Awe-Inducing Interior Space: Architectural Causes and Cognitive Effects

Sep 23, 2016

In order to elucidate how church interiors elicit awe and otherwise shape affective and cognitive processes, the researchers investigated how built spaces induce awe. They developed a rating scale for the measurement of physical properties of interior spaces in order to determine which architectural properties in an interior space can predict a sense of awe (Study 1). The scale was used to measure 24 architectural properties of 60 different interior spaces. Participants then viewed these 60 pre-rated images and reported their affective response to each. Their emotion ratings showed a predictive relationship between architectural properties and elicited emotion. Properties reflecting size, age, contour, and ornament significantly predicted a feeling of awe. The results from Study 1 guided the selection of stimuli for Study 2, in which the researchers explored the effects of visually priming participants with photographs of high and low awe-inducing architectural interiors on time perception and spirituality, as well as the effects of priming participants with photographs of religious and non-religious building interiors on participant religiousness. Feeling awe led to an overestimation of time in a time-estimation task. This work establishes an initial understanding of cognitive processes underlying affective and social responses to the environmental cues of church interiors.

Hanna Negami (University of Waterloo)
Colin Ellard, Ph.D. (University of Waterloo)
Presented at: 
2016 ANFA Conference (Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, CA)
Published & professionally reviewed by: 
Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture

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