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Academic's research features on Channel 4

Posted on 11/08/2011

A Royal Holloway academic uses his research to help provide a window into the mind of a Channel 4 presenter as part of a series looking into the impact design and architecture can have on our behaviour, feelings and even identity.

Being screened on Channel 4, The Secret Life of Buildings explores the effects that architecture can have on the mood and behaviour of its users. On Monday night’s episode Dr Tim Holmes from the Department of Psychology at Royal Holloway, University of London, tracks the eye-movements of series presenter, Tom Dyckhoff, as he walks around Westfield Shopping Mall to determine his aesthetic preferences and to examine how the building manipulates the attention of the viewer.

Dr Holmes explains: “It became clear that the design of the mall uses such cues to great effect, causing the visitor’s attention to be constantly on the move. This in turn maximises their exposure to store and brand names as well as window displays, effectively delivering their attention into the hungry mouths of the shops inhabiting the mall.

“The experiment uses state of the art mobile eye-tracking technology in the form of Tobii Glasses which allow eye-movement research to step out of the lab environment and into the real world, making this a particularly effective tool for applied psychological research.”

Dr Holmes says that eye-movement and attention are so closely linked that these movements genuinely offer a window into the mind of an individual, something which he explored further in his PhD, which resulted in the development of an innovative algorithm which allows users to create original designs using just their eyes. This methodology typically produces designs which are strongly preferred by the users and the technology, which has been tested with a variety of different image types including commercial package designs.

It is currently on show in the Who Am I? gallery at the London Science Museum as part of the Live Science programme where more than 400 visitors to the museum have already created unique cartoon dinosaurs which strongly reflect their colour and shape preferences as part of a wider research project. The experiment runs between 12.00-18.00 on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, some Saturdays and Sundays until 30 September.

The Secret Life of Buildings will be broadcast at 8pm on Monday (15 August)


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