Pati and colleagues investigated responses to curved and sharp contours in healthcare environments and gathered some intriguing data. The team report that “Recent studies in cognitive neuroscience suggest that humans prefer objects with a curved contour compared with objects that have pointed features and a sharp-angled contour.” During their study “subjects (representing three age-groups and both sexes) were exposed to a randomized order of 312 real-life images (objects, interiors, exteriors, landscape, and a set of control images). Amygdala activation was simultaneously captured using functional magnetic resonance imaging technology.” Data collected “suggest that contours play an important role in emotional response during the precognitive [unconscious] stages of human perception. Curve contours in the interior and exterior (envelop) views of hospitals triggered greater amygdala activation (fear response) in comparison to sharp contours, in the precognitive stages (150 ms [milliseconds]). This initial fear response, however, did not get reflected in healthy subjects’ eventual preference (like/dislike) measured after onset of cognition (roughly 2 s[econds]).” The hospital interiors and exteriors with curved contours were preferred to those with sharp contours.
Debajyoti Pati, Michael O’Boyle, Jiancheng Hou, Upali Nanda, and Hessam Ghamari. 2016. “Can Hospital Form Trigger Fear Response?” HERD: Health Environments Research and Design Journal, vol. 9, no. 3, pp. 162-175.