Responses to representations of the built environment: the influence of emotion, attention and perspective-taking.
Galan-Diaz, Carlos Roberto
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The main aim of this thesis is to investigate how environmental preference for the built environment, either in-situ or based on visual representations (e.g. visualisations of final architectural design), may be affected by three distinct variables. One of them is emotion, operationalised as the mood people are in at the time of the evaluation and the way people feel with regards to the environment. A second variable considers the participants' attention and how they may be influenced by task instructions. The third variable, intrinsically related to the second one, is how environmental preference may be influenced depending on the perspective taken at the time of the evaluation. The main research questions in this thesis are: a) How does emotion influence environmental preference? b) What is the impact of perspective-taking on environmental preference? c) What are the benefits of using emotional reactions to the environment as predictors of preference? These main research questions are addressed using both quantitative and qualitative methods, mainly quantitative, underpinned by a pragmatic approach. The unit of analysis in this thesis is the person who evaluates or judges an environment or a representation of it. Five studies are presented in this thesis. Study 1 (n=10) reports the results from interviews with practising architects in the city of Aberdeen. These results show that when designing architects take two distinct perspectives: a prescriptive inferential perspective and a self, referential perspective. These interviews are used to set the context within which this thesis operates: the presentation of design to people with no expertise in architecture and built environment disciplines. The remaining four studies directly address this thesis' main research questions. In Study 2 (n=133), Study 3 (n=146) and Study 5 (n=64) the effects of perspective-taking on different dependent variables are experimentally tested. The dependent variables are: perceived restorativeness (Study 2), environmental preference as measured via informational variables (Study 3), and the emotional reactions people have to representations of the environment (Study 5). Results of these studies show that perspective-taking carries an interpersonal perception bias whereby taking a perspective other than the self results in different environmental evaluation outcomes, but that this process can also be affected by formal training. The influences of emotion on environmental preference are directly explored in Studies 4 (n=32) and 5 (n=64). The results show that mood can have an influence on environmental preference by influencing the emotional reactions people have to the environment, but that these influences vary over time. Overall the thesis shows that perspective-taking and emotion have a range of influences on environmental preference in a built environment context, that these are important at the point at which architecture and built environment professionals design environments, and that timing of environmental evaluations in longitudinal assessments can make the difference between positive and less positive evaluations. This thesis' results are discussed in light of existing knowledge and some recommendations are made for future research and practitioners in architecture and built environment disciplines.