Surprise, arousal, and pleasantness in movement between spaces

  • Margherita Brondino University of Verona
  • Jack Leon Nasar The Ohio State University
  • Margherita Pasini University of Verona
  • Saleheh Bokharaei Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran


In one theory as perceived surprise increases, arousal increases and pleasantness increase up to a point, after which it levels off or decreases. However, studies indicate that for environmental response, arousal and pleasantness are independent of one another. Those studies did not examine movement through spaces. We sought to study response to surprise as experienced in moving between pairs of offices. We created three simulated offices (A, B, and C) and nine virtual walks between each possible pair, such that some walks had no physical differences (AA, BB, and CC), some had moderate physical differences (AB, BA, BC, CB), and some had larger physical differences (AC, CA). A test confirmed that the manipulations worked as planned. To measure arousal and pleasantness, we created two three-item scales (each in English and Italian). We assigned participants in the US (121 adults, 47 men, 84 men) and Italy (67 adults, 343 men, 33 women) at random to either a within-group condition or one of the three between-group conditions (Low Surprise, Medium Surprise, or High Surprise). We used the within group to test the CFA model, and we used the between group conditions to test the effects of surprise. The CFA found the two three-item scales fit the multi-level model well. We combined the items into two three-item scales for the analysis of effects of surprise. Both arousal and pleasantness increased from low to moderate surprise, but decreased from moderate to high surprise. The results suggest value in studying dynamic environmental experience.

Author Biography

Jack Leon Nasar, The Ohio State University
Academy Professor, City & Regional Planning


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