Intimidating buildings: Can courthouse architecture affect perceived likelihood of conviction?

Anne Maass, Ilaria Merici, Erica Villafranca, Rosaria Furlani, Elena Gaburro, Anna Getrevi, Margherita Masserini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study tested the hypothesis that courthouse architecture may affect the feelings of hypothetical users as well as their estimates of likelihood of conviction. Participants (N=120) from Northern Italy were asked to imagine a hypothetical trial to which they accompanied a wrongly accused friend; the trial either took place in a medieval or in a modern 'high-style' courthouse. Compared to the old courthouse, the modern courthouse elicited significantly greater discomfort in participants already familiar with the respective building. Regardless of familiarity, participants estimated a greater likelihood that the friend would be convicted when the trial took place in the new building. Although the two courthouses were judged equally attractive on general dimensions of aesthetics, the new one was judged as more intimidating. Links between architectural features and social-cognitive processes are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)674-683
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironment and Behavior
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science


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