Vakgroep Psychologie, Gezondheid & Technologie

Interior design in health care settings: creating healing environments

Type opdracht: Ba

In –of extern?: intern (mogelijk ook extern, in overleg)

Meerdere studenten mogelijk? Ja: 2

When admitted to a hospital or other health care facility patients generally experience feelings of stress, anxiety, and uncertainty. These negative emotional responses may have adverse effects on the patients psychological well-being, response to medical treatment, and speed of recovery. The physical environment in most of these health care facilities is purely functional and lacks attention for the psychological needs of patients. Recently, research is focusing on principles of ‘healing environments’ to identify interior design features that may contribute beneficially to patients’ health status, such as the use of colors, nature stimuli, music, furniture and odors.

The Anouk Foundation is a Swiss charity organization that realizes visual art projects in hospitals and other health care institutions throughout Europe. Large wall paintings (murals) are created by teams of artists, inspired by staff values and targeted to specific patient populations. The Foundation has collected a database of this artwork.

In this thesis assignment students will test a selection of these murals on specific issues, such as:

Does the mural fulfill the requirements as expressed by the institutions’ staff?

Does the mural evoke associations that may contribute to beneficial psychological processes?

Does the mural elicit beneficial immediate psychological responses, when tested under circumstances of increased stress?

In these studies we will work with simulated hospital environments, in which these murals may be compared. To generate a more immersive experience during exposure to the simulated hospital environment we aim to employ VR-technology available at the BMS Lab.

We also have contact with the Maxima Centrum for child oncology in Utrecht, where murals of the Anouk Foundation are installed. This may provide an opportunity to do a study on location.

Type onderzoek:

Several study designs are possible, depending on the research question chosen, ranging from an observational study collecting open associations when exposed to the art work, to an experimental study.


Dijkstra, K., Pieterse, M.E. Pruyn, A.T.T. (2008). Stress-reducing effects of indoor plants in the built healthcare environment: the mediating role of perceived attractiveness. Preventive Medicine, 47: 279-283.

Dijkstra, K., Pieterse, M.E. Pruyn, A.T.T. (2008). Individual differences in reactions towards color in healthcare environments: The role of stimulus screening ability. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 28: 268-77.

Dijkstra, K., Pieterse, M., Pruyn, A. (2006). Physical environmental stimuli that turn healthcare facilities into healing environments: systematic review. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 56(2), 166-182.

Anouk Foundation:

More information:

Marcel Pieterse (PGT):

Thomas van Rompay (CW-CMC):