Effects of Urban Spatial Configurations and Physical Structures on Pedestrians' Perception of Subjective Duration

Amir Shakibamanesh, Mahshid Ghorbanian

pp. 95 - 117, download




One of the less-noticed arguments associated with urban-space perception while moving is the pedestrians' subjective time perception. Indeed, in many cases, the pedestrians' perception of the time needed to travel a distance is shorter or longer than the actual time. The main objective of this paper—which has been neglected by many urban designers—is to determine the effect of the physical-spatial structure of a built environment on the pedestrians' perception of time. It is hypothesized that different spatial configurations and physical structures can have specific effects on the observer's subjective perception of time, while moving in an urban space.Since this study needed to examine different types of physical-spatial structures from a time perspective, while preventing the possible involvement of other non-physical factors that affect people's time estimates, real urban environments received limited use in this study. Instead, the researchers used a virtual-reality technique to maximize the similarity between the observers' perceived conditions and the real environment. This makes it possible to make dynamic and continuous changes to the physical-spatial variables under study in a semi-real context, and to control other variables affecting the time variable.  In addition, to achieve a systematic and logical review, the researchers analyzed the effects of the physical-spatial structures in nine defined simulated tests on pedestrians' subjective time perception. The results supported the hypothesis of a logical relationship between certain physical-spatial configurations and the observer's subjective time perception while moving in an urban space. The logical relationships between the nine configurations studied in this paper were presented as part of the study’s practical results.


Keywords: Time perception, Subjective duration, Physical structure, Spatial configuration, Virtual reality


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