Environmental Psychology and Interior Design

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Imagine this.  Two neighbor cities, one inhabited with nice people and one populated with hostile people. The reason? The soil.

While traveling through West Asia, Marco Polo encountered the good people of Kerman and the wicked people of Persia. Curious as to why such big difference in behavior between the sister cities, the King of Kerman devised an experiment. He ordered his men to have soil brought from the neighbor city and placed it on the floors of his banquet hall. The soil was to be hidden under carpets and tested on guests. It was reported that the guests standing on the foreign soil began offending one another, thus the soil was the culprit. Spencer and Gee believe this may be the first recorded environmental psychology experiment.

What does “evil” soil has to do with environmental psychology, or interior design? Is that even a “true” story? Well, all that could be debated, however the important question here is how does our environment influences our behavior? That is what environmental psychology is all about, exploring the effects of the physical environment on humans.

In the Handbook of Environmental Psychology Stokos & Altman (1987) define environmental psychology as ”...the study of the mutual relations between the socio-physical environment at all scales and human behavior at all levels of analysis, and the utilization of knowledge thus gained in improving the quality of life through better informed environmental policy, planning, and design. It focuses on the interdependence of physical environmental systems and explicitly includes both environmental and human factors.”

Findings in the environmental psychology field can be applied in interior design as evidence based design. Early research in the field of environmental psychology has been incorporated in the design of healthcare environments to promote healing and recovery. For example, spatial configurations in hospitals have been used to promote interactions or isolation, adequate privacy and personal space can help the mental state of a patient, and natural elements or views can help aid recuperation.

What do you think? Have you ever noticed if your surroundings affected your mood, interactions or wellbeing?