In the following I`d like to present some ideas which I have been working on recently.
I know that it is quite unconventional to share ideas and thoughts that are still "under construction", but I believe that ideas grow when they are nourished by communication and other peoples opinions. If you are interested in one of the topics or would like to start some form research cooperation, please don`t hesitate to contact me.
A large part of the everyday aesthetic experience for humans involves a behavioral and emotional response to landscape. Since the selection of habitat was crucial in our evolutionary history, research on human habitat preference and perception is a vital area for the further understanding of evolved aesthetic tastes. Landscape perception can be seen as feature of evolutionary aesthetics and it seems that human aesthetic values are rooted on both, social and environmental components. Empirical research covers the fields of perception, landscape preference, behavioral and physiological reaction to the perceived environment and individual differences in habitat preference.
This topic has been my main interest in the last few years. For more information on finished projects in this field, please see section "publications".
Perception of Weather and Seasons:
Since not only the evaluation of the physical environment but also the evaluation of weather was crucial in our evolutionary past it is most likely that the mechanisms to assess and forcast weather and seasons have a biological base. Unfortunately, with the exception of some research on the preference of flowers, there is no empirical data to support this hypothesis. In this project we try to crossreference data from weatherstations, sales data from supermarkets and interview data in order to cast some light on humans ability to forcast weather and on the influence of weather on human behaviour.
I already spend some time on literature research and methodology for this idea. I will publish an initial paper in summer 2005, but for the realization of a research project I still need some form of cooperation with a company who collects sales data.
Culture and abstract thinking are the tools which made humans the masters of adaptation. These unique human traits empowered us to settle in all terrestrial habitats and to deal with all kinds of climatic conditions. Evolutionary Psychologists claim that the mechanisms of human perception are still those of a pleistocenic hunter-gatherer scanning the savannah for food and shelter. How do users of the world wide web cope with the virtual reality presented on screen and do they react to it in the same way they react to real landscapes? Today's virtual realities put human skills of adaptation to a new test.In the proposed study four types of stimuli, which were deduced from findings of evolutionary psychology, will be tested for validity in the virtual environment of the world wide web. These stimuli are based on hydrophilia (the preference for water in landscapes), phytophilia, zoophilia and the prospect-refuge theory. In natural environments they effect a whole range of responses like wellbeing, creativity, communication, cognitive efficiency, explorative behaviour and duration of stay. In an virtual on sreen reality we expect these stimuli to have effects on user behaviour.Subjects will be confronted with one of two e-learning environments: The standard environment will be designed in state of the art usability and perception psychology. The second environment will be based on the first environment but with sublte changes based on evironmental psychology. These changes include texture, animation an colours. Subjects have to accomplish learn tasks and discuss their cognitions in a chatroom. Analogous to the findings on landscapes it is expected, that the nature-stimulis of the second environment lead to a longer duration of stay, higher explorative behaviour and a higher cognitive efficiency. The clickways and the group discussions will be logged and are the datapool for the evaluation of the hypothesis.
This project is in the pre-proposal phase. We already completed a quite detailed draft for the research design and wait for funding.
Conditioning to Social Success:
Conditioning to success is a well known phenomenon in the animal kingdom. When two animals fight in order to gain higher status in their group, the winner is more likely to win follow-up confrontations, whereas the looser is more likely to loose in the future. These effect is mediated by physiological and behavioural mechanisms and helps to stabilize social hierarchies. Similar effects have been shown in humans at chess tournaments and tennis championships. Again the individual history of victories and defeats has an influence on future confrontations. In this research project we try to cast light on how humans success in one social group can be transferred to other groups and on how other people recognize winners and losers and make according adaptations to their social networks.
We are in the still in the process of research-design and methodology. However,
hope to get going with this one in the end of 2005.
Completed Research Projects:
1998 - 1999, "The Influence of Urban Environment on Reproductive Behaviour", School of Biological Sciences, Manchester.
1999, "The Use of Video and Television in Teaching", University of Manchester, School of Education.
1999 - 2000, "The Influence of Water as a Feature of Interior Design on the Well-being of Humans in Shopping malls", MSc at the University of Vienna.
2001 - 2004, "Ecocity - Social Aspects of Sustainable Housing", Department of Environmental Economics and Management, Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration.
2002, "Mechanisms of Landscape Perception", Department of Landscape Architecture, Vienna Technical University.
2002 - 2004, "Consumer Behaviour in Shopping Malls, a Mixed Methods Approach", Department of Retailing and Marketing, Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration.