Fay and Maner studied links between physical and social warmth. They found that “Laboratory studies have linked variability in temperature to the psychology of social affiliation. In colder ambient environments, for example, people report greater loneliness, and they pursue both physical warmth and social affiliation (i.e., social warmth). Here, a field experiment tested whether tactile warmth [basically, touching something warm] eliminates the effect of colder ambient temperatures on desires for social affiliation.
Any Designed Environment
Hou and colleagues studied brain synchronization between musicians and people listening to their music; potential applications of their findings in other contexts are intriguing. The researchers report that they “used dual near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) to assess whether inter-brain synchronization between violinist and audience underlies the popularity of violin performance. In the experiment, individual audience members . . . watched pre-recorded videos, each lasting 100 s or so, in which a violinist performed 12 musical pieces.
Dzhambov and colleagues studied the effects of indoor and outdoor greenery on the wellbeing of people during the COVID pandemic. They determined via a survey that “Greenery experienced both indoors and outdoors supported mental health. . . . We employed two self-reported measures of greenery experienced indoors (number of houseplants in the home and proportion of exterior greenery visible from inside the home) and two measures of greenery experienced outdoors (presence/absence of a domestic garden and availability of neighborhood greenery). . . .
Lai, Webster, Kumari, and Sarkar (in press) make space-use suggestions related to social density management and appropriate social distancing: “School buildings are generally very inefficiently used, being unused at weekends and evenings. This gives scope for lower-density classes by spreading across time. . . . Future housing must also focus on the creation of a multi-functional design with inherent abilities to couple living with working to enable work-from-home routines that can not only facilitate performance efficiency but also individual’s wellbeing. .
Neuroscientists affiliated with Technische Universitat Dresden found that we “hear” what we expect to hear. A press release from TU Dresden reports that “neuroscience research has revealed that the cerebral cortex constantly generates predictions on what will happen next, and that neurons in charge of sensory processing only encode the difference between our predictions and the actual reality.. . . new findings . . . show that not only the cerebral cortex, but the entire auditory pathway, represents sounds according to prior expectations.. . . Dr.
Recently published research confirms the value of designing green spaces into our everyday environments. A paper published in the Journal of Happiness Studies reports that “Previous academic studies have indicated how being outdoors, particularly in green spaces, can improve mental health by promoting more positive body image, and lowering levels of depression and anxiety. . . . Using an experience sampling method (ESM), the researchers measured levels of happiness amongst a group of 286 adults three times a day, at random intervals, over a 21-day period. . . .
Findings from neuroscience studies probing humans’ design-related experiences during the pandemic are beginning to be published. Applying the research-based insights that can be drawn from these investigations makes life-affirming future settings more likely.
Multiple first-rate studies published in 2020 expand our knowledge of sensory issues. Forty sets of findings, those that are most pertinent to design and useful to designers, are discussed here.
Scores of studies published in 2020 have had a significant effect on our understanding of workplace, healthcare facility, home, store, school, public space, etc. design. The 70 2020 studies that are both most applicable in practice and worthy-of-note are reviewed here.
Winning smart design alternatives, ones that perk up our psyches along with system performance, are an emerging area of neuroscience research. What researchers have learned to date can spawn positive use experiences in automated interior spaces.