Perception + Space Public Lectures

Below is a list of our past and upcoming public lectures. Please follow the link to attend.

The psychological significance of place and its role in urban environmental interventions

Monday 28th March 2022, 4pm-5pm, GMT

To join please follow this link:

The speaker is Dr Michael Lomas, an Environmental Psychologist and lecturer at the University of Salford. Michael will be exploring theory and literature expedient for better understanding the nature and significance of the person-place relationship, as well as his research applying this to the context of urban regeneration.

Urban regeneration is an important policy focus across Europe, with initiatives seeking to improve economic and public health outcomes. Although theoretically such activities should produce benefits for mental wellbeing, this currently lacks strong supporting evidence (Blackman et al., 2001; Mair et al., 2015). One potential explanation for this is the under-appreciation of the psychological significance of place, which plays a crucial role in life and identity, providing an individual with a sense of belonging and a means of understanding the world through their spatial movement (Preece, 2020). Within Environmental Psychology, the emotional connection people share with their environments is broadly referred to as place attachment (Low & Altman, 1992) and research has shown that displacement from a place of attachment can lead to a period of grief and such issues as acute stress disorder, anxiety, and depression (Abramson et al., 2008; Fried, 1963). More recently, the in-depth examination of the role of place attachment throughout urban regeneration has highlighted the potential for regeneration activities to undermine various elements of the people-place relationship (Lomas et al., 2021), sub-processes that can be both sustaining and detrimental to the place attachment bond (Lewicka, 2011). These findings are noteworthy, as with place attachment being associated with higher levels of life satisfaction, social capital, and overall adjustment (Rollero & De Piccoli, 2010; Tartaglia, 2012), they serve to provide greater insight into urban regeneration’s complex relationship with wellbeing outcomes.

Perceptual Fluency and cognitive restoration in nature and urban environments

Wednesday 24th November, 4-5pm, GMT

To join please follow this link:

The speaker is Dr Catherine Thompson, a Lecturer in Cognitive Psychology at the University of Salford. Catherine will be providing an overview of cognitive restoration and explaining the theories and findings that contribute to our knowledge of how perceptions of space influence mental processing and wellbeing.

Humans have a limited number of mental resources and over time, as we complete difficult tasks and are confronted by challenging situations and different decisions to make, our cognitive resources start to diminish. This can mean that we are unable complete tasks effectively and we may start to make mistakes. Not only does this affect our productivity, but it also has a negative impact on our psychological wellbeing. However, research shows that certain environments (in particular natural environments) have the potential to restore cognitive processes, improve performance, and improve wellbeing (e.g., Bourrier et al., 2018; Lee et al., 2015; Ohly et al., 2016; Stevenson et al., 2019). To account for this, Attention Restoration Theory (ART; Kaplan & Kaplan, 1989; Kaplan, 1995; Kaplan & Berman, 2010) proposes that nature environments encompass “softly fascinating” stimuli that captures attention bottom-up, allowing for resource-intensive top-down attention to restore. The perceptual fluency account (Joye & van den Berg, 2011) argues that natural stimuli are easier to perceive, and this effortless processing leads to enhanced positive emotion and broadened attention. Whilst both theories can explain the findings related to cognitive restoration, the mechanisms responsible are not yet understood (Joye & Dewitte, 2018; Schertz & Berman, 2019). For instance, it is not clear what makes an environment “softly fascinating” or “perceptually fluent”. In this talk we will consider both theories and look at some of the features which may account for the cognitive restoration effect. Understanding what makes for a restorative environment can support our knowledge of space and how it impacts on the individual. It may also inform future design and practice.     

Some thoughts on Design Education

Monday 18th October, 6-7.30pm, GMT

In October 2021 we were very excited to host a public online talk from Harry Mallgrave, distinguished Professor Emeritus from the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago and an award-winning scholar. He has published widely on architectural history and theory, spatial perception, architects’ cognition and the design process. Among his recent publications are: 

Building Paradise: Episodes in Paradisiacal Thinking, forthcoming

From Object to Experience: The New Culture of Architectural Design, 2018

An Introduction to Architectural Theory: 1968 to the Present, 2011,

Architect’s Brain: Neuroscience, Creativity and Architecture, 2009

In his talk Professor Mallgrave discussed Design Education: Over the past quarter century we have made major advances in understanding our species in all of its biological, emotional, and sociological complexities, as well as our pivotal relationships with the natural and built environments. Yet the design of buildings and cities has not moved much off the aesthetic and technological markers set more than a half-century ago. What is the divide that disassociates what we know and what we express as designers? Is it not time to reconsider design education and in particular the values learned in the design studio?