Mid-March 2017

Park Walks, Relaxation Exercises, and Office Worker Tension (03-15-17)

Research collected from Finnish knowledge workers indicates that both taking a walk in nature at lunchtime and doing relaxation exercises over lunch have about the same effect on how tense employees feel after lunch.  Building spaces that support relaxation exercises, and teaching those exercises to employees, could be a viable alternative to developing nature-based experiences in many locations. For 15 minutes during lunch on 10 consecutive workdays participants in the de Bloom lead study walked in a park, did relaxation exercises, or were in a control group that neither walked nor exercised.  The researchers found that  “both intervention groups [the people taking the walks and the people doing the relaxation exercises] reported less tension after lunch breaks.”  The relaxation exercises included “1) a release-only version of progressive muscle relaxation . . . and 2) a deep breathing and acceptance exercise. . . . These methods were targeted at the most important elements in relaxation: muscle relaxation, deep and slow breathing, and acceptance of the here-and-now.”  In summary, “Both interventions - park walking and relaxation exercises - distract attention from the source of stress (e.g., heavy workload, emotional demands, poorly designed work tasks) and instead aim at alleviating individual strain. . . . Park walking and relaxation exercises activities are fairly easy to learn and implement in an organizational setting, and may assist employees in replenishing the resources needed to perform well on the job during the working day. ”

Jessica de Bloom, Marjaana Sianoja, Kalevi Korpela, Martti Tupmisto, Ansa Lilja, Sabine Geurts, and Ulla Kinnunen.  “Effects of Park Walks and Relaxation Exercises During Lunch Breaks on Recovery from Job Stress:  Two Randomized Controlled Trials.”  Journal of Environmental Psychology, in press.

Environmental Control: Repercussions (03-14-17)

Shahzad and her team studied some of the implications of user control over temperature in their work areas.  The investigators “compared a workplace, which was designed entirely based on individual control over the thermal environment, to an environment that limited thermal control was provided as a secondary option for fine-tuning: Norwegian cellular and British open plan offices. The Norwegian approach provided each user with control over a window, door, blinds, heating and cooling as the main thermal control system. In contrast, the British practice provided a uniform thermal environment with limited openable windows and blinds to refine the thermal environment for occupants seated around the perimeter of the building. . . . The results showed a 30% higher satisfaction and 18% higher comfort level in the Norwegian offices compared to the British practices. However, the energy consumption of the Norwegian case studies was much higher compared to the British ones.”

Sally Shahzad, John Brennan, Dimitris Theodossopoulos, Ben Hughes and John Calautit.  2017.  “A Study of the Impact of Individual Thermal Control on User Comfort in the Workplace:  Norwegian Cellular Vs. British Open Plan Offices.”  Architectural Science Review, vol. 60, no. 1, pp. 49-61.

Neighborhood Design, Physical Activity, and Wellbeing (03-13-17)

Zuniga-Teran and her team have extensively investigated how neighborhood design influences physical activity and wellbeing.  They studied “four types of neighborhood designs: traditional development [these include homes and accessible commercial spaces], suburban development, enclosed [gated] community, and cluster housing development [which generally preserve natural/green spaces and include townhouse-type homes], and assess their level of walkability and their effects on physical activity and wellbeing. . . . traditional development showed . . . the highest value for walkability, as well as for each of the two types of walking (recreation and transportation) representing physical activity [so people living in traditional developments walked the most]. Suburban development showed . . . the highest mean values for mental health and wellbeing. Cluster housing . . .  [had the] highest mean value for social interactions with neighbors and for perceived safety from crime. Enclosed community did not obtain the highest means for any wellbeing benefit [even perceived safety]. . . . This study provides empirical evidence of the importance of including vegetation, particularly trees, throughout neighborhoods in order to increase physical activity and wellbeing. Likewise, the results suggest that regular maintenance is an important strategy to improve mental health and overall wellbeing in cities.”  People in traditional types of communities, on average, scored lowest for mental wellbeing and highest for perceived crime in their neighborhood.

Adriana Zuniga-Teran, Barron Orr, Randy Gimblett, Nader Chalfoun, David Guertin, and Stuart Marsh.  2017.  “Neighborhood Design, Physical Activity, and Wellbeing:  Applying the Walkability Model.”  International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 14, no. 1, p. 76.

Context and Evaluations (03-09-17)

The way that “hotspots” such as parks or nearby noisy highways influence the evaluation of other spaces, such as homes for sale, has been carefully studied.  Blaison, Gollwitzer, and Hess found that “Irrespective of intrinsic [inherent] neighborhood attractiveness, pleasantness ratings went up with increasing distance from negative hotspots [that noisy highway]. . . . negative hotspots are much more harmful to attractive neighborhoods than to unattractive ones. Indeed, the more distant locations of unattractive neighborhoods even ‘benefit’ from a contrast effect that makes these places look nicer in comparison to places that are located closer [to that negative hotspot]. . . . . [Neighborhood attractiveness] . . . influenced the evaluation of the hotspot itself. An urban park was seen as less attractive in a highly salient [noticeable] unattractive neighborhood than in an attractive one.”  

Christophe Blaison, Mario Gollwitzer, and Ursula Hess.  “Effects of ‘Hotspots’ as a Function of Intrinsic Neighborhood Attractiveness.”  Journal of Environmental Psychology, in press.

Light at Night (03-08-17)

Bedrosian and Nelson studied how being exposed to light at night influences wellbeing and mood.  They share that “Many systems are under circadian control, including sleep–wake behavior, hormone secretion, cellular function and gene expression. Circadian disruption by nighttime light perturbs those processes and is associated with increasing incidence of certain cancers, metabolic dysfunction and mood disorders. . . . Converging evidence suggests that circadian disruption alters the function of brain regions involved in emotion and mood regulation.”  Light at night seems to negatively affect mood throughout the day.  Ways to reduce circadian system disruption by artificial nighttime light mentioned by Bedrosian and Nelson include “‘Smart’ homes and ‘smart’ lighting fixtures [that] use precise LEDs to adjust the wavelength of light depending on the time of day. . . . New street light designs are being introduced to focus the light toward the street and avoid upward light leakage. And heavy black out curtains impermeable to light are being adopted for bedroom use.”

T. Bedrosian and R. Nelson.  2017.  “Timing of Light Exposure Affects Mood and Brain Circuits.”  Translational Psychiatry, vol. 7, http://www.nature.com/tp/journal/v7/n1/full/tp2016262a.html

Seasonal Playlists (03-07-17)

Krause and North researched how music-playlist preferences vary by time of year.  They report that “The literature concerning seasonal correlates of mood and behavior suggests that colder weather is associated with low activity and a reflective cognitive style, whereas warmer weather is associated with higher activity levels. Analyses of the season-based music-playlist preferences of 402 participants . . . demonstrate listener preferences for Arousing music for the warmer months, Serene music for spring, and Melancholy music for the cooler months.”  These findings can inform the design of seasonally used places/objects/services, generally.

Amanda Krause and Adrian North.  “Tis the Season:  Music-Playlist Preferences for the Seasons. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, in press.

Effects of Uncertainty (03-06-17)

Faraji-Rad and Pham wondered how uncertainty affects how people think.  They found that thinking about uncertainty/feeling uncertain increases “reliance on affective [emotional] inputs in judgments and decisions. . . . uncertainty [was] shown to amplify the effects of the pleasantness of a musical soundtrack, the attractiveness of a picture, the appeal of affective attributes, incidental mood states” on judgments/decisions made – for example, the effect of the picture on a television screen on evaluations of that television was influenced by whether the people assessing it were feeling uncertain or not. As the researchers state, thinking about uncertainty/feeling uncertain “increases the effect of momentary feelings on consumers’ decisions and product evaluations. . . . the priming of uncertainty (vs. certainty) increases the relative preference for options that are affectively superior over options that are functionally superior.” The researchers report that “states of uncertainty—that need not be related to the decisions that people face—influence the way people make decisions.”

Ali Faraji-Rad and Michel Pham.  “Uncertainty Increases the Reliance on Affect in Decisions.”  Journal of Consumer Research, in press.

Ways of Discussing Colors (03-03-17)

Think that the ways that cultures discuss colors don’t change or that all cultures speak about the color spectrum in the same way?  Think again.  An article in the Journal of Vision, reports that an analysis of color terms used by modern Japanese speakers determined that they utilized  “the 11 basic color categories common to most modern industrialized cultures (red, green, blue, yellow, purple, pink, brown, orange, white, gray and black). . . . [as well as] mizu ("water")/light blue, hada ("skin tone")/peach, matcha ("ceremonial green tea")/yellow-green, oudo ("mud")/mustard, enji/maroon, yamabuki ("goldflower")/gold and cream. . . . Thirty years ago, a study of Japanese color categories . . . did not reveal mizu as a basic color category. . . . [and found] that kusa ("grass") was a very popular term for yellow-green . . . kusa has been largely replaced with matcha . . . . there is one tradition that has not changed over the past millennium: the mixed use of green and blue.”  A study of poems written prior to the 10th century indicates that historically “ao ("blue") was used to name both things that were clearly blue and also things that were clearly green; the same was true of midori ("green"). Even today, modern Japanese people refer to the color of the green traffic light, lush green leaves and green vegetables, as ao ("blue"). . . . in addition to distinct color terms for blue and green, modern Japanese has recently added a new intermediate color term "mizu" for lighter bluish and greenish samples.”

“The Evolution of Japanese Color Vocabulary Over the Past 30 Years.”  2017.  Press release, Tohoku University, http://www.tohoku.ac.jp/en/press/evolution_of_japanese_color_vocabulary.html

Nature Images During Labor/Delivery (03-01-17)

Seeing images of nature in the labor/delivery room improves the experience of giving birth.  Aburas and her team report that “Incorporating design elements and strategies that calm and reduce negative emotions may create positive experiences for women in labor.”  When images of nature were present during the labor and delivery period, scores were higher on “the Quality of Care From the Patient’s Perspective (QPP) subscale. In addition, there was an increase in the QPP scores associated with the increase in Nature TV watching time, QPP mean of watching time (less than 1 hour) group . . . and QPP mean of watching time (more than 3 hours). . . . The mean score for the heart rate was lower in the experimental condition . . . than in the control one [no nature images] . . . . These findings support the study hypothesis which states that the nature images would influence the labor experience positively.”

Rehab Aburas, Debajyoti Pati, Robert Casanova, and Nicole Adams.  2016.  “The Influence of Nature Stimulus in Enhancing the Birth Experiences.”  HERD:  Health Environments Research and Design Journal, vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 2016, pp. 81-100.

Artificial Plants OK (02-27-17)

Blaschke and her colleagues have learned that adding artificial plants to spaces can have desirable outcomes.  Their study was based in an oncology clinic waiting room in Australia and collected data from cancer patients, staff members, and people caring for the cancer patients.  The investigators found that  “Eighty-one percent . . . of respondents noticed the [artificial] green features when first entering the waiting room and 67% . . . noticed they were artificial. Eighty-one percent . . . indicated ‘like/like a lot’ when reporting their first reaction to the green features. Forty-eight percent . . . were positively affected and 23% . . . were very positively affected. Eighty-one percent . . . agreed/strongly agreed that ‘The greenery brightens the waiting room,’ 62% . . . agreed/strongly agreed that they ‘prefer living plants,’ and 76% . . . agreed/strongly agreed that ‘‘lifelike’ [artificial] plants are better than no plants.’. . . . Patients, staff, and carers mostly accepted artificial plants as an alternative design solution to real plants.” The artificial plants in place included “plant arrangements, hanging installations, two movable green walls, and one rock garden on wheels placed throughout the outpatients’ clinic waiting room.”

Sarah Blaschke, Clare O’Callaghan, and Penelope Schofield.  “Artificial But Better Than Nothing:  The Greening of an Oncology Clinic Waiting Room.”  HERD:  Health Environments Research and Design Journal, in press.

Warm Color Backgrounds (02-24-17)

Research by Choi and her team indicates that a lot of walls in video conference centers and other locations should be painted warm colors.  As they detail, their data, collected in the US and South Korea, indicates that “an anonymous person against a warm color background (vs. neutral and cold color background) is perceived to be one with warmer personality.”  In addition, “nurses’ perception of warmth from a hospital’s ambient color affects their favorable judgment of the hospital and intention to take on an extra role.”

Jungsil Choi, Young Chang, Kiljae Lee, and Jae Chang.  2016.  “Effect of Perceived Warmth on Positive Judgment.”  Journal of Consumer Marketing, vol. 33, no. 4, pp. 235-244.

Stressors and Performance (02-23-17)

Lamb and Kwok looked at the effects of workplace stressors on performance.  They report on a study that collected data from office workers over 8 months: “Participants completed a total of 2261 online surveys measuring perceived thermal comfort, lighting comfort and noise annoyance, measures of work performance, and individual state factors underlying performance and wellbeing. Characterising inadequate aspects of IEQ [Indoor Environmental Quality] as environmental stressors, these stress factors can significantly reduce self-reported work performance and objectively measured cognitive performance by between 2.4% and 5.8% in most situations, and by up to 14.8% in rare cases. . . . Exposure to environmental stress appears to erode individuals' resilience, or ability to cope with additional task demands. These results indicate that environmental stress reduces not only the cognitive capacity for work, but the rate of work (i.e. by reducing motivation). Increasing the number of individual stress factors is associated with a near linear reduction in work performance indicating that environmental stress factors are additive. . . .  Environmental stressors reduce occupant wellbeing (mood, headaches, and feeling ‘off’) causing indirect reductions in work performance.”

S. Lamb and K. Kwok.  2016.  “A Longitudinal Investigation of Work Environment Stressors on the Performance and Wellbeing of Office Workers.”  Applied Ergonomics, vol. 52, pp. 104-111.

Innovation/Creativity and Workplace Design (02-21-17)

Blakey investigated links between workspace design and innovation/creativity.  Knowledge workers living in California were asked how they felt workplace design influenced their innovation/creativity.  Blakey found via surveys and interviews that “Within the individual workspace technology surfaced as a primary driver of innovation. When asked about team workspace respondents [indicated] concern over noise and interruptions. . . .  Stimulators [of innovation/creativity] included placement of staff within close proximity to key team members, design that encourages trust, and inspiring decor that awakens creativity. Lastly, barriers to innovation in the workspace included status quo mentality, decreasing square footage from individual workspace, and concerns with open space design.”

Jennifer Blakey.  2016.  “The Impact of Workspace on Innovation.”  Dissertation, Brandman University (US), Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences, vol. 76(9-A(E)), no pagination specified.

Light Color and Mental Effort Intensity (02-17-17)

Lasauskaite and Cajochen linked mental effort intensity and light color.  The team “tested effort-related cardiac response under four lighting conditions and found that it decreased with color temperatures [i.e., as light got bluer].  Thus, blue-enriched light in offices and schools might . . . preserve resources during cognitive activities.”

Ruta Lasauskaite and Christian Cajochen.  2016.  “Influence of Lighting Color Temperature on Mental Effort.”  Psychology of Architecture Conference (December 4-5, Austin, TX) Program, p. 26.

Encouraging Greenness (02-16-17)

Unsworth and McNeill set out to learn more about how to encourage people to behave in an environmentally responsible way.  They found that self-interest can be used to motivate green actions.  The researchers determined that attempts to encourage earth-friendly behaviors are likely to be more successful when the green behaviors are linked to “goals that are important to people, even if such goals are unrelated to climate change or the environment in general. . . . This research has significant practical implications for workplaces, particularly for those in which employees or managers place a low priority on environmental and climate change considerations.”  So, efforts to encourage environmentally responsible behaviors are likely to be more successful when arguments presented for doing them align with already existing and personally important goals, such as saving money or getting more exercise.

Kerrie Unsworth and Ilona McNeill.  2017.  “Increasing Pro-Environmental Behaviors by Increasing Self-Concordance:  Testing an Intervention.”  Journal of Applied Psychology, vol. 102, no. 1, pp. 88-103.


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