Many people are aware of the established psychological phenomenon that our environment can shape our mental state. What we tend to underestimate, is how this effect isn’t just true on a personal level in our homes, but also on a broader scale with public buildings and even city layouts. Called neuro-architecture, this concept is increasingly becoming embraced as a way to improve public health and our general mood.

So, what exactly does neuro-architecture entail, and how does it change the way we see the world? Using examples from the world of casinos, we want to explore just how prevalent neuro-architecture can be, and why it’s becoming increasingly prevalent in the new age.

What is Neuro-Architecture?

The term neuro-architecture relates to the way that our engineered physical environment influences our cognitive states. It accomplishes this feat by appealing to both our inbuilt natural psychology as animals, as well as our learned and shared cultural appreciations. In simple terms, neuro-architecture leverages design to influence our mood.

As a concept, the basis of neuro-architecture has been around for millennia, but only recently has it become codified as a component of serious psychological theory. Illustrations of this in the past were often seen in nebulous ideas of architectural or interior design flow, and might even have had a base in more mystic theories like Fengshui.

Like many applications of psychological theory, drawing a direct line of what this entails to how it can be utilized can be difficult. This stands as the primary reason why only now, with our ever-advancing scientific knowledge, have definite patterns of neuro-architecture been set. Ostensibly originating in the brain’s hippocampus, certain designs and patterns are now established as creating a feeling of well-being and positive attitudes.

While functional, brutalism rarely inspires.

Brutalism” (CC BY 2.0) by Francisco Anzola

According to research performed by tracking responses through skin-conductance, EEG headsets, and information supplemented by personal accounts, the general use of neuro-architecture relates closely to brilliance and banality. Featureless and colourless designs, as is common in more industrial and brutalist styles, dragged people’s moods down. On the opposite end of the spectrum, complex and bright designs encouraged happiness and contentedness.

In typical modern use-cases, neuro-architecture is mostly seen in newer building projects with an emphasis on form. Older buildings, often designed to serve a specific purpose and little more, were far more likely to ignore appearance. This proved to be somewhat self-defeating, as it dismissed the complexities introduced by the human element.

Today, as we more learn increasingly more about the concept, neuro-architecture is finally starting to get the attention it deserves. We now know that, as worker performance is heavily affected by somebody’s happiness, a pleasant environment can be just as important as fulfilling a strict mechanical purpose.

The Casino Example

While perhaps accidental in its original implementation, casinos have long stood as one of the most pronounced examples of neuro-architectural design. Illustrations of this are common in the likes of Las Vegas, where space and colour have given the town its international reputation as the neon capital of the world.

The City of Neon earned its name well.

Fremont St. in Las Vegas” (CC BY-ND 2.0) by Daryl DeHart

At the exterior scale, the grand appearance of casinos combines the wonder of large-scale architecture with the brilliance of coloured lighting and electronic effects. Potential players are faced with the entire visual spectrum of light, drawing mental comparisons to the brilliance of nature illustrated by the arch of a rainbow or the hues of a peacock’s feathers.

Inside, this concept continues, with casinos putting their best foot forward to welcome outsiders within. Again, bright colours lead the way, with wide-open spaces giving patron’s minds a place to wander and dream about their potentials for striking it lucky. This aspect of an open room is one of the most important contributors, even sometimes running contrary to what a business might outwardly desire.

To maximize player engagement, an easy idea might be to cram as many tables and machines in a tight space as possible. However, by spreading everything out, players are given the physical and mental room to breathe, creating a much more welcoming environment than overcrowding could allow.

All of these components are then bolstered by the human workers within the casino, who dress to the theme to maintain a feeling of overall cohesion. They are part of the building, like a living piece of an overall design statement, carrying the concept of neuro-architecture to every facet of the experience.

This human element brings up an interesting idea, in how we can relate architecture to items which are not strictly architectural. To continue this exploration, consider the idea of casinos which make the jump into the digital space.

Extrapolating into a Digital Space

Online casinos, despite operating to accomplish a similar goal as their brick-and-mortar cousins, face a different set of concerns from their place in the digital sphere. For an example of this, online blackjack for real money needs a different approach than a physical casino would for games like multi-hand, super stakes, and live casino games.

For live games, which offer real dealers being video streamed, bridging the gap of neuro-architecture can be possible through the stage on which the dealers operate. Even if acting as a set, these stages can achieve comparable feats to what physical casinos can, with our minds filling the in blanks of what we cannot see.

In games without a live component, the responsibility goes to both the website and the individual games. This introduces a new set of challenges, where the limited space available needs to be appealing, while at the same time never drifting into the realm of overcomplexity. To create the best experience, a fusion of user-experience elements needs to be addressed. The first part of this comes from traditional graphics and UI design, while the second plays into generating a mental relationship to physical casino neuro-architecture, not an easy task.

Even small changes can make a big difference in neuro-architecture.

Pyrmont: Sydney architecture” (CC BY 2.0) by goranhas

The idea of neuro-architecture is one that is rapidly gaining steam on a wide variety of different systems. On the grandest scale, it’s now been adopted into city and building design, where benefits to the people could be profound and long-lasting if a little difficult to objectively measure. On a more intimate level, our understanding of the concept could also have implications far beyond the physical realm. Even if as just an excuse to bring more colour and variety into our lives, this is a concept we can only hope continues to gain traction, as our understanding of neuro-architecture continues to grow.

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