Seeing the 'Unseen' in Devens, MA - A Biometric Study to Understand the ‘Unconscious' Human Experience of a New Development

APA Connecticut Chapter


Thursday, October 18, 2018
11:30 a.m. - 12:45 p.m. EDT

CM | 1.25

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Today we live in a new ‘Age of Biology’ where new findings in cognitive science coupled with new biometric tools can help us better understand human behavior. Technologies such as EEG, which measures brain waves, facial expression analysis software which follows our changing expressions, and eye-tracking software that allows us to record ‘unconscious’ eye movements, provide game-changing information about how our brain takes in our surroundings and directs our behavior. These technologies, widely used to create advertising, computers, automobiles, and other products in our world, remain relatively unknown and untested in the fields of architecture, planning and real estate development. In this pilot-study, we explore their usefulness in assessing a new residential real estate development which was designed to promote sustainability and healthy living.

Reviewing the study protocol, the session outlines how photographs of the new neighborhood were collected and then assessed with emulation software (3M’s Visual Attention Software) to predict what elements of a new residential street draw the eye. Study conclusions include how people ignore blank facades, how fixations drive exploration including walkability and how biometrics gives us new insight into what makes developments successful as well as ways to remedy those that aren’t so.

The audience will learn how biometrics can forecast our response to different buildings and street plans, including predicting ease of walkability. They will gain familiarity with terms describing hidden human behaviors including pre-attentive processing, as well as those describing visual mechanisms that manage response to stimuli including fixations and saccades.




Justin Hollander

Invited Speaker

Justin B. Hollander, PhD, AICP, is an associate professor of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning and director of the C.A.G.S. in Urban Justice and Sustainability at Tufts University. His research and teaching is in the areas of shrinking cities, Big Data, brownfields, and the intersection between ... Read More

Ann Sussman

Invited Speaker

Ann Sussman, AIA. An architect, university lecturer and biometric researcher, Ann is passionate about understanding how buildings effect people emotionally. Her book, Cognitive Architecture, Designing for How We respond to the Built Environment, (2015) co-authored with Justin Hollander, won the Place Research Award from the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA ... Read More

Neil Angus

Invited Speaker

Neil Angus, AICP CEP, LEED AP. An Environmental Planner with Devens Enterprise Commission – the regulatory authority overseeing the redevelopment of the former Fort Devens Army Base located in central/eastern Massachusetts. Neil assists in the long-range and day to day planning and sustainable redevelopment operations for Devens and holds a ... Read More

Peter Lowitt

Invited Speaker

Peter Lowitt, FAICP, is Director/Land Use Administrator of the Devens Enterprise Commission, the agency charged with permitting the redevelopment of the former Fort Devens army base in Massachusetts. At Devens, Mr. Lowitt focuses on the sustainable redevelopment of the 4400-acre former army base. He is an international expert on ... Read More

Contact Info

Justin Hollander,