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Impact of built environment design on emotion measured via neurophysiological correlates and subjective indicators: a systematic review

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Studies investigating environmental enrichment have shown that exposure to enhanced sensory, cognitive, motor and social stimulation results in behavioural, cellular and molecular alterations in animal models. However, the evidence-base for the neurophysiological impact from environmental enrichment in humans has not been widely examined. This paper, which considers the built environment as one significant component of environmental enrichment, draws together evidence on the impact of the design of interior spaces on human emotion. With no robust models currently available to evaluate how built environment design impacts our emotional states, this systematic review consolidates research that has measured correlates of emotion in interior settings using measures recording either autonomic nervous system (ANS) and/or central nervous system (CNS) activity in conjunction with self-reporting to indicate conscious perception. This paper aims to assess what we know, what methodologies exist and if consistencies can be seen across previously published studies. The review found 237 records, of which 16 met abstract selection criteria. Only seven studies (across eight papers) met full-text selection criteria. Due to the vast differences in the methodologies applied, a comprehensive synthesis was not possible; highlighting the gap in controlled studies in this field of research. As Post Occupancy Evaluations (POEs) of the built environment currently focus on the physical safety and environmental performance of buildings, this review helps inform the techniques and protocols that can be applied when evaluating the emotional effect of built environment exposure.



Journal of environmental psychology



Article number



1 - 11




Amsterdam, The Netherlands





Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2019, The Authors