Non-Rhythmic Sensory Stimuli


A space with good non-Rhythmic Sensory Stimuli feels as if one is momentarily privy to something special, something fresh, interesting, stimulating and energizing. It is a brief but welcome distraction.

Non-Rhythmic Sensory Stimuli are stochastic and ephemeral connections with nature that may be analyzed statistically but may not be predicted precisely.


The non-Rhythmic Sensory Stimuli pattern has evolved from research on looking behavior (particularly periphery vision movement reflexes); eye lens focal relaxation patterns; heart rate, systolic blood pressure and sympathetic nervous system activity; and observed and quantified behavioral measures of attention and exploration

Studies of the human response to stochastic movement of objects in nature and momentary exposure to natural sounds and scents have shown to support physiological restoration.
For instance, when sitting and staring at a computer screen or doing any task with a short visual focus, the eye’s lens becomes rounded with the contracting of the eye muscles. When these muscles stay contracted for an extended period, i.e., more than 20 minutes at a time, fatigue can occur, manifesting as eye strain, headaches and physical discomfort. A periodic, yet brief visual or auditory distraction that causes one to look up (for >20 seconds) and to a distance (of >20 feet) allows for short mental breaks during which the muscles to relax and the lenses flatten


The objective of the non-Rhythmic Sensory Stimuli pattern is to encourage the use of natural sensory stimuli that unobtrusively attract attention, allowing individuals’ capacity for focused tasks to be replenished from mental fatigue and physiological stressors. This can be achieved by designing for momentary exposure to the stochastic or unpredictable movement, particularly for periphery vision or the periodic experience of scents or sounds.

Design considerations for establishing accessible and effective non-rhythmic stimuli:

  • As a general guideline, non-rhythmic sensory experiences should
    occur approximately every 20 minutes for about 20 seconds and,
    for visual stimuli, from a distance of more than 20 feet away
  • many stimuli in nature are seasonal, so a strategy that is effective year-round, such as with multiple interventions that overlap with seasons
  • An intervention that leverages simulation (rather than naturally occurring) natural stimuli will likely necessitate early collaboration with the mechanical engineer or facilities team.
  • A non-rhythmic stimuli strategy can be interwoven with almost any landscape or horticulture plan. For instance, selecting plant species for window boxes that will attract bees, butterflies and other polinators may be a more practical application for some projects than maintaining a honeybee apiary or butterfly sanctuary.
  • Humans perceive movement in the peripheral view much quicker than straight ahead. The repeating rhythmic motion of a pendulum will only hold one’s attention briefly, the constant repetitive ticking of a clock may come to be ignored over time, and an ever-present scent may lose its mystique with long-term exposure; whereas, the stochastic movement of a butterfly will capture one’s attention each time, for recurring physiological benefits

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