Recent research by a Gawryluk-lead team argues for keeping air clean. The investigators “performed the first controlled human exposure study using functional MRI with an efficient order-randomized double-blind crossover study of diesel exhaust (DE) and control (filtered air; FA) in 25 healthy adults. . . . All 25 adults went through the exposures and functional MRI imaging were collected. Exposure to DE yielded a decrease in functional connectivity compared to exposure to FA, shown through the comparison of DE and FA in post-exposure measurement of functional connectivity.
Any Designed Environment
Gregory and colleagues studied savoring an experience and their findings have wide-ranging implications for design-related outcomes. The researchers report that “Savoring—an emotion-regulation strategy that involves deliberately upregulating positive affect—has many benefits, but what enhances savoring in the present moment? Drawing from life-history theory, affective and developmental science, and social-psychological frameworks, we examined the idea that perceptions of uncertainty––perceiving the world as random and unpredictable—enhance subsequent savoring. . . .
Klotz and colleagues studied the implications of employees experiencing outdoor nature after spending a day at work indoors. They determined that “Our results, based on three studies employing different methodologies (i.e., an experience sampling study, an experiment, and a recall study), indicate that evening nature contact positively relates to beginning of [next] workday positive affect [mood] and subsequent work effort.
Sudimac, Sale, and Kuhn evaluated how experiencing nature influences mental state. They report that “Since living in cities is associated with an increased risk for mental disorders such as anxiety disorders, depression, and schizophrenia, it is essential to understand how exposure to urban and natural environments affects mental health and the brain. . . . we conducted an intervention study to investigate changes in stress-related brain regions as an effect of a one-hour walk in an urban (busy street) vs. natural environment (forest).
Research by Soares and Storm confirms the photo-taking-impairment effect, which has implications for designers and others who routinely photograph places, etc. Soares and Storm report that “The photo-taking-impairment effect is observed when photographed information is less likely to be remembered than nonphotographed information. Three experiments examined whether this effect persists when multiple photos are taken.
Chen and colleagues evaluated how culture influences responses to stimuli; their findings can likely be extended to experiencing design generally. The investigators report that “Native Mandarin speakers from China and native English speakers from the United States were presented with audiovisual emotional stimuli from their own culture (i.e., familiar) and from a different culture (i.e., unfamiliar) and asked to evaluate the emotion from one of the two modalities.
Wang and Chang add to the body of literature linking colors and tastes. They report that their “study takes popcorn packaging as an example to explore the impact of packaging color on consumers' taste perception and preference evaluation. . . . Four experimental package design colors (red, blue, yellow, and white) and three popcorn tastes (sweet, salty, and tasteless) were used. . . . The results of this study indicated that . . . yellow and red packaging are suitable for a sweet product, blue is suitable for a salty product, and white is suitable for a tasteless product.”
When people are active, moving indoors or outside, they’re likely happier as well as healthier. Their brains work more effectively, they’re better at problem solving, creative thinking, and getting along with others, for instance. Neuroscience research establishes how design can encourage us to get, and keep, a move on.
Design has a significant influence on our mental and physical health. Neuroscience research indicates not only how aspects of designed environments can influence user health, but also how our mental and physical health are linked.
Neuroscience research makes it clear that, wherever they are, humans excel in a place that they can claim as their own, a “home base.” When we’re in a space that’s “ours” (even momentarily), we process incoming information more effectively, more pleasantly deal with challenges, and our levels of wellbeing increase, for example.