A room with a view?

It’s one of those universally accepted truths, that in every hotel, guesthouse, or bed and breakfast – around the world – the rooms with the best views always cost more.

Why? Well, sadly, because it makes good business sense, as guests with more money, will generally pay more to have a room with a view.

And here’s another universally accepted truth. Everyone knows that a great view always makes you feel better. Why? Well that’s more complex, and is one of the reasons we have just published new research, which quantifies how the quality of the view matters too.

Our early study, exploring the urban brain on the move – using mobile EEG technology for the first time – generated global interest, showing a meditative effect of moving into green space in the city. The international media and press wanted to know more. ‘Could the benefits we found, apply to simply sitting and looking at a view of green space, as opposed to walking?’ they asked. The answer was a resounding yes.

Our follow up study, just published, explores brain activity whilst viewing different urban settings – sitting stationary. In this research, we presented our participants with a series of images with grey scenes (buildings only), grey-green (buildings with some green space) and green space-only scenes. We used a robust set of images, already scientifically proven to be sensitive to differences in subjective mental wellbeing. But a unique difference in our study was in measuring the EEG (electroencephalography) brain wave output of our participants as they viewed the scenes.

Using an Emotiv EPOC EEG recorder – as before – we measured the effect of different visual scenes on the same emotional parameters as in our mobile experiment i.e. excitement, frustration, engagement and meditation. Participants also rated the images subjectively using validated psychological emotional scales.

In line with other research – and using the same subjective scales – we found participants consistently rated the green space urban scenes more positively. This was good news, replicating other scientific research with the same photographs.

However a new and exciting new finding is the EEG output confirmed a restorative effect for simply siting and viewing a green scene – the green space scenes were consistently associated with higher levels of meditation and lower arousal (i.e. excitement) than the grey urban scenes.

By complete chance I was recently reading E M Foster’s classic 1908 novel, A Room with a View, and came upon the central character Lucy describing the scene from her Italian room.

‘It was pleasant, too, to fling wide the windows, pinching the fingers in unfamiliar fastenings, to lean out into sunshine with beautiful hills and trees and marble churches opposite, and, close below, ( sic. the river ) Arno, gurgling against the embankment of the road.”

Few of us are blessed to live and work with as generous a view, yet simply having a window looking out on green space does make a difference. Many people simply don’t.

It’s one of those universally accepted truths, that in every hotel, guesthouse, or bed and breakfast – around the world – the rooms with the best views always cost more.

Why? Well, sadly, because it makes good business sense, as guests with more money, will generally pay more to have a room with a view.

And here’s another universally accepted truth. Everyone knows that a great view always makes you feel better. Why? Well that’s more complex, and is one of the reasons we have just published new research, which quantifies how the quality of the view matters too.

Our early study, exploring the urban brain on the move – using mobile EEG technology for the first time – generated global interest, showing a meditative effect of moving into green space in the city. The international media and press wanted to know more. ‘Could the benefits we found, apply to simply sitting and looking at a view of green space, as opposed to walking?’ they asked. The answer was a resounding yes.

Our follow up study, just published, explores brain activity whilst viewing different urban settings – sitting stationary. In this research, we presented our participants with a series of images with grey scenes (buildings only), grey-green (buildings with some green space) and green space-only scenes. We used a robust set of images, already scientifically proven to be sensitive to differences in subjective mental wellbeing. But a unique difference in our study was in measuring the EEG (electroencephalography) brain wave output of our participants as they viewed the scenes.

Using an Emotiv EPOC EEG recorder – as before – we measured the effect of different visual scenes on the same emotional parameters as in our mobile experiment i.e. excitement, frustration, engagement and meditation. Participants also rated the images subjectively using validated psychological emotional scales.

In line with other research – and using the same subjective scales – we found participants consistently rated the green space urban scenes more positively. This was good news, replicating other scientific research with the same photographs.

However a new and exciting new finding is the EEG output confirmed a restorative effect for simply siting and viewing a green scene – the green space scenes were consistently associated with higher levels of meditation and lower arousal (i.e. excitement) than the grey urban scenes.

By complete chance I was recently reading E M Foster’s classic 1908 novel, A Room with a View, and came upon the central character Lucy describing the scene from her Italian room.

‘It was pleasant, too, to fling wide the windows, pinching the fingers in unfamiliar fastenings, to lean out into sunshine with beautiful hills and trees and marble churches opposite, and, close below, ( sic. the river ) Arno, gurgling against the embankment of the road.”

Few of us are blessed to live and work with as generous a view, yet simply having a window looking out on green space does make a difference. Many people simply don’t.

The research implications, for the design of our neighbourhood communities, and the workplace, is huge. My belief – based on our evidence – is that everyone should have access to a view from a window to de-stress and detangle their mind from the complexities and demands of everyday life.