UAE study quantifies emotional response to the built environment

UAE study quantifies emotional response to the built environment
A heatmap based on eye tracking data use the reveal the ways in which human activity draws the eye and conjures emotion.
Published: 13 September 2017 - 7:53 a.m.
By: John Bambridge

A study by neuroscience research firm Neurons and commissioned by Majid Al Futtaim has explored the relationship between built environments and landscapes in the Middle East and human emotion, with possible implications for future construction.

Using electroencephalography to measure brain activity and eye tracking technology, Neurons’ scientists measured how urban developments and landscapes contribute to a sense of happiness and well-being for people in the MENA region.

The study – the first of its kind in the Middle East – has highlighting a range of powerful drivers of emotional engagement with built and natural landscapes, including the presence of human activity, greenery, artistic features and bright colours.

Greenery, in particular, instilled a feeling of security and privacy, while bright palettes were preferred over dull, grey scale colours – with a highly positive response found towards the use of shades of blue and green in architectural features and design.

On the other hand, visible dirt or damage was reported to have an immediate negative and lasting impact on participants of the study.

From a specifically architectural perspective, the analysis also found that unique features and design are important, with positive brain responses associated with artistic features  that respondents could engage with – highlighting the importance of interactive space.

The study further showed how street life or heavy human activity that translated into increased traffic and noise around communities generated a largely negative neural response.

Some of these observations may seem obvious at first glance, but the compilation of the quantitative data from the electroencephalography and eye tracking inputs will help foster a much more detailed understanding the emotional effects of our environment.

The study was launched to underpin the UAE’s national agenda of driving happiness through better services and infrastructure as a means of fostering well-being among citizens and residents.

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