Posts Tagged ‘psychologist’

I’ve mentioned before that John is active on the Arlington Tree Committee. He’s been behind a major push to inventory the town’s trees, aided by local government support and the legwork of many residents.

Other members of the committee have been using Facebook to link to interesting research on the value of trees to communities.

Science Daily, for example, reported on a study by Adam Dale et al. of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) suggesting the best ways to keep trees healthy and sustain their economic value.

“Heat from city sidewalks, streets, and parking lots, along with insect pests, can damage trees planted in urban landscapes. Thus, it is critical to plant trees in the right places so they will do well in harsh urban environments, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher says.

“More than half the world’s people and 80 percent of the U.S. population live in urban areas. Trees benefit these residents by filtering the air, reducing temperatures and beautifying landscapes. According to a new study led by Adam Dale, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of entomology, these benefits are reduced when trees are planted in unsuitable urban landscapes. However, guidelines can be developed to lead urban tree- planting decisions in a more sustainable direction.” Check out the researchers’ “Pace to Plant” technique here.

At the Toronto Star,

“Using data from Toronto, a team of researchers has found that having 10 more trees on your block has self-reported health benefits akin to a $10,000 salary raise or moving to a neighbourhood with a $10,000 higher median income or being seven years younger.

“By comparing satellite imagery of Toronto, an inventory of trees on public land and general health surveys, the team, led by University of Chicago psychologist Marc Berman, found that people who live on a tree-lined block are less likely to report conditions such as high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease or diabetes.

‘Their findings appeared [in 2015] in the open-access journal Scientific Reports.” More at the Star here.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that research social scientist Kathleen L. Wolf has written extensively on the value of trees: for example, in this Communities & Banking article on how “the urban forest” benefits local businesses.

Photo: Tyler Jones, UF/IFAS
Numerous studies show trees improve health and quality of life in communities and make shopping at local businesses more appealing.

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Here is an artist who addresses the sense of smell — and not only with lily-of-the-valley fragrance or the sea or brewing coffee.

Douglas Quenqua writes in the Science section of the NY Times that Belgian artist Peter De Cupere uses pretty much everything that has an odor.

“Peter De Cupere’s ‘Tree Virus’ sculpture wasn’t much to look at: a dead, black tree rooted in a craggy white ball suspended over a dirt pit, all of it covered by a plastic igloo. Built on a college campus in the Netherlands in 2008, the whole thing might have been leftover scenery from a Tim Burton film if it weren’t for the outrageous smell.

‘Inside the igloo, a heady mix of peppermint and black pepper saturated the air. It flooded the nose and stung the eyes. Most visitors cried; many ran away. Others seemed to enjoy it, laughing through the tears. Such is the strange power of olfactory art.

“ ‘When you walk into an installation with scent, you cannot hide. Your body starts to react,’ said Mr. De Cupere. … He is just one of several contemporary artists using odor to create art that delivers an intensely personal, emotional and sometimes physical experience. …

“Smell has an unfair advantage over the other senses when it comes to eliciting a response, researchers say. ‘There is a unique and directly intimate connection between where smell is processed in the brain and where memory is stored,” said Rachel Herz, a psychologist at Brown University and the author of The Scent of Desire: Discovering Our Enigmatic Sense of Smell. …

“Just as Proust’s madeleines opened a floodgate to childhood memories, scents can recall different feelings depending on how a person first encountered them.”

More here.

Photo: Peter De Cupere
Peter De Cupere’s “Tree Virus” sculpture, which causes many visitors to cry.

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Schools are not putting as much emphasis on handwriting as they used to, given the growing use of electronic devices, and that can be a good thing in some ways. (As a teacher, I was bored witless checking penmanship workbooks.)

But guess what. The Law of Unintended Consequences is rearing its head.

Maria Konnikova writes at the NY Times, “Psychologists and neuroscientists say it is far too soon to declare handwriting a relic of the past. New evidence suggests that the links between handwriting and broader educational development run deep.

“Children not only learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand, but they also remain better able to generate ideas and retain information. In other words, it’s not just what we write that matters — but how. …

“A 2012 study [published in Trends in Neuroscience and Education] led by Karin James, a psychologist at Indiana University, lent support to that view. Children who had not yet learned to read and write were presented with a letter or a shape on an index card and asked to reproduce it in one of three ways: trace the image on a page with a dotted outline, draw it on a blank white sheet, or type it on a computer. They were then placed in a brain scanner and shown the image again. …

“When children had drawn a letter freehand, they exhibited increased activity in three areas of the brain that are activated in adults when they read and write … By contrast, children who typed or traced the letter or shape showed no such effect. ” More here.

Konnikova reports that even doubters of the study’s significance wonder if the act of writing by hand makes you think more.

Photo: Karin James
Samples of handwriting by young children.

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Some recent grads seem more serious than their predecessors, perhaps the result of having to face tough realities in the Great Recession.

Martha Irvine writes for the Associated Press, “The full effect won’t be known for a while, of course. But a new analysis of a long-term survey of high school students provides an early glimpse at ways their attitudes shifted in the first years of this most recent economic downturn.

“Among the findings: Young people showed signs of being more interested in conserving resources and a bit more concerned about their fellow human beings.

“Compared with youths who were surveyed a few years before the recession hit, more of the Great Recession group also was less interested in big-ticket items such as vacation homes and new cars — though they still placed more importance on them than young people who were surveyed in the latter half of the 1970s, an era with its own economic challenges.

“Either way, it appears this latest recession ‘’has caused a lot of young people to stop in their tracks and think about what’s important in life,’’ says Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University who co-authored the study with researchers from UCLA.

“The analysis, released Thursday, is published in the online edition of the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.” More.

One would never say that the Great Recession was a good thing. And it may be that some young people are too serious at too early an age. But it never hurts to start thinking early about what matters in life.

Photo: AP/Alex Brandon
Drew Miller at a building under construction in Silver Spring, Md. Miller quit a steady government contract job to take a chance on a company that’s using “smart technologies” to help big corporations cut lighting costs. Though it meant taking a small pay cut, he says having a job that helps the environment was a ‘‘huge’’ motivator.

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