place science

Object “Specialness” (11-12-21)

Jonah Berger, a marketing professor at Wharton, studied how objects become special and wrote a related paper with Jacqueline Rifkin (“How Nonconsumption Can Turn Ordinary Items Into Perceived Treasures”).  When discussing this paper Berger reports on “a specialness spiral. You take an ordinary item and forgo using it once. Because of that, you start to see it as a little more special. . . . The next opportunity has to be even better, which means that it’s less likely to be used, so it becomes even more special.

Pointy/Curvy Sounds (11-10-21)

Research continues on sounds linked to curving and rectilinear forms.  Cwiek and colleagues report that “Most people around the world agree that the made-up word ‘bouba’ sounds round in shape, and the made-up word ‘kiki’ sounds pointy – a discovery that may help to explain how spoken languages develop, according to a new study. Language scientists have discovered that this effect exists independently of the language that a person speaks or the writing system that they use, and it could be a clue to the origins of spoken words. . . .

Reading Eyes (11-09-21)

Trainin and Yeshurun researched communication during the COVID-19 pandemic.  They report that “we tested the hypothesis that experience in looking in interlocutor’s eyes (as a result of mask-wearing) will be correlated with enhanced performance on ‘reading the mind in the eyes test’ (RMET). . . . We found that reported tendency to look at interlocutors' eyes, combined with experience in interacting with other people wearing masks, explained individual differences in RMET performance.

Tranquility at the Wellcome Collection (11-08-21)

A current exhibit at the Wellcome Collection in London focuses on encouraging feelings of tranquility. A particularly intriguing section relates to forest bathing: “Researchers at the Nippon Medical School in Tokyo first publicised their research into the health benefits of shinrin-yoku or ‘forest bathing’ in the 1980s. In 2019 Chrystel Lebas travelled to the Hoh Rain Forest in Washington State, USA, and then on to the Japanese island of Yakushima, known for its Yakusugi or cedar trees. These two temperate rainforests contain some of the oldest living trees in the world.

Ventilation Matters (11-05-21)

Joseph Allen, the director of Harvard’s Healthy Buildings program clearly lays out in a recent article in The Atlantic (free at the web address below) why effective workplace ventilation is so important.  His piece includes information that’s crucial for every workplace designer and manager to know and to apply.  For example:  “My team at Harvard recently published research on the health of several hundred office workers around the world for more than a year. We found that people performed better on cognition tests when the ventilation rate in their working environment was higher.

Ventilation and Cognitive Performance (11-04-21)

Research on topics related to workplace ventilation continues.  A Laurent-lead team reports that their goal was “to understand whether cognitive function was associated with real-time indoor concentrations of particulate matter (PM2.5) and carbon dioxide (CO2). We conducted a prospective observational longitudinal study among 302 office workers in urban commercial buildings located in six countries (China, India, Mexico, Thailand, the United States of America, and the United Kingdom). For 12 months, [we] assessed cognitive function. . . .

Nature Soundscapes (11-03-21)

Ratcliffe’s work confirms the value of nature soundtracks in particular contexts.  She determined via a literature review that “nature is broadly characterized by the sounds of birdsong, wind, and water, and these sounds can enhance positive perceptions of natural environments presented through visual means. Second, isolated from other sensory modalities these sounds are often, although not always, positively affectively appraised and perceived as restorative.

Scent in Stores (11-02-21)

De Groot evaluated how in-store scents influence shopping behavior.  He determined via data collected in “a second-hand clothing store [where study participants] could face one of three conditions: fresh linen scent (pleasant and semantically priming ‘clean clothing’ increasing the products' value), vanilla sandalwood scent (pleasant control odor), or regular store odor (odorless control). . . . .  that fresh linen scent almost doubled consumer spending vs. the odorless control and the pleasant control odor.

Warmth and Safety (11-01-21)

Hornstein, Fanselow, and Eisenberger studied links between feeling something warm and perceptions of safety.  They learned that “a physically warm stimulus was less readily associated with threat (compared to soft or neutral stimuli; Study 1) and was able to inhibit the fear response elicited by other threatening cues (compared to neutral stimuli; Study 2).


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