Mystery is the promise of more
information achieved through
partially obscured views or
other sensory devices that
entice the individual to travel
deeper into the environment
A space with a good mystery condition has a palpable sense of anticipation, or of being teased, offering the senses a kind of denial and reward that compels one to further investigate the space.
ROOTS OF THe PATTeRn
The mystery pattern is largely based on the idea that people have two basic needs in environments: to understand and to explore (Kaplan & Kaplan, 1989) and that these ‘basic needs’ should occur “from one’s current position” in order to engender a sense of mystery (Herzog and Bryce, 2007). The mystery pattern has evolved from research on visual preference and perceived danger, as well as pleasure responses to anticipatory situations. Mystery engenders a strong pleasure response within the brain that may be a similar mechanism to that of anticipation, which is hypothesized to be an explanation for why listening to music is so pleasurable – in that we are guessing what may be around the corner. [P13] The benefits of mystery conditions are suggested to include improved preference for a space; heightened curiosity; increased interest in gaining more information and greater likelihood of encountering other biophilic conditions.
A quality mystery condition does not engender a fear response; the conditions that differentiate between surprise (i.e., fear) and pleasure center around the visual depth of field. An obscured view with a shallow depth of field has shown to lead to unpleasant surprises, whereas greater visual access, with a medium (≥20 ft) to high (≥100 ft) depth of field is preferred (Herzog and Bryce, 2007).
A good mystery condition could also be expressed through the obscuring of the boundaries and a portion of the focal subject (i.e., room, building, outdoor space, or other information source), thereby enticing the user to anticipate the full extent of the subject and explore the space further (Ikemi, 2005).