Monday, May 14, 2007

Environment Matters: Lofty Ceilings Inspire Lofty Thoughts

Because the height of ceilings seems to be one of the most influential architectural features on people's mood and feelings of well-being, marketing researchers Meyers-Levy and Zhu sought to understand how environments of different ceiling heights might affect thinking performance.

The results were interesting. Environment did affect performance scores, but high ceilings were not uniformly better - rather they just appeared to promote different ways of processing the same information. Whereas high ceilings were a catalyst for abstract and relational thinking, low ceilings were better at promoting concrete analysis.

When subjects looked at a list of different sports-related items in high ceiling environments, they were more likely to draw abstract relationships and connections between items. On the other hand, subjects in low ceiling environments were better at identifying specific differences among the items so fewer common groups were generated.

For different steps in the creative process, one could envision different optimal environments. Low ceilings might be optimal when close analysis is required, wbereas high ceilings might be desired (or no ceilings, such as a walk outside), when an expansion of ideas is needed.

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