Probing the Person-Patina Relationship: A Correlational Study on the Psychology of Senescent Environments

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Wells, J. C. (2020). Probing the Person-Patina Relationship: A Correlational Study on the Psychology of Senescent Environments. Collabra: Psychology, 6(1).


There is a lack of research on people’s psychological perceptions to decay or patina that is part of the historic environment. Built heritage conservation doctrine and law are based on the assumption that all people have a similar, positive aesthetic perception to patina in the built environment, although there are very few empirical studies that have attempted to confirm or challenge this assumption. This study is based on the statistical analysis of survey data from 864 people in the United States who ranked 24 images of old, decayed building materials and 7 control images of new building materials based on aesthetic qualities, condition, and perceived age. The results indicate that people do not like decayed earthen building materials, concrete, or ferrous metals and have a neutral opinion of the aesthetic qualities of aged brick, preferring new brick as well as aged wood. While there are small differences based on race, ethnicity, and gender, the largest difference in responses is between people who work in the historic preservation/CRM field and those who do not. This finding appears to indicate that people who work in these fields have a different psychological response to decay/patina in the built environment than laypeople, which has important ramifications in terms of decision-making processes regarding interventions in the older built environment.


This data repository consists of the following documents:

  • "Wells - Probing the Person-Patina Relationship (pre-print).pdf": Pre-print, working paper of the published journal article.
  • "Person-patina study - survey responses.csv": raw survey responses
  • "Person-patina study - survey instrument.pdf": survey instrument

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