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The Psychology of Architecture

How do the insides of buildings influence the inside of our minds? Jonah Lehrer has some answers:

The psychologists, at the University of British Columbia, were interested in looking at how the color of interior walls influence the imagination. … When people took tests in the red condition – they were surrounded by walls the color of a stop sign – they were much better at skills that required accuracy and attention to detail, such as catching spelling mistakes or keeping random numbers in short-term memory. According to the scientists, this is because people automatically associate red with danger, which makes them more alert and aware. … In fact, subjects in the blue condition generated twice as many “creative outputs” as subjects in the red condition. That’s right: the color of a wall doubled our imaginative power.

…when people are in a low-ceilinged room, they are much quicker at solving anagrams involving confinement, such as “bound,” “restrained” and “restricted.” In contrast, people in high-ceilinged rooms excel at puzzles in which the answer touches on the theme of freedom, such as “liberated” and “unlimited.” According to Levy, this is because airy spaces prime us to feel free.

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Jonah Lehrer is the author of How We Decide and Proust Was a Neuroscientist .

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