A collection of Environmental Psychology Research
ADD Children: Natures Helping Hand
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign concluded that children with ADD showed a dramatic decrease in symptoms when playing out in nature (green areas) and/or playing in rooms with windows. Sited in their research were several other studies that concluded green environments around schools and window views benefit all children by fostering creative play.
Taylor, Andrea F., Frances E. Kuo and William C. Sullivan 2001. Coping with ADD: The surprising connection to green play settings. Environment and Behavior, vol. 33, no 1 (January), pp.54-77.
Designing with Nature to Reduce Crime
Researchers Kuo and Sullivan provide evidence that trees and grass around public housing sites can reduce some aggression and deter crime. Their study concluded that buildings with a high level of vegetation had 52% fewer total crimes, 48% fewer property crimes and 56% fewer lower violent crimes than the building with low-level vegetation.
Kuo, F. and W. Sullivan. 2001. Environment and crime in the inner city: Does vegetation reduce crime? Environment and Behavior, vol33 no. 3 (May), pp.343-67
Daylighting Makes a Difference
Evidence continues to mount for the integration of daylight into learning environments. Daylighting results when buildings incorporate sunlight into their design through skylights and windows. Reasearcher Lisa Heschong Mahone of the Heschong Mahone Group, found that students with the most exposure to daylight in their classrooms improved their scores on math tests 20% faster in one year, on reading it was 26% faster in one year versus those students with the least daylight.
R.P. Leslie of Lighting Research Center, Rensselar Polytechnic Institute corroborates Heschong’s work stating, ” Current research suggests health, productivity and economic benefits from daylighting. Done properly, daylighting creates interesting, dynamic interiors supportive of human health.”
Hechong, Lisa. 2002. Daylighting and human performance. ASHRAE Journal, vol.44 no. 6 (June), pp. 65-67.
Leslie, R.P. 2003. Capturing the daylight dividend in buildings: Why and How? Building and Environment, vol. 38, no.2 (February) pp. 381-85.
Plants: Increasing Health and Well Being
Researcher Tove Fjeld and associates placed 18 plants in 29 single-occupant offices for one year and then moved the plants the next year to 30 offices that had been without plants. Both sets of office workers completed surveys every 2 weeks for 3 months. The surveys included questions on alertness and headache symptoms; eye, nose and throat symptoms and skin symptoms.
Several symptoms were reported as absent or less severe in the presence of plants; including fatigue; hoarse dry throat; cough; and dry or flushed face. Plants seem to influence feelings of comfort, attractiveness to the space and well-being. Additionally plants seem to be able to influence some physical symptoms such as fatigue – evidence that being with plants can be good medicine.
Fjeld, Tove, Bo Veiersted, Levi Sandvik, Geir Riise and Finn Levy. 1998. The effect of indoor foliage plants on health and discomfort symptoms among office workers. Indoor + Built Environments, vol. 7, pp.204-09.
More Evidence of the Positive Influence of Aquariums
Recent research has shown that Alzheimer’s patients who viewed an aquarium while eating ate more appropriate amounts of food than patients who did not view the aquarium. Observing an aquarium has much the same influence on people as looking out a window at a natural scene.
Edwards, Nancy, and Alan Beck. 2002. Animal-assisted therapy and nutrition in Alzheimer’s Disease, Western Journal of Nursing Research, vol.24 no.6, pp.697-712
Growing Awareness of Natural Fractals
Scientific research has shown that when people see or hear fractal patterns like those found in nature, they are more relaxed and devote less mental energy to monitoring their environment. People experiencing natural fractals thus have more mental processing power available for valued activities such as being creative, monitoring details and interacting with others.
The experience of natural fractals has been shown to speed recovery from surgery and to increase office worker productivity. The research also shows that the use of natural fractals in an environment can improve memory while reducing stress. Fractals have been used intuitively by some of this century’s most well respected architects and artists including Frank Lloyd Wright and Jason Pollock.
Wise, James. 2002. Fractals in Design. EDTG News, vol.6 (March), pp.1-2
What is a fractal? – Trees, clouds, mountains and ferns are examples of fractals in nature. Take a branch from a tree or a frond from a fern and you will see it is a miniature replica of the whole. Not identical, but similar in nature. Same with cauliflower – the smaller individual pieces are miniatures of the whole.
For pictures of fractals in nature, click here.
Smell of Rosemary Improves Memory, Lavender is Calming
Researchers in England report that smelling rosemary oil increases alertness and improves long-term memory. Their research also confirms previous research findings that the scent of lavender is relaxing. Both rosemary and lavender made individuals feel more contented.
Moss, Mark. 2002. British Psychological Society Conference, Blackpool, England (March 13).
Lemon Scent Reduces Agitation
Researchers at Newcastle General Hospital have determined that lotions containing an essential oil from lemon balm may help reduce agitation and improve quality of life for dementia patients. This finding is consistent with previous research indicating that the scent of lemon improves mental performance. The Newcastle study provides further justification for scenting areas with lemon scent where mental activities must be conducted under stressful circumstances.
Ballard, Clive G., John T O’Brien, Katharina Reichelt, and Elaine K. Perry. 2002. Aromatherapy as a safe and effective treatment for the management of agitation in severe dementia. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, vol. 63 no 7 (July), pp. 553-58.
Smell of Jasmine Improves Quality of Sleep
Designers creating environments where individuals need to sleep soundly can improve the quality of sleep experienced in rooms scented by jasmine. A recent study at Wheeling Jesuit University indicated that participants exposed to jasmine while sleeping slept more efficiently and moved less while sleeping. Individuals who smelled jasmine while sleeping were able to perform cognitive tests more rapidly and their level of alertness was also greater, during the following afternoon hours.
Reported in PsycPORT.com, August 1, 2002. Scripps Howard News Service originally reported this story. The scientist conducting the research was Dr. Bryan Rauderbush, an assistant professor of psychology at Wheeling Jesuit University.
Peppermint Improves Performance of Tedious Tasks
Researchers from Wheeling Jesuit University found that the smell of peppermint improved performance and the speed at which tedious clerical tasks were accomplished. Their results suggest that peppermint increases general alertness. These findings are consistent with the results of previous studies indicating that the smell of peppermint improved accuracy and attention during a tedious visual task, and increased performance and reduced apparent effort during a tedious athletic task.
Barker, Shannon, Pamela Grayhem, Jerrod Koon, Jessica Perkins, Allison Whalen and Bryan Raudenbush. 2003. Improved performance on clerical tasks associated with administration of peppermint odor. Peppermint and Motor Skills, vol. 97, pp. 1007-10.