Author: Caroline Davies
Research using brain scans finds people experience feelings of contentment from places more than from objects such as photographs or wedding rings.
The poet WHAuden is credited with first coining the word “topophilia” to describe a strong emotional pull to a special place.
Now scientific research, using cutting-edge brain imaging, suggests Auden was on to something. According to a study commissioned by the National Trust, people experience intense feelings of wellbeing, contentment and belonging from places that evoke positive memories far more than treasured objects such as photographs or wedding rings.
A Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) study commissioned by the NT set out to “understand this visceral but intangible feeling more deeply”.
The NT report, Places That Make Us, commissioned Surrey University academics and research experts to conduct fMRI scans as well as in-depth interviews with volunteers, and an online survey of 2,000 people, about their special places.
“Working with leading researchers and academics, and using cutting-edge fMRI brain technology, we examined how places affect people, how they become special and why we feel a pull towards them,” said Nino Strachey, head of research for the NT.
It found places that are intensely meaningful invoke a sense of calm, space to think and a feeling of completeness.
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