Emotions and the Environment: The Variable Effect of Environmental Complexity on Pleasure and Interest
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This dissertation establishes a more comprehensive examination of the often discussed environmental complexity effect on emotional response by addressing four specific considerations. First, positive emotional response was considered as composed of many distinct emotions, thus interest was gauged alongside the commonly explored emotion of pleasure. Second, a systematic approach to quantifying environmental complexity was developed where the environment possessed complexity through either the diversity or numerosity of its geometric and featural elements. Third, a cognitive component was introduced to the formation of emotional response, where the bottom-up effect of environmental properties is mediated by subjective, perceived complexity. Fourth, by arguing that emotions are functional, the degree of agreement between subjective emotional responses and navigation behaviour was examined. In Experiments 1.1 and 1.2, complexity was generated by manipulating the numerosity of featural and geometric elements of virtual environments. In Experiments 2.1 and 2.2 complexity was generated by manipulating diversity of featural elements and quantified using information entropy, while Experiment 3.0 employed a similar approach but with real-world environments. Participants rated complexity, interest and pleasure in every experiment, while Experiments 2.1 and 2.2 introduced a virtual reality navigation task and Experiment 3.0 measured behavioural intention using approach-avoidance ratings. Results demonstrated that environmental complexity had a dissociable effect on pleasure and interest; where the effect was positive on interest it was negative on pleasure. Regardless of whether it affected pleasure or interest, the direct effect of environmental complexity on emotion was either partially or fully mediated by perceived complexity. Environmental complexity itself was successfully manipulated using diversity and numerosity of both featural and geometric elements of the environment. Finally, there was a consistent relationship between feelings of displeasure and avoidance behaviour. These novel perspectives suggest that environmental complexity has a variable effect on emotional response, where the exact relationship is dependent both on the emotion probed and factors beyond complexity such as the processing dynamics of environmental features. By arguing for a more nuanced and exhaustive examination of emotional response, this dissertation repositions the research to better assist in the design of more effective, people-centred, built environments.
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Vedran Dzebic (2018). Emotions and the Environment: The Variable Effect of Environmental Complexity on Pleasure and Interest. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/12807