Monday, May 10th: Happy Mother’s Day!!

Currently working on a group presentation on our current uni library. My focus on research was on design and it’s affects on people. Below are my references and notes taken thus far.

The ecological context of student achievement: School building quality effects are exacerbated by high levels of student mobility.

Gary W. Evans, Min Jun Yoo, John Sipple

-children who attend schools lower in physical quality perform worse on standard measures of performance, typically statewide English and Math achievement tests; this effect was largely due to pupil attendance. Independent of school socioeconomic profiles, children in poorer quality school buildings were absent more often.

-school building quality is noticed by children and teachers, and they find low quality school buildings demoralizing.

-Children attending schools with lower Student Stability or with lower Building Quality had lower English test scores.

-School building quality matters for children’s academic achievement.

– Students matriculating in elementary schools of lower building quality were absent more frequently. Absenteeism rates, in turn, largely accounted for the school building quality: student performance relation.

The effects of noise on pre-school children’s pre-reading skills

Lorraine E. Maxwell, Gary W. Evans

-after the installation of sound absorbent panels, in the quieter condition, children scored higher than their noisier cohort on the letter-number-word recognition measure and were rated higher by their teachers on the language scale. In addition, children in the quieter classrooms were less susceptible than those in the noisy classrooms to induced helplessness.

-The findings indicate that academic achievement, in particular reading skills, are vulnerable to the effects of chronic noise exposure.

-First and second grade children exposed to chronic noise scored lower on a reading test and on a test of speech recognition.

-present study examines the effects of poor interior acoustics.

-The literature on noise and reading establishes a clear link between exposure to noise and poor reading skills.

-There is also evidence that uncontrollable noise, in particular, can cause motivations deficits, resembling learned helplessness. Therefore, we also examine whether pre-schoolers chronically exposed to noise are more prone to motivational deficits related to helplessness.

-The noise levels were generated by people within the building and a consequence of poor acoustical design.

-The classrooms used in this project had ceiling heights in excess of 12 feet. The ceilings and walls did not always meet at right angles, and in some cases the walls did not go completely to the ceiling, thereby allowing sounds to drift from one room to an adjacent space. Only a small area of each room was carpeted. Each room had a window space and two doors, one of which was glass and led to the outdoor play area.

-Children performed better in the quieter condition.

-The results of this study indicate that chronic exposure to high noise levels affects pre-school children’s language and pre-reading skills.

-Perhaps children in the noisier classrooms in this study were simply too overloaded with auditory stimuli.

-in order to pay attention to specific play activities children may have screened out other stimuli such as various visual cues. The study also suggests that young children’s abilities to concentrate on a task may be affected by noise.

-The second group of children may have developed better attentional skills.

-Children exposed to chronic noise use language less, pick up fewer language cues, and develop poor speech perception skills. These skills are critical to the development of reading skills.

-This research is also unique in that it’s focus in on interior acoustical elements of a building, as opposed to external noise sources.

-The results of this study suggest that designers must give considerable attention to acoustical features (i.e.; shape of rooms, height of ceilings, finishes, adjacencies) of facilities used by young children.

-The participating classrooms were visually interesting spaces. The number of hard surfaces, and the height and design of the ceilings however, contributed to a noisy classroom.

-Designers may be tempted not to provide a ‘plain vanilla box’ as a classroom; however, creative spaces in child care settings should not be at the expense of acoustical comfort.

Choice Architecture: Designing experiences that influence customer behavior

Frank Capek

-People typically don’t know what they want until they see it…they construct their preferences and work through decisions as they understand their alternatives in context.

-In fact, research in the areas of cognitive psychology and behavioral economics has shown that small and seemingly insignificant contextual details have a major impact on people’s behavior.

-1) The Choice Design: the customer options including the information provided about those options. 2) The Choice Pathways: the sequence or placement of those choices in time and space, and 3) The Choice Environment: including peripheral cues like signage, lighting, other people in privacy/public space, etc.

-Visual Choice Pathway: For example, when most people open a four page menu, their eyes go first to the top of the page on the right side. A smart menu designer generally places one of the highest profitability items at the top of this page. Then, most people’s eyes will move down towards the center of that same page. An even smarter menu designer will put the most expensive item towards the center of the page…not because they think the customer will order it…but because it will tend to prime the customers’ expectations about what they’re likely to spend. In most cases, customer will then look at the items immediately above and below the most expensive item. Those two items immediately above and below the most expensive item are deliberately two of the most compelling selections on the menu…and are the most commonly ordered items designed to generate the most profit on the menu.

-if a doctor says 90% of patients are alive five years after a certain procedure, far more people opt for that procedure than if the doctor says 10% of patients are dead five years after having it.

-Default Design: Whatever you chose as the default option has the highest likelihood of being selected. For example, the states that have organ donation as the default option when individuals get a drivers license have a much higher acceptance rate. In fast food restaurants, highly profitable combo meals have become the default option…customer often need to explicitly ask for just the burger. Design architects need to pay careful attention to the default option.

-Providing Feedback: People respond to feedback about their decisions. For example, in some markets electric utilities are starting to provide specially designed bulbs (called orbs) that glow red as homes use higher levels of energy. These devices have influenced customer’s consumption behavior and have proven to reduce energy use during peak periods by 40% in Southern California.

-Anticipating Errors: People make mistakes and it’s possible to design a choice architecture which anticipates these mistakes and thus leads to better outcomes.

Review of Natural Architecture: New ways to bring nature in architecture

Maria Lorena

-In his book Natural Architecture, Alessandro Rocca writes about the notion of architecture as “sheltering” us from nature. In fact, he explains how nature can be “exposed” through design – to ultimately fight this convention where architecture is only a “shelter”.

-Office environments are so predictable. They rarely change. They are not interactive. They don’t have seasons in the same way nature does. Perhaps an office environment has elements that change color at different points in the year, to complement and expose whatever actual season it happens to be – thus changing occupant moods. In the winter, colors could be calming and happy; while, in the summer, colors could be cooling and refreshing. This would serve to unify the office team atmosphere in addition to livening up dreary winder months and “de-stressing” busy summer months.

-In many work environments the environment is conducive mostly to boredom and feelings of being trapped in the routine. On the other hand the more natural we can make out environment, the more conducive to creativity it will be. I think some of the older Eastern systems of architecture have achieved some progress in this area, incorporating more light, for example. Another interesting are relating to this idea is that of building orientation. In some of the eastern systems it is felt that buildings receiving sunlight are conducive to creativity, overall well being, and even better health.

10 Easy steps to Healthy Office Design

Maria Lorena Lehman

How can offices help eliminate what Scientific American Mind recently termed “digital [mental] fog” in their article Meet your iBrain? Digital fog is important to eliminate because it contributes to worker error, mental burn-out and general unwanted stress. Over time, unhealthy environments can ultimately lead to actual cognition impairment and eventual depression.

-Include places that give your eyes rest.

-Provide both natural light and well-planned task lighting.

-Offer a place for quiet breaks or peaceful meditation.

-Make organization easy.

-Prevent information overload.

-Don’t forget to factor chair, desk and mouse ergonomics.

-Keep technology in check; don’t let them take over the office.

-Provide place for human interaction.

-Allow office workers to make their mark.

-Clear pathways and reduce travel-times.

-Control over how an office functions and feels goes far to alleviate stress – ultimately boosting self-esteem. When coordinated correctly, office design and technology can harmonize; eventually to improve worker morale both physically and mentally. Office design is vital to having healthy workers.

When buildings don’t work: The role of architecture in human health

Gary W. Evans, Janetta Mitchell McCoy

-Stress occurs when there is an imbalance of environmental demands and human resources.


-Stimulation describes the amount of information in a setting or object that impinges upon the human user. Intensity, variety, complexity, mystery and novelty are specific design qualities pertinent to stimulation. Lack of stimulation leads to boredom or in extreme cases, sensory deprivation.

-Insufficient stimulation may also deprive the human organism of practice in successfully accommodating environmental challenges. Too much stimulation causes distraction and overload which interfere with cognitive processes that demand effort or concentration. Overstimulation makes it difficult to focus attention and interrupts ongoing, planned action patterns.

-Levels of stimulation are influenced by properties of interior settings such as intensity, complexity, and novelty of stimulus characteristics. Loud noise, bright light, unusual or strong smells, and bright colors, particularly at the red end of the spectrum, all appear to increase stimulation.

-Crowding and inappropriately close interpersonal distances increase stimulation. Extremes of stimulus intensity and very complex or incoherent patterns of stimulation are potentially stress-inducing.

-visual and acoustic stimulation

-People like small amounts of change but do not adapt well to large amounts of variation. Thus, familiarity and routine will influence reactions to stimulation levels. Over time we gain coherence with a setting but lose our sense of involvement and interest since the challenges of exploration and discovery diminish.

-Complexity refers to the degree of variety and diversity in a setting. Mystery indicates the promise of further information with continued exploration. Partial vistas, spaces that are not fully comprehensible without exploration, and building layout configurations that portend but not restrict what is ahead contribute to mystery. Too much complexity and unanalyzable; too little renders prediction trivial.


-Conflicting information from adjacent design elements or abrupt shifts in size, color, texture, or stimulation levels can heighten stress. Highly ambiguous spaces may cause stress because people cannot make sense out of them – their meaning, function, or even their basic form and composition are hard to discern.


-Rapid changes in visual access produced by movement across a sharp vertical or horizontal barrier can cause marked disorientation. Corners, entryways, and stairs are sometimes designed so that little is discernable about impending space until one has crossed the barrier. Many accidents in buildings are attributable to this misaffordance.

-When a building user cannot see what or how something in the space functions or when confronted with cues about purpose or use which are vague or in conflict, human reactions are likely to encompass frustration or helplessness. Design features that provide little or no feedback about the consequences of their use can also evoke negative reactions.


-Physical constraints that reduce choice or behavioral options can produce or exacerbate stress. Prolonged experiences with uncontrollable environmental conditions have also been associated with learned helplessness.

-Insufficient spatial resources, inflexible spatial arrangements, and lack of climatic or lighting controls, all threaten individual needs to effectively interact with interior space.

-In addition to amount of available space, visual exposure, structural depth, openness of the perimeter, brightness, and extent of view have all been shown to moderate the effects of crowding on human behavior.

-responsiveness is also sensitive to the latency between actions and feedback. Unresponsive environments appear to be a major factor in the development of helplessness, particularly among children.

-Privacy, or the ability to regulate social interaction, is a major contributor to a sense of control in interior settings.

-The scheme of the dormitory in figure 5 is a good example of a design providing privacy. The extent to which spaces are interconnected via doorways and passages influences social regulation capabilities of spaces. The visual or acoustical permeability of barriers affects social interaction potential.

-Deeper spaces afford more privacy and enhance ability to regulate social interaction. They also affect visual access and visual exposure.

-Furniture arrangements can directly affect social interaction potential. Sociopetal furniture arrangements encourage interaction by moveable components, provision of comfortable interpersonal distances, ease of eye contact, and physical comfort during conversation. Sociofugal furniture arrangements that are inflexible and that orient people in space so that eye contact is difficult or interpersonal distance that are inappropriately close or far have the opposite effect, discouraging social interaction.

-Good surveillance opportunities, clearly delineated and visibly marked boundaries, semi-public spaces that provide community meeting space, and smaller, subunits of large living complexes can all enhance feelings of territoriality.

-Territoriality enables regulated use and occupancy of space. It also enhances the expression of personal or group identity.


-Rather than directly producing stress, restorative elements provide resources that can attenuate stress. Thus design can function as a coping resource that can help building occupants alter the balance between environmental demands and personal resources.

-Restorative design elements include retreat, fascination, and exposure to nature.

-Certain types of settings such as religious sanctuaries, hospitals and other therapeutic facilities are explicitly designed with restorative intent. Such settings may uplift the human spirit and promote healing.

-Design may offer opportunities to combat stress by providing rest, recovery, or contemplation. Reflective activities in particular demand a minimum of distraction and some degree of isolation. Privacy nooks and stimulus shelters may offset some of the stressful impacts of high levels of stimulation.

-Focused or voluntary attention can create mental fatigue.

-Involuntary attention or fascination facilitates recovery from mental fatigue. Fascination can be created by design elements such as window views, burning fireplaces, and various displays (i.e.: aquarium, moving water). Direct contact with natural elements as well as views of nature provides restoration.

-Fascination helps replenish mental reserves depleted by sustained concentration or efforts to pay attention.

-Building design has the potential to cause stress and eventually affect human health.

Motivational consequences of environmental stress

Gary W. Evans, Rachel Stecker

-Pre-exposure to brief, acute environmental stressors that are uncontrollable produces learned helplessness wherein participants manifest difficulties in learning a new task because of their mistaken belief that they are incapable of influencing their environment.

-less persistence in the face of challenge.

-Among the consequences of learned helplessness are decrements in learning new tasks, diminished feelings of control, and sometimes depressive symptomotology.

– Third and fourth grade children attending either airport noise-impacted schools or quiet schools were given moderately difficult jigsaw puzzles under quiet, well controlled conditions. 31% of children from noisy schools and 7% from quiet schools who failed to solve the puzzles did so because they gave up within the 4 min time allotment.

-The longer the children were exposed to aircraft noise, the stronger the link to helplessness.

-Students randomly assigned to more crowded dormitories when participating in small group interaction games were more likely to engage in passive, withdrawal strategies; whereas their relatively uncrowded counterparts were more apt to behave either cooperatively or competitively.

-At the beginning of the semester, crowded dormitory residents interacted in the fame in a competitive manner, exhibiting little cooperation or withdrawal. However by the end of the first semester, the behaviors of the crowded residents had shifted matching the high levels of withdrawal and disengagement found in the previous study.

-Persons tolerant of high levels of environmental stimulation were better able to regulate social interaction in the crowded dorms and did not manifest helplessness behaviors in the group interaction games.

-individual differences in tolerance of stimulation interact with stimulation levels in different settings to predict preference and effective responses.

-Acute exposure to inescapable noise induces learned helplessness in human beings.

-chronic exposure to crowded conditions has similar adverse impacts on helplessness.

-environmental stressor exposure can heighten vulnerability to the induction of helplessness.

– The adverse effects of noise on motivation can be significantly curtailed by instilling in participants a sense of perceived control over the noise source.

-speech, even at typical conversational intensity, relative to quiet conditions, has similar motivational effects.

-brief exposure to uncontrollable, noxious odor in the laboratory elicited similar motivational deficits in task persistence.

-greater duration of exposure to uncontrollable noise, intensifies motivational deficits.

-Speech caused fewer puzzle attempts than conglomerate noise at comparable sound intensities, but when participants were also informed they would be tested on the contents of the speech, even greater deficits occurred.

 -The controllability of the environmental stressor is a critical factor in producing motivational deficits. When individuals perceive they can control exposure to an environmental stressor, the negative effects of the environmental stressor on motivation are substantially attenuated.

-Parents in crowded homes, independent of social class, are less responsive to infants and toddlers. One could hardly envision a more powerful stimulus to induce helplessness in young children than nonresponsive parenting.

An ecological perspective on theory, methods, and analysis in environmental psychology: Advances and challenges

Gary Winkel, Susan Saegart, Gary W. Evans

-If crowding influences people because of unwanted interaction, then architectural variation providing opportunities to physically withdraw from social interaction (e.g. Layout, spatial hierarchy) ought to interact with crowding to effect behavior.

-neighborhood physical characteristics

-population density (which is obviously linked to physical design) places limits on social relationships. However, while density is an important variable, what is needed are more detailed specifications of the physical design setting characteristics that can be linked to testable propositions regarding individual experience and behavior as outcomes.

-physical design of tertiary or small, residential streets affects the mediating variable of social interaction in surprising ways.

-In the area of physical health, the availability of aesthetically pleasing settings is associated with more physical activity while fear occasioned by physically and socially deteriorated neighborhoods leads to the opposite result.

-Neighborhoods with higher densities of land uses like fast-food and/or liquor stores may facilitate unhealthy behaviors through the mediating variable of easy access.

-Although structural factors are no doubt important in steering people into environments, this represents an understudied area in environmental psychology (EP) compared to research on mobility which focuses solely on individual level variables as predictors of selection into environments.

-Understanding both structural and individual predictors of environmental self-selection represents a critical content area for future EP research.

-When we study people in a naturalistic context, particularly one they have chosen to occupy (no matter how constrained their choice might be), vexing methodological challenges arise.

-environments affect people differentially. Crowding bothers low sensation seekers more than high sensations seekers.

-High levels of crowding and noise often co-occur. Offices with ample natural light typically have views of nature and better quality furnishings.

-exposure to the accumulation of different environmental qualities is not only normative but also likely different than single exposures. Multiple exposure has been called “cumulative risk” within the child development literature. “Singular risk” exposure has little or no impact on children. However, as exposure to an accumulation of multiple risks escalates, negative outcomes accelerate.

-Not all environmental impacts are restricted to early childhood. The normative timing of major life events dramatically influences their meaning and impact. Consider, for example, pregnancy, marriage, or vacating one’s familial home.

-the degree of predictability of environmental exposure

-The routinization of home life is important for child development. Lack of structure and routines coupled with instability are inimical to children’s well being – chaos is not good for young children.

-during periods of high stress, chaos may exacerbate adverse impacts.

-environment is not in the head.

-The first was that environmental qualities beyond human perceptibility can affect us. The clearest example is exposure to environmental toxins. Second, since subjective assessments are a product of individual interpretations filtered through lenses colored by personality, experience, and mood in conjunction with attributes of the objective environment, we cannot locate the stimulus when we rely upon subjective assessments of the environment as the index.

-Characteristics of the external environment operate in coordination with active processes in the person and both the environment gets one’s attention and how attention selects the environment in a mutually reinforcing way.

Science studies how architecture affects the brain

John P. Eberhard

-Architectural experience is called “disposition” – records in our brain of a combination of sensory inputs, memories, emotions and any related muscle memories. Just below the surface of consciousness these dispositions wait for the next experience with which they can be paired.

-“Immersion Room” is a highly flexible space designed to support a variety of group activities such as brainstorming, presentations, or formal meetings.

-the circular shape of the room, created by drapes and moveable panels, challenges the typical office standards and thus changes people’s frame of mind upon entering.

-what is actually happening in people’s brains when they enter such spaces, how dispositions are modified, and how this activity in the brain then “changes people’s frame of mind”.

-many years of research before such intriguing questions can be answered and applied in architectural practice.


3 responses to “Monday, May 10th: Happy Mother’s Day!!

  1. [IMG][/IMG]

    I saw this and I thought you’d appreciate the message. 😆


  2. By the way, maybe you heard U2’s Bono underwent emergency back surgery, well here’s a Bono joke along with a wish that he get well soon.

    A Bono joke.

    Bono on stage at a make poverty history gig. He stands centre stage, and clicks his fingers every few seconds. The crowd is in hushed silence. Bono says “Every time I click my fingers a child in Africa dies”.

    In a broad Belfast accent, some stone cold genius shouts “Well stop clicking your f***ing fingers then!!”


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