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Exploring the Psychology of Environmental Senescence through fMRI

Jeremy Wells’ research uses environmental psychology to understand an individual’s relationship with heritage and how this knowledge can help address social injustices and inequality. This “human-centered” focus is common in natural resource or environmental conservation and evidence-based design, but rarely used in heritage conservation. This perspective, however, holds much promise in understanding people’s unique emotional attachment to historic places and ways that these places can be conserved to maximize human flourishing. A human-centered perspective in built heritage conservation provides important insight into the causes of inequity, conflict, and social injustices in how built heritage conservation is practiced and to better guide the implementation of policies focused on equity and access. An example of Wells’ research is his work using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan people’s brains to understand how “historic” versus “non-historic” places activate or do not activate certain parts of the brain with the aim of making historic preservation practice more human-centered. This research makes a fundamental contribution to the nascent field of the psychology of historic environments (i.e., senescent environments), providing a preliminary data-driven understanding of the brain’s responses to an environment with evident signs of advancing physical age (i.e., with decay and/or patina).

Semester / Year
Spring 2019 to Present

Team Members

Erica Molinario
Stephanie D. Preston
Program / Center Affiliation