Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Craig Bowman

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© 2017 Natalie M. Ricci


The interplay between architectural design and human psychology is significant, yet it remains largely unnoticed or even ignored both in and outside the design industry. Moreover, the relationship between design and psychology is not only consequential, it is bidirectional. On the one hand, successful design has been shown to have clear psychological and physiological impacts; on the other, psychology, human experience, and the function of our neurological systems all play a significant role in what we perceive to be successful design. This thesis endeavors to create an understanding of how that complex relationship evolved and how it works in today's world. It does so by first exploring how the human brain and nervous system is structured and functions, how that structure and function benefited our human ancestors, and how modern society impacts that function. With that knowledge as a background, the interrelationship – both positive and negative – between design, psychology and our nervous system is explored. Successful design patterns are reviewed, including those that evoke the same sense of security sought by our human ancestors, as well as those whose specific patterns have a meaningful psychological basis. Similarly, reasons why some design forms and themes have not been successful are explored, as is the modern-day challenge of human stress that results from those poorly designed buildings and spaces. Finally, the importance of incorporating nature into the human built environment to take advantage of its positive psychological impact and restorative properties is explored.