige.ch/communication/communiques/en/2020/les-parcs-publics...

Kolarik and colleagues investigated how perceptions of distances are influenced by impaired vision; their findings are particularly useful for the development of spaces that people with compromised vision are likely to use.  The researchers determined that “Blindness leads to substantial enhancements in many auditory abilities, and deficits in others. . . .  we show that greater severity of visual loss is associated with increased auditory judgments of distance and room size. On average participants with severe visual losses perceived sounds to be twice as far away, and rooms to be three times larger, than sighted controls. . . . As the severity of visual impairment increased, accuracy decreased for closer sounds and increased for farther sounds. However, it is for closer sounds that accurate judgments are needed to guide rapid motor responses to auditory events, e.g. planning a safe path through a busy street to avoid collisions with other people, and falls. Interestingly, greater visual impairment severity was associated with more accurate room size estimates.”

Andrew Kolarik, Rajiv Raman, Brian Moore, Silvia Cirstea, Sarika Gopalakrishnan, and Shahina Pardhan. 2020.  “The Accuracy of Auditory Spatial Judgments in the Visually Impaired is Dependent on Sound Source Distance.”  Scientific Reports, vol. 10, article 7169, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-64306-8

Li, Liu, and Li studied the effects of being in an orderly environment on thoughts and behaviors.  They share that previous research has shown that “Environmental orderliness can affect both self-control behaviors and creative thinking.”  Their work “investigated the moderating effect of trait [inherently characteristic of a person] self-control on environmental orderliness influencing both self-control behaviors and creative thinking. . . . Participants exposed to an orderly or a disorderly room were asked to complete a breath-holding task measuring self-control. . . . low trait self-control participants were more self-controlled in the orderly environment, while the self-control of those with high trait self-control was not affected by environmental orderliness. . . . the moderating effect of trait self-control on environmental orderliness affecting creative thinking was investigated with a picture priming orderliness and the Alternative Uses Test. As expected, participants with high trait self-control in the disorderly environment had better creative thinking performance, although there was no difference in the performance of those with low trait self-control between the two environmental orderliness conditions.”

Zhengyan Li, Ning Liu, and Shouxin Li.  “Environmental Orderliness Affects Self-Control and Creative Thinking: The Moderating Effects of Trait Self-Control.”  Frontiers in Psychology, in press, doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01515

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