How do urban environments influence our brains and emotions? Psychologists have long conducted laboratory experiments to understand these effects. We were interested in testing actual city spaces. Research psychologist Colin Ellard and Happy City principal Charles Montgomery created a participatory experiment to test the effect of public spaces in New York, Berlin, and Mumbai. The method: guide groups of volunteer participants through the urban terrain and measure the effects of environment on their bodies and minds.

Participants were equipped with sensors that measured physiological arousal and smartphones that allowed them to record their subjective responses to place. The experiment confirmed the positive effect that nature exposure has on emotions and produced novel insights on the effect of architecture and street use.