Emotional Responses to the Visual Patterns of Urban Streets: Evidence from Physiological and Subjective Indicators

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Sep 14;18(18):9677. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18189677.


Despite recent progress in the research of people's emotional response to the environment, the built-rather than natural-environment's emotional effects have not yet been thoroughly examined. In response to this knowledge gap, we recruited 26 participants and scrutinized their emotional response to various urban street scenes through an immersive exposure experiment using virtual reality. We utilized new physiological monitoring technologies that enable synchronized observation of the participants' electroencephalography, electrodermal activity, and heart rate, as well as their subjective indicators. With the newly introduced measurement for the global visual patterns of the built environment, we built statistical models to examine people's emotional response to the physical element configuration and color composition of street scenes. We found that more diverse and less fragmented scenes inspired positive emotional feelings. We also found (in)consistency among the physiological and subjective indicators, indicating a potentially interesting neural-physiological interpretation for the classic form-function dichotomy in architecture. Besides the practical implications on promoting physical environment design, this study combined objective physiology-monitoring technology and questionnaire-based research techniques to demonstrate a better approach to quantify environment-emotion relationships.

Keywords: environmental perception; physiological monitoring; subjective evaluation; urban street; virtual reality; visual pattern.