Notes and Notices

On art, architecture and design

9/02/2015

Boring Streets Breed Unhappiness

Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |

While walking Los Angeles (and other cities), I often take time to think about how I'm reacting to the city around me. Even in L.A., different neighborhoods leave me feeling happy and energized or listless and bored.

Here's a great piece on Aeon about just how different street designs can affect the people that make use of it. Truly great streets really enhance our lives both physically and even mentally. Here's what Aeon has to say:

Merrifield and Danckert suggest that exposure to even a brief, boring experience is sufficient to change the brain and body’s chemistry in such a way as to generate stress. It might seem extreme to say that a brief encounter with a boring building could be seriously hazardous to one’s health, but what about the cumulative effects of immersion, day after day, in the same oppressively dull surroundings?
This question has long interested psychologists, especially after the Canadian psychologist Donald Hebb’s discovery in 1962 that rats who lived in enriched, more stimulating environments were markedly superior intellectual beings to laboratory rats living in more spartan surroundings. Hebb’s enriched rats could solve more complicated maze problems in shorter times than their less-fortunate labmates. Later work carried out by the psychologist Mark Rosenzweig at the University of California at Berkeley showed that such enriched rats were not only superior performers, they also had a thicker neocortex with more richly developed synaptic connections between brain cells. The brain mechanisms responsible for the enrichment effects discovered by Hebb, Rosenzweig and many other researchers are so fundamental that it would be extraordinary if these principles did not apply to us as well.
Next time you're out for a stroll, see how you're feeling.


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