An interdisciplinary look between neuroarchitecture and psychology

From the moment that one starts to look at the projectual act through the bias of neuroarchitecture, the professional needs to open up to the discoveries made in areas that study the human being in the foreground, and unveil their way of reading and interpreting the world. This is because neuroarchitecture has brought man back to the protagonism of works, and the appropriation of spaces.


I invited a psychologist, a master in social and personality psychology, and a doctor in philosophy, Marivania Bocca, who works with Sartrean existentialist psychology, to support important concepts that are raised during the projectual act, and that contribute so that we improve the reading that we must do with the public that we are going to serve with our projects in architecture and design.


Lorí Crízel – How does Sartrean phenomenological-existential psychology explain the cognitive differences of male and female brains? And how does it understand human beings in general, regardless of gender?


Marivania Bocca – This question is very specific, from an also specific area and very controversial in the sciences. The areas that actually study brain aspects anatomically and physiologically speaking are: neurophysiology and neuroanatomy. Other related areas, such as the case of psychoneurophysiology, also invest in studies on this theme. However, our approach to research and action is different. We do not understand human reality from biological, organic or mentalistic matters. When we talk about psychology and its interfaces with architecture, the heart of the matter is to try to understand the differences between people (regardless of biological sex or gender issues) through their histories and cultures, as well as the way each one appropriates, or not, this socio-cultural environment in which they are inserted. Our understanding is, therefore, analytical and synthetic. Therefore, an understanding that is based on the philosophical lens as well as the Sartrean-inspired psychology. In fact, to make this possible, we use Jean-Paul Sartre’s “progressive-regressive method” (1960), as a way of knowing the events of human reality. Thus, the Sartrean method employs both a regressive and a progressive movement. It is a “back and forth” between the abstract and the concrete, between the universal and the singular. It is a method that aims at totalization, always based on the understanding of singularity and difference. Therefore, we can say that this method of existentialist approach is a regressive-progressive and analytical-synthetic method. It is a totalizing method, since the singular person is taken as a totality. A person must always be fully understood. The Sartrean method is characterized by two distinct moments: 1) first, we make a movement to go back to the past – analytical and regressive moment – to understand and analyze the  anthropological, social, and sociological dimensions of the person. We started from the singular biography to apprehend the differential. This movement allows us to learn cultural aspects, habits and traditions, in other words, the history of the person; 2) in a second moment the movement is responsible for the synthesis, therefore it is synthetic and progressive – we return to the present to understand what the person wants for their future. What the person does and will do with their own story towards their project of being. If we approach architecture, this “back and forth” movement is essential for the construction of a good briefing. Because, only by getting to know the client, will the professional feel safe to design – eliminating or, at least, minimizing the risk of the client declaring: “I don’t recognize myself in the design of my house, or even, my house became the ‘identity’ of my architect, and not my own”. When this happens, the professional whose ethics is not only economic should ask himself: in what way have I contributed for my client not to take ownership of the project (of what was designed for him)? This type of reflection helps a lot in minimizing relational problems so common in the area of ​​architecture.


Lorí Crízel – How does Sartrean phenomenological-existential psychology explain the way people behave according to their environment?


Marivania Bocca – People relate to the world through a dialectical process of interiorization of the exterior and exteriorization of the interior. Therefore, it is necessary that the architect, when carrying out the briefing, takes into consideration who is (are) the subject (s) for whom he designs. The professional needs to understand that his clients (the users of his projects) are natural/universal people, who are situated in a very specific context: political, cultural, social, economic, therefore, each of these people relates to this context in a unique way. In Sartrean theory, all human praxis (action) occurs in and through relationships with other people and with materiality (objects/utensils that are closely related to different cultures). Every person is born in a context of materiality that is given (tax). Therefore, since childhood the person needs to act with this materiality that was imposed onto them. The elements of this materiality preceding the subject happen according to the purposes for which they were created, as well as from the needs of the person, so that the person can, when confronted in their freedom, choose what they will do with the materiality (imposed) in towards their future – accepting or denying what was predetermined to them. That is how a person will choose how they will deal with the socio-material context in which they are inserted. We can also say that the condition of freedom of a person makes them choose at every moment what they will be and what they will do the next moment, therefore, according to the philosophy and psychology of Sartrean verve, the human being is a project of be towards a future.


Lorí Crízel – Has psychology been able to map how the process of awakening to consumption occurs in human beings? How do you arouse this desire to consume something? What are the elements that act on the human being that make them feel that they need something?


Marivania Bocca – We will try to address the three issues from the context of the notion of desire through the lens of Sartrean-inspired psychology. Speaking of desire implies talking about a person’s project of being. Better explaining. Every person will make a choice based on their desire, which we understand here as a lack, as well as their need to choose the desired object. Thus, we can say that the person, through their desire (lack), will have the need to make choices, at all times, of something that can fill them in the next moment. The person launches into the future as a project, envisioning what they want. Therefore, they act in the world regarding the given materiality. What motivates a person is not the object/utensil itself that is in the world, but the need to get rid of the state of anguish arising from freedom and the negativity of being, since at each moment we choose what we will be in the following moment. What a person will look for in the world, as a thing to be followed (pursued), will be what can relieve them, momentarily, of their existential anguish. Temporarily fulfilling their nothingly condition as existing. When identifying in the world the object/utensil that can fill them in their existential emptiness providing immediate relief, the person with that, experiences being the one who has/owns a house, for example. Thus, we can say that it is from the own person that the need (lack/reason) comes and it is they who elect/choose what else can be pleasurable (object/tool) to temporarily fill their existential emptiness. However, many times the object ends up being chosen by another person, for example, the architect. Such a choice is often made in such a way that the person (customer/user) does not reflect on the real need or desire to have this object/utensil chosen by the other (in this case the architect). The person (client) ends up choosing, in an alienated way, what has been chosen for and to them. When an architect, for example, tries to “guess” what is best for his client, it can work when the client identifies with what is offered to them. This often occurs without any kind of reflection on the part of the client/user, who does so, as a way of minimizing their own anguish in the face of the numerous options presented. Therefore, in order not to come into contact with the anguish inherent in the human condition of freedom, the person chooses not to choose – they ask someone else to do it for them. Let us look at a classic example of a client in relation to the architect or designer – often the client chooses not to choose and ends up attributing to the other (in this case, the architecture or design professional) the power of their choice, as a way to minimize their anguish in the face of freedom and responsibility: “and if it were you, which one would you choose”. By allowing someone else to make the choice in ‘my’ place, I come to believe (self-deception) that I will be exempt from the need to take responsibility for the human condition of freedom. Here is the manifestation of what Sartre calls bad faith. Therefore, it is up to the professional of architecture or design to enable, in order to equip their client through knowledge (giving a kind of lesson) about the concepts, functions, aesthetics about the materials, about the colors, trends, fad, ephemeral to the lasting. Only with knowledge will the client be able to feel secure in making a (their own) choice. And this is only possible if the relationship established between professional and client is authentic.


Lorí Crízel – When psychology studies human behavior, does the environmental factor have a strong influence? For example: can reading the spaces where men find themselves lead to a desire for consumption?


Marivania Bocca – As human beings a singular subject and at the same time universal, derived from mediations with other people and with the material world, therefore, they must be understood as a socio-historical and dialectical subject. In constant movement, human beings are constituted through their praxis with the world, composed of other people and materiality. As for consumption, we are inserted in a capitalist context, therefore, the logic is of production and profit. Therefore, human negativity is a fact, and the positivity of the object of the thing itself, of the utensil. There will always be a positivity in the world as a thing/object, which it simply is, and because it is something, it can minimize, or even temporarily fill the existential void, the human condition in its negativity. So, the more objects/utensils available in the world, the more possibility the person will have to choose what can temporarily fill it. The logic of consumption is: facing human emptiness (negativity), spaces (stores, window display, websites and others) are created, whose function is to show positivity (object/utensil, the thing in itself that is in its positivity essence) – offering numerous options for which human beings can minimize their negativity. These spaces need to reach, in a functional and aesthetic way, the core of human existence, the lack of. Therefore, the ‘window display’, ‘store’ or ‘sales website’ has something in it so that the customer can choose among the various options the one that best suits their needs and desires.


Lorí Crízel – How does psychology explain a phenomenon called doll, characteristic of the female personality and widely used in commercial architecture to create the feeling of doubt when making choices? When, since childhood, a woman is induced to feel guilty for having to make certain choices?


Marivania Bocca – I do not know the doll theory to be able to issue any positioning from it. What I can say very briefly about women and men who choose not to express their opinions, their desires and needs in relation to their choices (for example, of materials that involve architectural or interior design) can be thought of as movement in bad faith, as seen above in another issue. With regard more specifically to the female gender, we cannot fail to bring up historical questions that the woman for a long time did not have a “voice” or “time” to assert herself in her choices. For such, we would need to better reflect in order to extend to the historical domain of social movements (suffragettes, feminists and others) that fought to minimize inequality between men and women. If we were able to expand our reflection, we would have to contextualize the different cultures that are still perpetrated by the male dominance.


About Marivania Cristina Bocca:
Marivania Cristina Bocca is a psychologist. Master’s degree in Social and Personality Psychology from PUC/RS. Specialist in Existential Phenomenological Psychology by UNIPAR/Umuarama/PR. Specialization in Sartrean Existentialist Psychology by UNISUL/Florianópolis/SC. Doctor’s degree in Philosophy from UNIOESTE/Toledo/PR. Sandwich doctorate from UBI – Covilhã/Portugal.

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