Physical structure has a significant effect on human behavior. As humans find themselves spending more time enclosed within the walls of structure, it becomes valuable to design structures integrating features of the natural environment and structural landscape features into the human-made environment (Joye, 2007). Research suggests the design of residential and commercial space has pervasive effects on its inhabitants and is an important consideration in architectural design.
Physical Structure as it Affects Human Behavior
Architecture, a symbolic and intentional endeavour seems to reflect the psychology of its designers regardless of time, culture and perhaps even species. Space, form, and light are elements that are often incorporated either purposefully of unconsciously for aesthetic or practical reasons but more pointedly give creatures meaning, purpose and stability amidst an ever changing physical universe of seeming chaos (Popow, 2000).
Architecture can be perceived as purely functional, although some, but certainly not all can be the esthetically pleasing, similar to the affect of any art form. It can also be an expression of cultural pride, societal passion, or national esteem (Ayers, 2007). Research supports the idea that architectural design and the structure of space, the number and spacing of windows, and lighting affect people. Furthermore, "architectural design has strong but modifiable effects on social behavior and users' mood and productivity and, to some extent, design features also affect health and wellbeing" (Ayers, 2007, para. 1). According to Joye (2007), "our surroundings influence not only the way we think but our intellectual development" (p. 305). Gestalt psychology suggests humans experience the influence of architecture as their brains have a proclivity to infer rhythm and patterns of space and structure, which influences behavior (Joye, 2007).
Architecture as a Means of Controlling Human Behavior
“The structural design or arrangement of space imposes restrictions on behavior. Doorways determine our access to a room and room dimensions restrict the kinds of behaviors that can take place inside a room” (Ayers, 2007, para. 2). With these considerations in mind, a building’s function as well as its users, must match its design. Because uses and inhabitants change both functionality and design needs, the design of the interior must accommodate flexibility. A building's interior must create the appearance of space, regardless of its actual size because space makes inhabitants believe they have the choice between interaction and isolation. Individuals report a more positive sense of control when their environment allows them to choose interaction or isolation rather than experiencing both randomly thrust upon them. The psychological effects of crowding have been associated with arousal and stress.
Evidence suggests when individuals perceive ample space, they report feeling a stronger sense of control over their environment and are less prone to anxiety over minor annoyances, stress, and aggression. Furthermore, ample space has a pervasive effect on subjective well-being and health (Straub, 2007). In a study of dormitories by Baum and Valins (1977), overwhelming evidence determined the design and layout of internal space affects the stress of psychological crowding and demonstrates architectural design has a mediating effect on social behavior. Whereas crowding has been linked to aggression, social withdrawal, increased criminal acts, and inappropriate interaction (Stokols, 1972), privacy is strongly correlated to less social withdrawal, a sense of control, positive mental health and task performance, and a decreased tendency to react negatively to minor annoyances (Straub, 2007). Küller, Ballal, Laike, Mikellides, and Tonello (2006) found the effects of light and color in the workplace had a significant influence on the mood of individuals working in the space. When...
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