01.03.2019
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Stress and the city

How different urban objects affect the human condition

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Experts at the University of Bristol decided to explore which urban landscapes have the greatest impact on stress levels.

Three objects were chosen for the study: parks, cafes and shops. Modern neuroimaging technologies have made it possible to obtain data directly from the brain, not just from surveys. The experiment involved 40 people. Their stress levels were measured using portable electroencephalogram sensors – not in laboratories, but directly in the city.

How does it work

Studies of encephalogram allow to determine different States of brain activity, its dependence on the level of stress and concentration of a person. Experts paid special attention to two types of activity: alpha rhythm and beta rhythm. The first occurs in a state of calm, the second – in the solution of any problem, when you need the maximum concentration. Watching these rhythms, you can assess the level of stress or the opposite indicator – the level of meditativeness.

The level of meditativeness of the urban landscape (cafe, supermarket, park)

The first point of the study was to determine the level of meditativeness-that is, the relaxation of a person in a particular place. Experts assumed that the highest level of stress will be observed in shops, and the lowest – in parks. Their hypothesis was confirmed: the diagram clearly shows that a person is more calm in parks or cafes than in supermarkets, where the level of meditativeness is much lower.

The second point of the study is the preparation of a heat map, where red is an indicator of the maximum level of stress, and blue is the minimum. Indicators in cafes and parks are about the same, the only difference is that in a cafe the stress level is sometimes very high. This is due to the fact that there people can face unpleasant situations for the brain: an irritable waiter, a long wait for the order, etc.

Heat map: the level of stress in cafes, parks and shops

It is obvious that supermarkets are an emotional test for our brain. The researchers note that there are people who rest while shopping, but they should be careful: it is unknown at what point the brain will start to get annoyed and stop perceiving shopping as a vacation.

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