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© 2016 by Nicole Craanen

 

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3. NON-RHYTHMIC SENSORY STIMULI

PATTERNS

  • INCREASE Heart Rate Recovery (10)
  • RESTORE Energy (6, 7)
  • IMPROVE Relaxation (6)
PHYSICAL
ENVIRONMENTAL
  • INCREASE Sense of Safety (2, 6, 7)
  • INCREASE Feelings of Visual Privacy (5)
INTELLECTUAL
  • INCREASE Attentiveness (8, 10, 11)
  • IMPROVE Mental Engagement (4, 8, 10)
  • INCREASE Productivity (4, 8)
EMOTIONAL
  • POSITIVELY Impacted Emotional State (1, 5-7)
  • FASTER Stress Recovery (6, 7)
  • IMPROVE Relaxation (6, 7)
  • REDUCE Feelings of Anger, Aggression and Fear (1, 6)
  • INCREASE Feelings of Restoration (5-7)
  • IMPROVE Comfort (9)
SOCIAL
  • REDUCE Feelings of Anger, Aggression and Fear (1, 6, 7)

WELL-BEING BENEFITS

"Human fitness and survival has always required coping with a highly sensuous and variable natural environment, particularly responding to light, sound, touch, smell, and other sensory variability…”                                                                 -Stephen Kellert

 

THE BASICS

 

A Non-Rhythic Sensory Stimuli is a moment or event that catches your attention.  This is something outside of our everyday experiences that fall into the background.  The more predictable background is rhythmic sensory stimuli.  Those rhythmic, predictable experiences are things like clouds passing rhythmically, light filtering through trees, or the sound of water in a stream - these are rhythmic sensory stimuli.  They are often noticed briefly, but quickly move into the background.  However, when the sun breaks through the clouds, a large gust of wind moves the trees, or a fish jumps in the water, our attention is caught momentarily and holds our attention longer, this is an unpredictable sensory stimuli.

 

This distraction causes one to look up and out for a few moments, to break their directed attention on their current task.  This brief distraction has many benefits! Read below to learn more.

UNDERSTANDING RHYTHMIC AND UNEXPECTED STIMULI

Why is this difference important?

Photo Credit: Nicole Craanen

  • Sounds of a water feature
  • Aquarium
  • Reflections on water or another surface
  • Shadows that move over time
  • Consistent nature sounds
SIMULATED NATURE

DIRECTED ATTENTION 

 

Attention that requires constant effort, where one must heavily focus and pay attention to a task, such as working on a project in which strategy or calculation is involved.  Directed attention without an opportunity for rest can lead to mental fatigue, also known as cognitive overload.

INVOLUNTARY ATTENTION

 

An effortless attention, something that does not take concentration, like looking out the window at clouds passing by.

MENTAL FATIGUE

 

It is the point at which too much information or too many tasks result in the worker being unable to process the information in the most efficient way (4).   A 2001 study explained that cognitive overload/mental fatigue was found to decrease productivity by up to 40% (1)

leads to

helps alleviate

This idea is known as Attention Restoration Theory (ART).  Stephen and Rachel Kaplan, pioneers in the field of restoration and creators of ART, explain that interaction with nature is a type of involuntary attention.  The connection to nature is effortless, therefore giving direct attention a break, allowing an enhanced ability to concentrate (2).

 

  • Clouds passing by
  • Fire in a fireplace
  • Waves on a shore
  • Light shifting with the movement of trees
  • The constantly changing movement of a breeze
  • Insect or animal movement
  • Fish in an aquarium
  • Plant scents
  • Animals foraging

Unexpected Stimuli Allow for Mental Restoration

 
Non-Rhythmic sensory stimuli is an event or moment that cannot be predicted and allows a opportunity for mental rest.
 
What is this experience like?
It is a common occurrence in a natural environment, such as a momentary exposure to something environmental or a small distraction during a task.  The sun peeking through on a cloudy day may cause one to stop and look.
 
 
What are the benefits?
This momentary distraction allows a break for mental fatigue.  Read more about directed and involuntary attention below.

NATURALLY OCCURRING

  • Sun blocked by cloud for extended time
  • Gust of wind
  • Bird chatter becomes sporadically louder
  • Bees land on a nearby flower
  • An unexpected plant scent arises
SIMULATED NATURE
  • Timed effects in a water feature
  • An aquarium feeding
  • Timed changes in nature sounds
  • Artwork or sculpture that moves or changes

Rhythmic Sensory Stimuli

Unexpected Sensory Stimuli

Calming Rhythmic Movements Indicate SAFETY

 
Rhythmic sensory stimuli is "always changing but always remaining the same" (2).
 
What is this experience like?
These are rhythmic and predictable sounds or movements that will often hold our attention briefly, and then move into the background.  Walking out of a building into the sunshine is momentarily an unexpected stimuli, but it quickly fades into the background.  
 
What are the benefits?
These rhythmic experiences are calming, and accessible in all parts of nature.  But they do not offer the same benefits of disengaging directed attention.

NATURALLY OCCURRING

  • Fabric or material that moves rhythmically with a light breeze (perhaps from air circulation)
  • Simulated nature sounds or white noise

We don't want to invoke fear!

Note: There can be predicable and unexpected elements that indicate fear or danger. Predictable examples are a swarm of bees, shark in a tank, or a pack of wild dogs hunting.  Unexpected examples  are fast, erratic movements that increase stress (1).  Examples would be a dying fish, birds taking flight, an animal running to escape a predator, stormy waves, or a forest fire, These motions do not recreate the positive impacts on the human system.

Directed Attention leads to mental fatigue

Involuntary Attention helps alleviate it

Increasing pressures lead to problems of mental fatigue.

 

Restorative experiences are an important means of reducing mental fatigue, and have a special connection to natural environments.

 

Natural environments, in providing these deeply needed restorative experiences, play an essential role in human functioning (1, 2).

Photo Credit: Nicole Craanen

 

Photo Credit: Nicole Craanen

 

Some more Great Examples of Non-Rhythmic Sensory Stimuli

(a range of applications & styles is are shown below)

Photo & Video Credit: Nicole Craanen

Photo Credit: Nicole Craanen

Michael Theodore: Supraliminal
Denver, Colorado, USA
Photo/Video Credit: Nicole Craanen
See a press release about this piece HERE
Watch a video of the color change HERE
Seattle Public Library
Seattle, Washington, USA
Photo Credit: Nicole Craanen
Show More
Siam Paragon Mall
Bangkok Thailand
Photo/Video Credit: Nicole Craanen
Costa Restaurant
Nha Trang, Vietnam
Photo/Video Credit: Nicole Craanen
Fish decor moves with airflow, and real fish swim in the background
Madison Public Library
Madison, Wisconsin, USA
Photo/Video Credit: Nicole Craanen
Look closely, the clouds move slightly every few seconds
Hoi An Roastery
Hoi An, Vietnam
Photo/Video Credit: Nicole Craanen
Watch how the fan, and open windows move the light fixtures and create moving shadows on the wall
UW-Madison, Discovery Building
Madison, Wisconsin, USA
Photo Credit: Nicole Craanen
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Chimes play when the plaque is stepped on
UW-Madison, School of Nursing
Madison, Wisconsin, USA
Photo Credit: Nicole Craanen
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General Mitchell Airport
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
Photo Credit: Nicole Craanen
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Art shifts slighting with airflow
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Madison Public Library
Madison, Wisconsin, USA
Photo Credit: Nicole Craanen
Show More
Artwork
Bratislava, Slovakia
Photo Credit: Nicole Craanen
Amber Fort
Jaipur, India
Photo Credit: Nicole Craanen
Pantheon - Floor after rain
Rome, Italy
Photo Credit: Nicole Craanen
Piazza San Marco
Venice, Italy
Photo Credit: Nicole Craanen
Cambodia
Photo Credit: Nicole Craanen
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Metis by Metiseko
Hoi An, Vietnam
Photo Credit: Nicole Craanen
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Hanging art and lighting shifts slighting with airflow
Artwork Painted on Building
Bratislava, Slovakia
Photo Credit: Nicole Craanen
Street Art
Bratislava, Slovakia
Photo Credit: Nicole Craanen
Sagrada Familia
Barcelona, Spain
Photo Credit: Nicole Craanen
Casa Batllo
Barcelona, Spain
Photo Credit: Nicole Craanen
Steelcase Showroom - moving graphic
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Photo Credit: Nicole Craanen
Colectivo
Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, USA
Photo Credit: Nicole Craanen
Anderson Japanese Garden
Rockford, Illinois, USA
Photo Credit: Nicole Craanen
Maharaj Pier
Bangkok, Thailand
Photo Credit: Nicole Craanen
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Photo Credit: Nicole Craanen
Siam Paragon Mall
Bangkok, Thailand
Photo Credit: Nicole Craanen
Siam Paragon Mall
Bangkok, Thailand
Photo Credit: Nicole Craanen
Siam Paragon Mall - Dream Forest
Bangkok, Thailand
Photo Credit: Nicole Craanen
Chihuly Garden and Glass
Seattle, Washington, USA
Photo Credit: Nicole Craanen
Air Force Academy
Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA
Photo Credit: Nicole Craanen
Hoi An, Vietnam
Photo Credit: Nicole Craanen
Lanterns Restaurant
Hoi An, Vietnam
Photo Credit: Nicole Craanen
Seattle, Washington, USA
Photo Credit: Nicole Craanen
Seattle, Washington, USA
Photo Credit: Nicole Craanen
Glendale, Wisconsin, USA
Photo Credit: Nicole Craanen