Urban Soundscapes: The Effects of Auditory and Visual Stimulations on Moods


Research Centre: Virtual Reality Lab of Urban Environments & Human Health
Active Dates: May 2014 - October 2016

Title:Urban Soundscapes: The Effects of Auditory and Visual Stimulations on Moods

Team: Bin Jiang, Wenqi Ji (Co-PI, U of Illinois), Matthew Pryor (Co-PI)

Project Funder: Faculty of Architecture seed fund

Abstract: Negative moods can lead to a variety of negative health outcomes. Although we know how a variety of visual elements in a landscape can impact people’s moods, we know a great deal less about how sounds in the landscape influence mood. What is the relationship between visual environments and soundscapes, and how do they interact to affect mood in urban cityscapes? To what extent do some typical landscape sounds, such as birds chirping or traffic noise, increase positive or negative feelings?

This research examines the extent to which different sounds in urban landscapes affect people’s self-reported mood and explores the relationships between visual elements and sounds on people’s moods. We conducted an across-culture, lab-based experimental study in which participants were randomly assigned to watch one of nine videos of three types of urban places (city park, urban street, and office plaza) paired with three types of acoustic environments (nature sound, traffic noise, or no sound). The visual environments of urban places were collected through a video-camera in Chicago city and the sound materials were collected from online sound libraries. We conducted 66 tests in Illinois, USA and 67 tests in Hong Kong SAR, China. Each participant filled out the Multi-dimensional Mood Questionnaire before and after watching and listening to the videos. We measured the impact the visual and sound environments had on changes in participant’s moods.

The findings show some common results across USA and HK: soundscapes impact mood more than the visual elements of the urban spaces in consistent and measurable ways. Soundscapes depicting nature evoked pleasant moods for people while traffic sounds evoked unpleasant moods, even when the traffic sounds were paired with calming, natural urban landscapes. We also found some differences between USA and HK tests. Hong Kong participants showed significantly greater appreciation to no sound video than Americans and a low sensitivity to difference of visual environments.

This study produces new knowledge on the effects of different soundscapes on people’s mood and has implications for teaching and practice. It is also important to consider difference of cultural background, lifestyle, and place attachment. Most importantly, it suggests that researchers and landscape designers should not ignore sounds and their relationship to visual elements when designing landscapes that promote human health and well-being.

Quotation: Invited presentation on Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture 2016 Annual Conference, Utah, USA

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UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG
FACULTY OF ARCHITECTURE