For human beings, spatial experiences are conditioned by architecture. How we perceive our built surroundings affects our psychophysical wellbeing, feelings, and behavior. This argument is not a new one. However, we have yet to objectively consolidate evidence in this regard. Recently, architecture has started to interact with cognitive neuroscience. Driven by technological progress and informed by other disciplines (such as environmental psychology), their synergy can foster the evolution of the study of how people perceive the totality of sensory properties that constitute a room. The manipulation of ambient conditions (e.g. lighting, colors, and materiality) is presumed to impact our emotions. The emotional potential radiated by the built environment composes that which we commonly call “atmosphere”. The hypothesis is that architectural atmospheres define a state of resonance and identification (emotive and cognitive) between an individual and their built surroundings. This embodiment-based perspective allows us to design quantitative, reproducible methods to analyze atmospheres. The project aims to investigate the effects of architectural atmospheres on our emotional responses that underlie behavioral intentions and feelings, testing an interdisciplinary, evidence-based approach. Physiological recordings and measurements of neural activation integrate psychological self-reports that describe the consciously perceived experience. The value of this proposal lies in the opportunity to assess—through neuroscientific criteria and methodology—the existence of a neurobiological basis of atmospheric perception that would explain the link between specific visual atmospheric stimuli and altered emotional states. The planned experiments will address the current lack of empirical data and test new experimental paradigms, such as the use of virtual reality and electroencephalography technology, in order to formalize an architectural theory concerning atmospheric perception.
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