Understanding Your Brain: the Architecture of Emotion

Understanding Your Brain: the Architecture of Emotion

Jennifer Hunter
Oct 21, 2013

These two similar rooms have one very big difference and it has do with your emotions. Try this: turn off your analytical brain and pick the room you're most drawn to.

If you were inexplicably drawn to the room on the right, here's why: the architecture of the room on the left is primarily linear whereas the right room's lines are mostly curved. It's such a small difference, you may not have noticed, but your subconscious sure did.

According to a fascinating article at Fast Company, neuroscientists are learning that our brains may, in fact, be hard-wired to prefer curved shapes on an emotional level. In a study performed earlier this year, psychologist Oshin Vartanian of the University of Toronto, headed up a team of researchers to document just what was going on in people's brains as they viewed two rooms — one with rounded features, the other more rectangular.

Not only were the test subjects more likely to call the rounded room "beautiful," they also displayed more activity in a part of the brain called the anterior cingulate cortex that, among other functions, is linked to the brain’s ability to regulate and process emotions.

So why exactly do curves make us happy? The answer may come down to simple, natural selection. A previous study, conducted by Moshe Bar of Harvard Medical School, theorized that linear, square objects trigger the same fear that our ancestors felt when they encountered a sharp object, ie. pointy shapes are dangerous, rounded shapes are safe.

So what does it mean if you chose the room on the left? Are you emotionally stunted? Probably not. Although we may be emotionally predisposed toward curves, it certainly doesn’t trump all other factors in the decision process — color, pattern and function all influence our design decisions. The trick is to find the right balance of shape and detail that makes the room feel pleasing to you. Take another look at our two examples, even the room on the left (the one that's primarily linear) does employ round shapes in the pendant light and the curvy wallpaper pattern.

Curvy vs linear is certainly not the whole story, but simply one more tool to add to your arsenal when you can't figure out why your seemingly perfect room is bumming you out. Understanding more about how your brain works is never a bad idea and will probably get you even closer to your decor sweet spot.

Read the full article at Fast Company.

(Image: Alicia and David's Natural Elements Abode, Joey and Gerard's France Meets California Mountain Cottage)

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