The Psychology of Nature: Our Dwellings, Well-being, and Evolutionary Preferences
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Nature has always played a significant role in the human experience. Throughout prehistory, our early ancestors experienced life through a purely natural world. As an evolutionary mechanism aiding their survival and reproduction, natural selection has shaped our brains to instinctively recognize which of nature’s features support the continuation of our species by the positive emotions they evoke within us. Consequently, our species has developed an innate preference for those natural stimuli, which helped our early ancestors select favorable habitats throughout their hunter-gatherer lives. Today, humankind has an evolutionarily ingrained affinity for these natural features, and our exposure to them not only brings us pleasure, but also fosters enhanced well-being. Given nature’s benefits, our homes, much like our early ancestors’ habitats, must include the natural features for which we have an evolutionary preference, because living in their absence presents the underlying signal that we inhabit an environment unsupportive of our survival; hence, eliciting negative emotions and causing the deterioration of our psychological well-being. Architectural practice rarely dives into our evolutionary psychology to deduce how we can design better, healthier living spaces. Thus, this work aims to identify the natural features for which we have an innate preference and to explore how we can effectively integrate them into the architecture of home. Through examining the works of Appleton, Orians, Heerwagen, Wilson, and others, I identify the natural elements, informational factors, and spatial configurations for which we have an ingrained preference, as well as the desirable emotional responses they evoke. The human experience is inseparable from the emotions nature elicits within us, and I analyze our psychology in relation to these responses to find how our architectural habitats could induce them through the integration of the identified stimuli. I use art, religion, culture, philosophy, literature, economic impact, and architectural precedents from around the world as support where it applies; however, scientific studies and theories of environmental aesthetics approached from an evolutionary psychological perspective are this work’s primary foundation. Whether we feel an affinity or aversion for the aesthetic appearance of our environments ties directly to underlying human concerns. Our environmental preferences are of practical importance, and rarely fulfill a frivolous purpose. Therefore, by gaining a deeper understanding of our evolutionary psychology and how to effectively integrate nature within the present-day home in a way that aligns with it, we begin taking the inhabitants’ genetic programming into consideration when designing their dwellings. In return, we create architectural habitats that provide them with a gratifying living experience that fulfills our subconscious evolutionary needs and fosters enhanced psychological well-being.
Cite this version of the work
Elias Naser (2023). The Psychology of Nature: Our Dwellings, Well-being, and Evolutionary Preferences. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/19769