It’s been a year since I started writing about relations between people’s environment and their feelings, thoughts and behaviour. I find Mind Shaped Box’s first birthday a great opportunity to summarize what were, for me, the most significant points over the past year. I decided that there should be 10 of them.
With 29 topics in environmental psychology covered, I’d like to start with 3 of my favourites posts:
Point No.1 The first is the post about research revelling that children residing in higher-quality housing were found to have greater socioemotional wellbeing, independently of family income. Thus, a good home doesn’t equal wealthy home, but the one with accessible children’s resources, and the one that’s safe, clean, private etc. For me, this is the core of what environmental psychology should be about – stressing the importance of taking care of our environment and supporting the idea with research. However, this turned out to my most neglected post, since out of 12 000 visits to the blog, only 17 people actually read this post. Go figure.
photo by hownowdesign
Point No.2 Another post, based on a review of literature on consequences of high-rise living, represents a topic I’d like to know more about. I wish there were more research including architectural and design variables like housing type, housing size, floor plans, window size, etc.
Wilis Tower, Chicago; photo by contemplative imaging
Point No.3 Being a school psychologist, I feel strongly about the relation between academic performance and school building condition.
Then, here are the 3 most popular posts (funny, but I can never guess which posts will be liked more than others; it’s always a surprise to me):
Point No.4 The post about environmental cues that prompt us to eat more got its 3000 visitors after being submitted to a Reddit sub forum about weight loss.
Point No.5 The idea that thinking process could be affected by ceiling height of the room was also interesting to some Redditors making it the second most popular post with around 2000 visits.
Seattle Public Library, U.S.; photo by David Zeibin
Point No.6 The third most popular is a post about counseling office decor, and most people who read it, had found it via search engines. I did a follow-up on displaying diplomas in therapist offices, since it seems that in the field where psychology and decor overlap, most people are looking for info on counseling decor.
photo by favaro JR.
I am very curious about how people find my site, so I was surprised find out that after Reddit and Google, my most influential refferer was a blogger (obviously a popular one) Ran Prieur, a writer and thinker who just randomly mentioned one of my posts. If anything, it thought me of the importance of networking. The truth is, I could really benefit from the feedback by other people interested in this field, so I’ll easily set my priorities for the next year: continuous writing (maybe with a broader range of topics – as an empirically trained psychologist, I’m still warming up to the idea that I could write anything that’s not supported by research!), and, yes, networking!
What’s that in London?; photo by Jonnee
Here come the major challenges I expect on that journey – from my limited experience so far, I could sort reactions on research in environmental psychology into three categories:
Point No.7 Random people who don’t have any professional interest in the field or anywhere close will say: “That’s kind of obvious. I can’t belive that somebody actually investigated this.” For instance, they think it’s obvious that high ceilings facilitate abstract thinking, and low ceilings facilitate sequential, detail-oriented thinking.
An elephant in Singapore; photo by chooyutshing
Point No.9 And architects, well, they’ll show what they’re good at. “High ceilings were used by this famous architect, and that famous architect, and in this era and that era.” I don’t really get the feeling that they think of implementing research findings into their work. I might be wrong, but it seems to me that they’re getting professional acclaim for being individualist, daring, and pushing people out their comfort zone, and not so much for serving their clients well and making comfy homes for them. I belive that there’s room for Eiffel towers of the world, that is, ingenious dwellings which are ahead of their time, and are thus misunderstood and disliked by their contemporists. However, it’s good that there’s only one Eiffel tower in Paris. Most of the existing architecture is and should be comfotable for common people to look at and live in, and I think that kind of architecture deserves more attention.
Point No.10 Well, if there was to be only one point of this post, it would be this one. What I miss about the aforementioned three reactions is communication. Even though there’s a scientific field that connects the interests of psychologists, architects and all the people who want to improve their homes, we manage to remain in parallel universes by treating findings the way it suits us.
Elephant parade 2010, London; photo by Matt From London
I hope that, by now, you’re wondering what’s the deal with all the elephants. My images are rarely that random. Well, here’s the deal. This lack of real communication between different experts reminds me of the story of 6 blind men and the elephant. If you don’t know of it, here it is: Six blind men were asked to determine what an elephant looked like by feeling different parts of the elephant’s body. The blind man who feels a leg says the elephant is like a pillar; the one who feels the tail says the elephant is like a rope; the one who feels the trunk says the elephant is like a tree branch; the one who feels the ear says the elephant is like a hand fan; the one who feels the belly says the elephant is like a wall; and the one who feels the tusk says the elephant is like a solid pipe.
They all stick to what is known to them and belive that they’re right and that others must be wrong. Since they all are right, but partly, only by accepting the experiences of others they would be able to gain a greater understanding of what an elephant is. It’s very similar with environmental psychology because there needs to be real, constructive interdisciplinary discussion and collaboration in order for it to grow to its full potential.
Environmental psychology is one of my elephants and intend to examine it from different angles. It would be great if more people would add up to this journey. I belive that it has a lot to offer when it comes to improving our quality of life, but if depends on every one of us how much we are willing to accept.
***Anyway, happy bithday, MSB!***