Family and Consumer Studies
Barbara Brown is an environmental psychologist whose research is broadly focused on the relationships between physical environments and human well-being. In past research funded by the National Institute of Justice, she has examined how neighborhood revitalization in west side Salt Lake City neighborhoods is related to crime and neighborhood incivilities such as graffiti and housing decay. She also examined how place attachments and neighborhood cohesion were strong and potentially revitalizing forces in these neighborhoods, fostering a sense of security. Her newer lines of policy-relevant research examines how innovative designs can benefit residents and enable Utah to grow as projected without endangering quality of life. Research shows the importance of creating denser, more active, and less automobile dependent communities, but residents and policy makers often prefer less sustainable alternatives. In addition, assumptions about behavior in settings often underlie policies but are often insufficiently tested. Her research is designed to supply better data to designers, planners, and policy makers.
Dr. Brown's research examines how successful innovations, such as new housing forms, new playground provisions, and rail transit alternatives, often create multiple ways to satisfy residents and provide multiple justifications for policy change. Ongoing research, funded in part by IPIA, is examining whether rail transit use can also help individuals achieve healthy lifestyles by encouraging them to walk more or be more active (measured in metabolic expenditures via accelerometers) and be more satisfied with their neighborhood. A similar ongoing study examines whether an innovative playground intervention can boost physical activity among preschoolers, a group increasing targeted for obesity prevention efforts. Brown's studies of such design innovations are intended to inform debates about how people behave in different settings and how to create good neighborhoods. Her guiding transactional conceptual framework is that when innovative designs can meet multiple needs of residents, they may provide more acceptable future alternatives; policy makers often need to appreciate the range of ways in which design innovations require policy supports.