Environmental Psychology – Specific Environments

The Workplace
Most studies of the workplace environment measure performance, (productivity, resignation rate) feelings (satisfaction, evaluations, emotions), health and stress (morale) and social behavior.
These are all affected by sound, indoor climate, air, light and color and space. Perceived control over the physical space increases job satisfaction and cohesiveness among colleagues.

Getting to Work: Commuting
Cars, buses, roads and rail lines are all important settings. Cars bring status, privacy and control of our lives. 85% of all trips are in cars and 75% of cars on their way to work contain only 1 person. Only 4% of all trips are on public transportation.  Wealthier people who have cars don’t use public transit very much. Those who hate fixed schedules or who have had bad transit experiences don’t use it. Commuters underestimate the cost of cars.  Commuting is stressful as those who drive longer distances have higher blood pressure, the more interchanges on the way to work the more sick days used.

Sound, Noise and Music
Noise is unwanted sound while Euphony is wanted sound. 99% of office employees are bothered by noise (phones, talking). One person’s euphony is another’s noise. Sound that becomes noise have the follow characteristics:

i.) Relevance: More relevant sounds are more distracting.
ii.) Meaning: Sounds that have greater meaning are more distracting.
iii.) Controllability: Sounds we have less control over are more distracting.
iv.) Predictability: Sounds that are unpredictable are more distracting.

Noise can lead to ear damage.  Hearing protection devices aren’t as good as people think. Many laws limit length of exposure to high sound levels. Exposure to loud sounds leads to a temporary shift in the hearing threshold which corrects itself in 16 hours but repeated temporary shifts leads a permanent shift.  90 minutes at 90 dB can create temporary shifts while 10 minutes at 100 dB (noisy nightclub) create temporary shifts.

Noise and Job Performance
Noise most affects cognitive (reading, writing) vigilance (monitoring people) and social (meetings) tasks. Having to perform multiple tasks, having to pay attention to many sources of information, having to think carefully and having to monitor several employees is all affected by noise. Noise hinders complex tasks more than simple tasks and noise can sometimes improve simple tasks. Introverts, Women and older people seem to be more affected by noise.

Performance will not be affected by continuous loud noise when an employee (1) performs a routine task (2) merely needs to react to signals at certain definite times, (3) is informed when to be ready and (4) is given clear visual signals. Motor Tasks are less affected by noise.

Productivity is enhanced by music for simple tasks, but novelty and gratitude for a privilege may play a role. Employees tend to like music and think it improves productivity, but 10% don’t like it.

In one study, noise changed the brain so that sound processing was slower. In another study, those exposed to loud noise for 3 years in jobs that required concentration had higher rates of cardiovascular disease.

Indoor Climate
As temperatures gets very hot, productivity drops, especially for heavy manual labor. Cold negatively affects work that requires fine motor movements. Cool offices and classrooms improve cognitive tasks. The more complex the task the more performance will worsen with heat or cold. Vigilance tasks and dual tasks are done best in moderately warm temperatures but tracking tasks and learning tasks are better in lower temperatures. At 30C, cognitive performance is affected after three hours of exposure. At 38 C cognitive performance decreases after 30 minutes.

Comfort zones under typical humidity and clothing conditions ranges from 21-26.5 C.  Individuals report feeling warmer when heaters point out to them, décor is more luxurious and when
thermometers lie about the real temperature. This illustrates the Hawthorne principle: one’s perception is more important than the objective situation.  Office work is best done at 9 C below the comfort envelope standard.

Those doing normal manual labor are unaffected by moderate doses of carbon monoxide. However, jobs requiring prolonged alertness but low stimulation can be affected by moderate levels of carbon monoxide.  Malodorous air hurts the performance of complex but not simple tasks.

Air ionization also affects work performance. Clean rural air has 1200 positive and 1000 negative ions per cubic centimeter of air but modern urban offices contain only 150 positive and 50 negative ions. Very high ion concentrations (4000 negative) increased motor performance in one task and perceptual motor tasks in another. Individuals also differ in their ion sensitivity and men are affected more.

Fragrances improve performance on certain tasks, such as monitoring displays on a computer screen and completing word puzzles. Any pleasant odor will do but these effects fade after an hour. Once again, perceived air movement is more important than real air movement. In one study, people thought a building was stuffy until streamers were put on vents to show air circulation was occurring. Feelings improve when more negative ions are present. Females give positive reviews to those who wear scents while males give more positive ratings to those that don’t wear scents.

Air can carry ozone (copy machines), tiny airborne particles from asbestos (most offices from the 60’s), cigarette smoke and organic solvents such as benzene. More than 50% of factory workers say they are exposed to hazardous air. Sick buildings contain airborne health-threatening substances. Sick building syndrome is the collection of health problems linked to these substances. The EPA says 20-30% of all U.S. office buildings cause health problems—including at the EPA itself.  Modern chemicals, tight sealing, poor ventilation, noxious fungi, poor duct design, a history of smoking, physiological susceptibility, mass psychogenic illness and a complaining personality are all possible causes of sick building syndrome.

Air conditioning alone may cause increases in the frequency of eye, nose and throat irritation. Those with no control over air conditioning report more problems. Headaches decrease when negative ion generators are on.

Light, Color and Windows
Light involves sources, fixtures, amounts and arrangements (angle at which it strikes work surface). Performance improves with more light. Optimal light depends on the task, the work surface (shiny means glare) and the angle of the light.

i.) It’s best to have more local lighting than lighting for all people. This would save energy and serve people better.
ii.) Full spectrum bulbs show no performance increment, however they can act as a placebo.
iii.) Increased light increases arousal as those in the brightest conditions are most alert and cognitive processes are enhanced.
iv.) Starting with bright light levels and then slowly decreasing them over the day shows the best effects. Giving people control over lighting is good for non-creative tasks but not for creative tasks.

Color has at least 3 components.

i.) Hue is color.
ii.) Saturation is the purity of the hue (is it the only hue?)
iii.) Brightness is the luminance or light-dark aspect of the color.

Lighting and Feelings

Lighting has also been shown to affect feelings in the following four ways:

i.) Brightness: Darker offices are less satisfying especially for visually demanding jobs.
ii.) Light Fixtures: People like a variety of light fixtures.
iii.) Windows: Employees like windows and lights from the outside. Windows reduce boredom and increase overall job satisfaction. Employees without windows put up more nature themes. People even want larger windows for smaller rooms and even want inside windows.
iv.) Health- UV is important for vitamin D and calcium. Glare causes eye strain. Older people need 3x the illumination that younger people do. Having control over light also improves health.

Space: Density and Arrangements

Ergonomics is the study of how environment can fit human needs. High density offices increase turnover as do less barriers in the office. Situations where employees have higher density and closer interpersonal distance and cannot screen out unwanted stimulation are bad. However, open plan offices often produce more social or irrelevant communication. Plants increase mood but may decrease performance.

Setting claim is a sense that a person is needed, performs an important job and works hard. This is related to greater job satisfaction and is not present when overstaffed.  When offices have few enclosures, place employees close together, are dark and have a large number of employee’s then dissatisfaction is higher.

Tidy offices signal organization, status symbols signal rank and messiness signals being busy or rushed. When a desk is open (not a barrier) the person is viewed as an extravert and confident.
Reception/Lobby Areas differ in control and consideration. Control is orderly, stable and rigid and is conveyed by flags, official seals, logos and emblems. Consideration is warmth, comfort, ease and goodness of communication and is shown by plants, art, magazines and furniture arranged in a sociopetal manner.

Fewer enclosures and higher density leads to fatigue and psychosomatic complaints. Open plan offices lead to more headaches. Stair use can be increased by placing motivational signs and playing music there. Open plan facilitates communication but this may be the undesired kind. In one study, the presence of more enclosures led to increased communication and having door or walls was correlated with increased time spent working with others.  Four other research findings include:

i.) Status is conveyed by larger spaces, as people are able to personalize them and have more enclosed spaces and more furniture.
ii.) Privacy can be achieved by verbal means, nonverbal signs or environmental means like closing a door. Status symbols can give a sense of order to a place and encourage achievement.
iii.) Marking: When employees can’t personalize they lose control over their work which increases stress, decreases satisfaction and productivity.
iv.) Consultation: Employees need to be consulted more when planning their work spaces.

Telecommuting is working away from work and can reduce the cost of commuting. It can conflict with home life, may create social isolation and supervisory problems can result. Some people prefer the office to home as it sustains motivation. One study found a 69% drop in absenteeism and 10% increase in productivity in insurance claims agents.

Residential Environments

A home is a structure we have attached meaning to. Meaning occurs along 6 dimensions.

1. Haven: a place of privacy and security.
2. Order: a base through which we leave and return that provides continuity.
3. Identity: a place where we can express ourselves.
4. Connectedness: feeling part of a family or culture.
5. Warmth: symbolic and interpersonal warmth.
6. Physically suitable: its form matches all our needs.

Residences: In contrast to homes, residences are physical structures with 5 dimensions.

1. Permanent vs. Temporary
2. Differentiated vs. Homogeneous (different rooms for different functions)
3. Communal vs. Non-communal (how many generations live in a home),
4. Identity vs. Communality (home reflects individuals interest or stereotypical of community),
5. Openness vs. Closedness (fences, gates, friendliness).

Thus one can live in a house and be homeless or have a home and be houseless. Homeless people in shelters who have others make decisions for them give up finding a home.

Individual differences will lead to different home preferences.  Some of these difference include:

1. Age: Family’s like the suburbs while old/singles like downtown. Youth like more leisure space and mystery while old people like plain homes and don’t like moving.
2. Socioeconomic status: Wealthier people are more satisfied with homes while the poor are more concerned with safety and health aspects of a home.
3. Gender/Social Role: Women like downtown’s while men like the suburbs. Both men/women like open concept kitchens. Women design smaller areas with more communal space while men prefer larger designs.
4. Personality/Values: Those who desire social support want residences that support this, people want homes that help them fulfill life goals.
5. Comparisons: We compare previous houses and houses of friends to our own to determine satisfaction.
6. Dreams of future: Expecting improvement in later conditions increases current satisfaction with one’s home.
7. Neighbors: People like more similar neighbors and they like both privacy and togetherness with neighbors.

Physical Influences on Satisfaction

Different houses satisfy different needs, but some housing satisfies nobody.

1. Housing Quality- People prefer bigger and quieter houses with more rooms and this leads to more attachment.
2. Housing Form- People prefer single family dwellings over condos/apartments and especially mobile homes.
3. Architectural style- People like front porches, some like farmhouse and Tudor-style over saltbox and Mediterranean.
4. Interior- People like higher ceilings, flat or sloping ceilings and walls that meet at 90 degrees or more. People also like end and corner units on a street.
5. Outdoor Areas- Green space is important, at least having a view of it, as people like clear boundaries between buildings.

Environment and Behavior in the Residence

According to one framework, homes are arranged in the following ways:

1. Type A rooms are asymmetric, eccentric, and unconventional; mix modern designer furniture and tapestries, paintings and antiques (older intellectuals and professors).
2. Type B rooms are like A but objects are less expensive and more functional.
3. Type C rooms are very rich, wooden floors and antiques arranged ritually (business men).
4. Type D is cheaper than C but similar.
5. Type E rooms have few valuables and are symmetrical (Older, retired working class).

Another way to measure homes is through three different factors:

a.) Disorder-functional complexity: This refers to the physical state and maintenance of the home.
b.) Decorative complexity: This refers to the material richness of the home.
c.) Warm-child-oriented: This refers to the number of child centered items and books (number and variety).

Spatial Ecology of Home
Research has found that fully employed women spend more time in the kitchen than employed men. Women do more domestic work while men do more design and building. Men do more leisure activities in living rooms. Women have less privacy in the home than men. Teens don’t have as much room privacy from parents.

Time territory strategies refers to rotating a space among family members. Space territory strategies refers to placing  conflicting activities in different parts of the home. Cooperation-capitulation arrangements refers to a strategy whereby dominant family member decide what everyone will do.

Permissive parents let kids play everywhere and complain about noise and messes more than restrictive parents. When space is short the kitchen is used for many activities so it is important to have a larger kitchen.

Pleasant home atmospheres are created when people are able to communicate, when people are accessible to one another,  and when people are free to do what they want.  Pleasant homes allow people to be occupied rather than bored and also allow for relaxation.  Homes provide relaxation and leisure as over half of recreation time is spent in the home. One
study found the amount of time adolescents spent with parents in recreational activities at home was related to their well-being.

Stress and Well-Being in Residence
One billion people have inadequate housing and 100 million are homeless. High density residences with poor ventilation increase disease rates as children get respiratory illnesses due to burning fuel for heat. Inadequate housing leads to distress. Group homes can lead to loss of privacy and control that produces hyper habituation or over-adaptation to routines. Elderly people need environmental pro-activity that allows making choices about and having control of new housing.

Home crowding has more serious consequences than public crowding and is more important than income, family size or value of house. High density homes have more psychological distress, illness and slower cognitive development for kids. It even affects  the temperament of children making them more irritable and negative. They also feel less control and go out of the
home more to get in trouble. Crowding is worse for women. Density shows its effects even when poverty is controlled for.

Residents must also worry about crime, fear and injury at home. Home invasions can have long lasting effects. Gated communities are a response to crime and low-rise apartments fear crime more than high rise. Elderly people can hurt themselves on flooring, doors or bathtubs.

Apartment living is linked to retarded movement skills, more respiratory diseases, aggression, insomnia, nervous disorders, reduced social skills and disrupted play.
The physical condition of homes in neighborhoods leads to more behavior problems in 9-12 year olds, after income is controlled for.

Those in High Rises feel more socially overloaded, anonymous, less safe, less satisfied with their building and with social support from neighbors. They felt less privacy and less control and kids couldn’t play outside as much. Kids become independent later, people help less and there’s more suicide. However, elderly people may like high rises.

Those with no view outside the home show slower cognitive development. Kids with more non-toy objects in the home were moodier and lacked persistence.

Parents like quite, passive and fine motor skill play. Purpose built daycares can have benefits private ones cannot.  Cohesiveness, expressiveness and active recreation orientation is highest in single-family dwellings and lowest in crowded small houses. People in multi-story apartments are loneliest.

Residential Mobility
45% of North Americans move in a 5 year period. Those with less of a choice of moving have more negative side effects than those who have a choice. Those who like to explore aren’t as affected as much by moving. Also, lacking mobility can also be detrimental to help when one isn’t happy. Changing residences leads to changes in patterns of behavior. Single moms face higher stressful housing situations. Good projects for single moms need:
• On-site or nearby childcare facilities, so parents feel better about working.
• An open kitchen to watch kids.
• Separate common areas for kids and parents.
• Close proximity to public transportation
• On-site classroom space

Indoor and Outdoor play space. In the Laboratory for Architectural Experimentation (LEA) people can build their dream homes. Some problems with lighting but overall good way to approach designing.

Source: Gifford, R. (2007). Environmental Psychology: Principles and P

Environmental Psychology – Ambient Environment

The Sonic Environment

A psychological definition of noise is that it is unwanted sound. Sounds with certain physical characteristics (e.g., high impulsivity, high intensity, high frequency) are likely to be labeled as noise. However, not all noise is loud. Sounds that are new and unpredictable are more distracting as we don’t habituate to them and our perception system prioritizes unique events. Thus, intermittent and irregular sounds are more annoying than constant sounds.

The body reacts to noise through a stress response that can damage the circulatory, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal systems of the body over time.  Research shows that noise is one of the most
frequent reasons for public complaints. When people believe they can’t control noises in their environment they begin to feel a sense of learned helplessness. Exposure to uncontrollable noise is also linked to hypertension, heart disease, ulcers, sleep disturbances and decreased immunological functioning.

Those living beneath where jets fly report sleep problems leading to health problems.  Noise-induced sleep loss impairs performance the next day and loss of attention leads to accidents and a general bad mood the next day.  People often react to noise with anger and annoyance. Noise can bias your attention to the external environment and can mask your internal dialogue.

Noisy homes interfere with a child’s normal cognitive and language development. In one study, kids on a noisy side of a building were nearly 1 year behind kids in a quiet side of a building. Noise was reduced on the noisy side and reading scores improved!

Sound is not always noise and is often enjoyable and can even help us identify places.  Sound identity refers to the uniqueness of the sounds in the environment. Settings have more clarity or identity on early mornings, evenings, or weekends, while on weekdays traffic sounds homogenize and mask informative sounds.

There are certain characteristics of sounds we prefer: In one study, all subjects liked quiet but informative places and preferred constantly varying soft personal sounds, such as footfalls, fragments of conversations, whistling, or shuffling. They also preferred nature sounds such as waterfalls that symbolized tranquility. Most people prefer settings with unique sound identities that are responsive to sounds we make. People prefer low to middle frequency and intensity sounds.

There are also certain characteristics of sounds we avoid: less pleasing sound settings are more attention-demanding and less informative, such as the roar of a busy street. Higher frequency (512+ cps) and higher intensity (90+ db) sounds are the most annoying. Least preferred settings are uninformative, redundant, and usually very stressful, having sounds of high frequency and intensity, and that distract from other interests.


Ambient Temperature refers to the air temperature of the immediate surroundings.  Effective Temperature refers to people’s perception of what the ambient temperature is.  For example, high humidity makes temperatures seem hotter than they really are. Humidity during higher temperatures slows heat loss but increases heat loss during low temperatures.  Air Movement makes temperatures feel colder than they are through the cooling effect of evaporation. When air is colder than  body temperature it increases convective heat loss but if it is warmer it decreases heat loss.

Temperature also affects work performance.  Cold Temperatures reduce manual dexterity, tactile sensitivity and increase reaction time. As temperature decreases performance rapidly decreases. Perceptual and motor tasks are especially affected by extreme temperatures. The more complex the task, the more stressors and the more tasks involved, the worse the performance decrements.

Heat stress leads to exhaustion, faintness, nausea, vomiting, headache and restlessness. Heat stroke leads to confusion, staggering, coma and death. This occurs when your sweating mechanism has failed so you need immediate immersion in ice water so survive.

How we regulate heat

Humans are meant for tropical/sub-tropical conditions but technology lets us live in cold areas. Core body temperature should be maintained at 37 C as anything above 45 C or below 25 C leads to death. Humans can sense temperature changes through the skin but we can’t know absolute temperatures as we habituate rapidly.

The anterior hypothalamus of the brain is central to thermoregulation. Excess heat is eliminated through convection and radiation from the skin, evaporation of moisture from the skin and lungs and conduction. Blood vessels also dilate to increase the loss of heat. At higher temperatures, sweating occurs to increase heat loss through evaporation, and activity level may slow to reduce heat production.

When we become cold our metabolism rises and we can get warm through muscular activity and shivering. Your blood vessels constrict to reduce blood flow (and loss through convection). You can also huddle which reduces the surface area of your body by up to 50% and reduces heat loss. You also get “goosebumps” which are stiffening’s of the skin hairs to trap a thin layer of insulating air near the skin.  Clothing insulates the body and retards heat loss and is measured in clo or togs.

Acclimatization is increased physiological tolerance to new temperatures and usually takes 4-7 days. The body adapts through increased sweating efficiency, reduced discomfort, heart rate and body temperature changes.

Melanin in the skin protects from sun exposure but increases skin temperature through increased absorption. Some who live in colder climates show lower body temperatures and higher metabolic rates. Moving from warm to cold is easier than cold to warm.

Thermal Comfort
Between 24-27 C is the comfortable range for all cultures and age groups studied. For males, temperature has seven times more influence on thermal sensation than does humidity, but for females the ratio is 9:1.  As body temperature increases heart rate increases faster in males than females.  At 32 C performance on mental tasks will deteriorate after 2 hours of work. At this temperature, moderate physical work can be maintained for 2 hours or so.  Hands/feet cool before rest of the body. If you can keep your hands warm, cooling of the rest of the body won’t affect performance much.

Temperature and Arousal Levels
At 37 C arousal is normal but as temperature lowers/raises arousal increases. This increased arousal affects your behavior.  The Yerkes-Dodson law tells us that there is an optimal level of arousal for every task but that harder tasks require lower arousal. Heat increases arousal and thus will make harder tasks more difficult to perform. As you become more aroused, you are also left with less resources to devote to paying attention.

Temperature and Behavior
Temperature also affects behavior.  Initial exposure to heat will increase performance but over time over-arousal occurs which decreases performance. Attention is effected and you start to ignore peripheral information. The longer you remain aroused, the less resources you have to engage in other functions such as self-control.

Generally speaking, crowding and heat both reduce attraction. Heat may have a negative effect on attraction to strangers but not with friends.

Heat waves are associated with elevated crime rates. In one study, it was found that heat actually decreased aggression for angry people but it increased aggression for non-angry people. It would seem that heat makes an angry person over aroused and exhausted while it makes a non-angry person more irritable.  This is further supported by other studies: Riot frequencies increase between 27-29 C and fall off sharply as temperature increases further. Revolutions since WWII are more frequent in hot regions and violence is less frequent in the hottest and coldest seasons of the year than in the two intermediate quarters. Heat above 29 C elevates horn honking in cars.

Source: Gifford, R. (2007). Environmental Psychology: Principles and Practices (4th ed). Canada: Optimal Books.


Colors are different wavelengths of light perceived by the human brain. They mean different things to different parts of the brain and mean different things in different contexts.  Newton’s experiments with a prism revealed the full color spectrum found in light. He discovered that colors are simply  different wavelengths of light.  When an object appears a certain color it is because it
accepts all color wavelengths into itself except the one you see. If an object appears red it is really “anti-red” since it is reflecting red.

The human eye has cones with 3 color receptors: red, green and blue. Our cones can only interpret a tiny fraction of light wavelengths.  Our brains take the signals from our cones and then put
meaning on them. How our brain interprets color affects behavior, thoughts and emotions.

Experiments of unflavored and colorless gelatin reveal that when tasteless food coloring is added people still report tasting something! All of the gelatin tastes the same but the food coloring causes the brain to add taste. Color is a powerful cue that tells our brain what something tastes like.  The study even found that tasteless color led to the following “tastes”:

• Red tastes sweet like strawberries.
• Yellow tastes sour like a lemon.
• Green tastes tart like a green apple.
• Blue tastes “odd” like a coconut but is seen as the least tasty. We may associate blue/black with rotten food.

Cheetos are really gray but orange is added to make them more congruent with “cheese.”  Green ketchup sold really well but it was congruent with what we know about tomatoes. It was also cross-promoted with “Shrek” which made eating green things cool. Heinz then tried doing more colors but they failed because other colors weren’t congruent with tomatoes and there was no cross-promotion for those colors.

This leads to three big ideas about color:

Big Idea 1: Colors means different things to different parts of the brain.

The unconscious automatic part of the brain that executes certain “programs” when certain conditions are met. These programs are fast, automatic and reflexive. These programs are either “instinctive” or trained by system 2 to become “habits.” They include fight or flight, simple calculations, reading faces, driving. System 2 includes conscious deliberate and slow “programs” that may include writing an essay, doing complex calculations or learning a new skill.
Colors are interpreted through a combination of system 1 and system 2 programs. For example system 1 tells us red should mean fear but system 2 can teach us to associate red with other things that may override system 1. When system 1 and 2 agree there is a congruent response and when they don’t it is incongruent.  Our culture often teaches us red means “stop” so system 2 agrees with system 1’s “avoid” instinctual response to red.  Some cultures may make red mean “Approach” but this is incongruent with our innate meaning of red.  However, over time this system 2 meaning of red can override system 1 so that red starts meaning “welcome.”

Studies on colored placebos show that red wakes people, blue puts people to sleep, yellow is used for depression, green is used for anxiety, and white pills soothe ulcers.  However, there is an exception to blue putting people to sleep. Italian men learn that blue is associated with their soccer team (system 2) which really excites them so blue does not put Italian men to sleep like it does everyone else.

Big Idea 2: Colors mean different things in different contexts.

The same color means different things in different contexts.  For example, blue is most people’s favorite color. The “pure water” hypothesis means people associate blue with pure water and survival. However, blue in the context of foods elicits the worst responses.  In other studies, women wearing blue were rated less attractive than when wearing red or black.  We have a general context program that likes blue and then we have a food/mate selection program that dislikes blue.

Big Idea 3: Cultures give words to colors in a predictable order everywhere.

his starts from black/white to red to yellow to green and then to blue. This sequence seems universal.  Cultures that don’t have words for certain colors see them with their eyes don’t but don’t experience them with their brains.  For example, the Himba tribe in Nimibia only have 4 words for different colors. Zuzu refers to several different  colors together. A screen with 12 colored “green” squares are shown to Westerners but they can’t find the different colored square while the Himba can. The Himba can’t find a blue that westerners can in a series of  greens as their brains are not tuned to see different shades.  The language we use tunes our brains to see the colors that we see.

Black and White

Black generally signals aggression and evil while white signals submissiveness and goodness. Black and White are the colors of Night and Day. Black is the absence of color and white is the presence of all colors.  Black and white are the only true universal colors and exist in all cultures.  As colors lighten they take on the meanings of white and as they darken they take on the meanings of black.  Lightness and darkness of color can be stronger than the meaning of the colors themselves.

Black and white is related to depression.  In one study, children who experienced PTSD after an earthquake and went through art therapy only used blacks and whites to draw pictures. The teacher removed all black and white papers and colors but the children refused to draw. Over the years, as children healed, they started using colors again in their artwork.  Depressed people see the world less vividly and see it as black or white. Depressed people select shades of grey to express sadness (not blue).

Context: Competition
In the context of competition, White means submission and Black means aggression.  People see black uniforms as more malevolent and teams wearing black uniforms get more penalties. When hockey teams like Vancouver switched from white to black uniforms they saw significant increases in penalties.  We expect and interpret behavior from people in black uniforms as more
aggressive. In one study the exact same behavior was rated as more aggressive when the person was wearing a black uniform.

Black also induces aggression in those wearing it. In one study, teams that wore black uniforms began selecting more aggressive games than those wearing white.  Black uniforms make us see others as more aggressive and induces aggression in those wearing it.  Black pills are perceived to be the most potent in a study on placebo pills and white are seen as the least potent.  Cops in black uniforms are rated mean, forceful and corrupt compared to those in blue/khaki.  Defendants wearing dark covered clothes are more likely to be seen as aggressive/combative to jurors.  Toddlers match soft and rounded objects to white and sharp objects to black (sharp more likely to hurt).

Context: Morality

In the context of morality, white means good and black means evil. Night also signals vulnerability and fear.  White signals purity while black signals contamination.  Being exposed to black/white colors predisposes us to black/white thinking. When we are asked to rate the morality of behaviors presented in black/white colors people give more extreme ratings.

Use Black Colors if you want to appear aggressive and intimidating but wear white if you want to signal cooperation and goodness.  If you want people to be less judgmental don’t present information in black/white but instead use light colors.  Food served on white plates is perceived to taste better and to be of higher quality. Black has strong associations with rotten food.

To instill trust wear white but to make others think you are intense wear black.   Black/White signal status and quality compared to colorful alternatives. Black/white are preferred by older audiences with little bits of color. Younger audiences prefer lighter colors.  Products are viewed as more valuable when they are black/white as opposed to colored.


Red signals danger/avoidance in general contexts, dominance and aggression in competitive contexts and increases attraction in mating contexts.  Bill Shankly, coach of Liverpool switched uniforms to all red during a championship match against a Belgium team and they won. He attributes it to the uniform color change.  Red signals fear, strength, beauty and passion. Red has more meaning than any other color. Distinguishing red from others colors is what we do after learning black/white.

Context: Competition
In the context of competition, Red signals aggression and dominance.  Studies examining outcomes in sports show that people who wear red win 5% more often. When the contest is close, red
seems to give one performer the edge. Red teams beat blue teams in fps games like unreal tournament more often.  In studies with monkeys, monkey’s avoid taking gifts from researchers in red 70% of the time but do not avoid blue/green dressed researchers.

In another study people who saw red before doing a strength test actually became stronger. This effect was not found for other colors. Wearing red gives advantage in close contests, it makes you feel more dominant and makes you act more dominant. It makes you look more dominant to others and can intimidate others. Seeing red might make you stronger in simple physical contests.

Context: Mating
Red signals status in males and fertility in females. Red increases attractiveness to others and acts as an aphrodisiac. Men need to signal fitness and status while women need to signal fertility.  Red is linked to elevated estrogen levels which increases blood flow under the skin. Engorged genitalia become red and makeup is used to amplify fertility cues. Women actually wear more red during periods of peak fertility.  In studies, men rate a woman’s picture as more attractive when it is set against a red background compared to other colors. Red was almost 2x as attractive as green. Men were more likely to ask women out on a date after seeing them in red compared to other colors.  Studies also show that women prefer men who wear red as well.

Context: General
In a general context, red signals danger and avoidance. In studies of IQ tests, those given the test in a red binder performed worse than those given binders in other colors. Other colors tend to score around 65% while red scores 50%. While red seems to give us a boost on simple physical tasks it impairs performance on complex cognitive tasks.

However, specific context meanings trump general context meetings. When putting objects on a red background people were 2x as likely to bid on it as when it was put on a blue background. Red gets our competitive juices flowing. However, it also led to more aggressive bids (lower) than the blue background.  When products are placed against red but there is no negotiation/bids it doesn’t sell as well as the general context meaning takes over (danger and avoidance).

In close contests, wear red to signal dominance but if you are trying to cooperate with others don’t wear red. If you are an auctioneer then wear red to drive up bids but don’t use red in direct sell contexts (where there are no bids) as this will lower bids. Don’t use red on advertisements as it will make bidders more aggressive.

If you want to get more dates then wear more red clothes/makeup. Waitresses should wear red to increase tips from male customers by 15-25%. Wear a red tie to look more like a leader but don’t wear red if you want to be seen as a team player. Women should wear red if being interviewed by men but not if being interviewed by other women as it will signal threat.

Other general tips include:
• Use red signs to warn people of danger/avoid doing things.
• Red cups stop people from getting as many refills.
• Painting a store door red contributes to lower shoplifting rates.
• Don’t paint a room red if you do complex cognitive tasks as it taxes your cognitive resources. Paint a room red if you engage in simple physical tasks.
• Aspirational advertising (do this to grow) should not use red as red signals danger and risk. If the product messaging is to avoid risk then use red.


Yellow signals both health and weakness and is thought to be an exciting and happy color but there is a fine light between a positive and negative shade of yellow.  Yellow is consistently the least preferred of all colors. The least popular car colors are yellow, gold and light brown.  Yellow is the most visible color to the human eye and is often being used on emergency vehicles now.  Yellow also signifies “caution.”

Context: Social

In a social context, Yellow signals both health and weakness.  Yellow skin increases attractiveness because it is thought to signal a diet rich in fruits and vegetables which have carotenoids. This happens within days of eating lots of fruits and vegetables.  In one study, men with a more yellow skin tone were rated as more attractive than men with low yellow faces. This seemed to matter more than the masculinity of faces.  Wearing red makes your complexion look redder which increases attractiveness. Yellow is difficult to pull off as the more yellow you wear the more it turns into a “bad” shade indicating a jaundiced complexion.

Context: Problem Solving
Yellow enhances cognitive performance when solving problems.  In one study, the students who wrote the same test on yellow paper scored higher than those who wrote on other colors. The top 10% were all on yellow papers and the bottom 10% were on blue/purple papers.  In another study, those who took tests over 10 years on white//yellow paper scored 10 points higher than the
average score on red paper.

Context: General
In a general context, Yellow signals both happiness and danger. In a study where cocktail parties were held in three different colored rooms, the yellow room led to people eating and drinking twice as much as those in the other rooms. Those in the yellow room were the most animated and they preferred the yellow to the blue room by a 2:1 ratio. Those in the blue room were the most sedate and didn’t move around much and stayed on the periphery of the room. Those in the red/yellow rooms clustered in the middle in groups.  Other studies have shown that Yellow does not induce aggression.  Babies tend to prefer short-wavelength colors like blues and purples.


Eat fruits and vegetables and get sun to achieve yellow skin. Avoid yellow clothing altogether (especially males) as women find it unattractive.  Don’t give tests on colored paper but if you must then stick to light yellow/green and avoid blues/reds. Yellow sticky notes might stimulate thinking and new ideas.

Use yellow on door entries to get attention but cool your interior colors. Bright yellow is a good way to have your product packaging stand out. Sunshine yellow is good to use in rooms to encourage social interaction.


Green is generally associated with nature and approachability and it has been found to enhance creativity and reduce stress.  After blue, green is the color we see most in nature. We can see
more shades of green than any other color. Green symbolizes fertility, life and renewal. It has a strong and obvious connection to nature.

Many people think green is a cursed color. In New York in 1911 there was a bad racing accident in which a green car killed lots of people. Ten years ago, another green motorcycle was involved in
a high profile accident. In 1965 Jim Clark drove a green car at a high profile race and won! However he died three years later (not in a green car) but many thought it was because of his tempting fate earlier.

Context: Problem Solving
Green enhances problem solving and creativity.  In one study, those given assignments on a green screen came up with more creative solutions than those on a white/red or blue screen.  Since green is associated with approach/go it seems to open our minds.

Context: Environmental
Green reduces anxiety and mental fatigue.  In one study, performance on a cognitive task that required repeating digits backwards was significantly improved after a nature walk but there was no improvement for those walking in an urban setting. This may all be attributable to the color green. The savannah hypothesis suggests that we prefer savannah settings with lots of greens.  In another study, gazing at an authentic nature scene was restorative but looking at an artificial scene was not.

Just like medicine, you need different dosages depending upon your condition. A small dose of green (as in pictures) might boost creativity while a large dose (being in nature) might be needed to really reduce stress levels.

Context: General
In a general context, green signals naturalness and approach/go. Any time you are trying to associate something with nature or to indicate that something is okay then use green. Red signals danger and green signals safety.

Consider putting green in environments where you do creative work or solve problems.  Putting people in an “approach” motivation state stimulates learning and engagement.  To reduce stress, schedule regular walks in greenery and try and work near windows with nature views.  Don’t wear green in social contexts as green jades your complexion making you look sickly.  Reds and blacks to attract mates and blues/whites to fit in and make friends.


Blue is the most recent color that humans have developed the capacity to see. The Ancient Greeks didn’t see blue in the same way that we did. Homer never mentions blue once in all of his writings. They saw black/white/red but not the cooler colors in the same way that we do. The ancients all were generally color blind. All of the ancient writings mention skies/waters etc.…but rarely mention blue. Words for blue emerge from words that originally meant green/black. This is more proof for the way in which words for colors seem to happen in a particular succession for all people everywhere.  Our perception of blue is relatively recent and only goes back about 30 generations. Blue is the favorite color of most people across cultures.

Context: General
Blue signals openness and creativity.  In one study, those given anagrams about danger words solved them faster on a red background while those given anagrams about “approach” words solved them faster on a blue background. There was no enhanced effect for White Backgrounds.  In another study, those given an assignment to come up with ideas for how to use a brick on a blue background generated more ideas and had more creative ideas than those given the task on a red background.

People prefer risk avoidance messages on red backgrounds while they prefer aspirational messages on blue backgrounds. White backgrounds show no preference.  Advertisements focusing on listing detailed features are preferred on red backgrounds while those focusing on more abstract concepts are preferred on blue backgrounds.

Red is thought to increase appetite and blue is thought to suppress appetite but the reverse is true. In one study, people drank more from blue cups than red cups. In another study, people ate more pretzels when on a blue plate compared to a red plate but reported no taste differences.

Blue might prime things we associate with calmness and relaxation (water, skies).  Blue and white give no advantages over the other when looking at competition sports.

Context: Social
Blue signals friendliness and peacefulness, especially when combined with white.  In studies where people judge police uniforms, light blue shirts and navy blue pants outperformed all other color
combinations for signaling trust, approachability and friendliness. Nurses who wear blue are seen as more approachable and friendly.

Context: Therapeutic Lighting
Blue promotes alertness and well-being during the day but has negative health effects at night.  We have melanopsin retinal ganglion cells which are non-vision photoreceptors that don’t help us see. They are designed to synchronize our circadian rhythms and are most sensitive to blue wavelengths of light.  In another study, blue lights were installed in offices over 4 weeks without anyone’s awareness. Blue-enriched lighting was found to improve daytime alertness, concentration, work performance, mood and night time sleep quality.  Blue seems to affect us through these retinal ganglion cells which affects our cognition and emotion. Being exposed to blue-lights at nigh interferes with our ability to sleep.

Try using blue if you are trying to encourage open-mindedness or trying new things. Don’t use blue if you are trying to dissuade people from doing something. Use blue if you don’t want to negotiate as it increases receptivity. Use blue in aspirational/abstract messaging. Use blue to help rooms feel less claustrophobic and stressful.

Whenever you need to be perceived as trustworthy and approachable you should wear light blue. Wear blue if you want to appear open-minded and cooperative. Avoid blue if you need to appear more dominant. Women should avoid interviews with men wearing blue but should wear blue if a woman is the interviewer.

If you have depression/insomnia try using blue wall colors or daily dosages of blue light for 15-30 minutes of exposure. If you need to stay alert and awake, then use blue lighting. If you want to increase productivity and help people fall asleep at night use blue-enriched light in offices.   Avoid blue light an hour before bed at least. Use red/yellow wavelength bulbs in sleeping areas as they have the least impact on our circadian rhythms.

For Shift Workers, reduce exposure to blue-frequency light at night, wear “blue-blockers” that filter out blue wavelengths (studies find they are effective in restoring melatonin).


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Environmental Psychology – Environmental Assessments & Appraisals

Environmental Assessments

Psychologists differentiate between environmental assessments and environmental appraisals.  Environmental Appraisals are person-centered and focus on how the individual feels about and uses the place. In contrast, environmental assessments are place-centered and focus on the quality of a setting from a broader human perspective.  Appraisals are more concerned with psychological constructs (i.e., emotion, meaning & preference) while assessments focus more on measuring objective qualities of the setting.

Assessments are more likely than appraisals to be used to justify public policy changes.  There are 5 kinds of place assessments that include:

1. The physical and spatial properties of a setting: The slope of a valley, the height of a ceiling, the number of days of sunshine, and the number of rooms in a house are a few of the huge number of possible physical or spatial properties that might be assessed.
2. The number and variety of artifacts in a place: What kind of furniture is in a living room? Which facilities are in a campground or machines are in a manufacturing plant?
3. The traits of places: Is that landscape inviting? Is that office lush? Is that home majestic?
4. The behaviors that typically occur in a place: Do people play sports? Worship? Sleep?
5. The institutional attributes or social climate of places: Is a particular school organized or chaotic, supportive or non-supportive? Is a particular hospital comfortable, private, sterile?

While assessments focus on features of the place, appraisals focus on psychological constructs.    There are at least six kinds of personal impressions that people have about environments:

i.) Descriptions: Facts about the environment.
ii.) Evaluations: Whether you like the environment or not.
iii.) Judgments of beauty: How beautiful it is.
iv.) Emotional Reactions: How you feel about it.
v.) Meanings: What personal meanings do you attach to it?
vi.) Risk: How dangerous is the environment?

This leads us to consider 8 different factors that people use when evaluating environments:

1. Economic potential (space for commercial or industrial growth)
2. Diversity of land use (a combination of recreational, public-service, industrial, commercial, and residential lands)
3. Historic significance (historic landmarks, events, boundaries, etc.)
4. Fond memories (positive personal memories for residents)
5. Appearance of the built environment (age, style, and type of buildings)
6. Natural features (water, hills, trees, etc.)
7. Movement and location (traffic, walkways, centrality of arrangements, etc.)
8. Importance as an activity center (dynamism of public involvement in ceremonies, shopping, sports, public events, etc.).

Researchers have determined that there are certain features of the environment that people prefer over others.  Five features that people prefer include:

  1. Windows, High Ceilings & Square Rooms: Rooms with windows are more appealing than rooms without windows, square rooms are preferred over rectangular ones, and higher-than-usual ceilings are preferred. We also seem to prefer proportionately larger windows in smaller rooms.
  2. Building Exteriors: People prefer exteriors that express a sense of the past, have detailed, curved, decorated, grooved, or three-dimensional surfaces that seem to provide shelter and invite touching and exploration. Older buildings are generally preferred, as long as they have been well-maintained, and more traditional rural settings are preferred over modern ones.
  3. City Districts: Most observers prefer ornate, clean, open, and single-purpose (e.g., residential-use only) buildings. Preferred city districts tend to have some or all of five features: naturalness, good upkeep, an ordered appearance, openness, and historical significance.
  4. Berlyne’s Congruity & Contrast: When buildings seem to contrast the landscape they are highly disliked.
  5. Berlyne’s Complexity, Coherence & Novelty: People prefer moderate complexity, high coherence (degree to which the environment fits together) and novelty.

Jack Nasar concluded that we evaluate environments based on 3 qualities: formal, symbolic and schemas.

i.) Formal qualities include the design’s complexity and order.
ii.) Symbolic quality is expressed in the style (e.g., colonial or postmodern).
iii.) Schemas refer to the typicality of the design—is it usual or unusual? People tend to prefer higher typicality in desirable environments and lower for undesirable environments.

According to Nasar’s theory, pleasant buildings are orderly, have moderate complexity and a familiar style. Exciting buildings will be atypical, complex and have low orderliness.

Other theories exist to explain why we prefer what we do.  According to prospect-refuge theory, people prefer environments at the edges between open areas (fields, savannahs) and closed
areas (forest or jungle). The open areas allow us to see game from a distance and the closed areas provide shelter. Studies have supported this preference.

Humans have a strong desire to make use of and understand their environments.  Environments also have functional qualities that help us meet our goals that researchers have called: “cognitive affordances.” Five of these “cognitive affordances” include:

i.) Coherence (making sense immediately) refers to the ease with which a scene can be cognitively organized.
ii.) Complexity (being involved immediately) refers to the scene’s capacity to keep an individual busy (occupied without becoming bored or over stimulated).
iii.) Legibility (the promise of making sense in the future) means that the environment appears to be one that could be explored without getting lost; it is arranged in a clear manner.
iv.) Mystery (the promise of future involvement) means that the environment suggests one could learn more, interact more, or be further occupied—if one entered it.
v.) Familiarity: we should tend to prefer familiar places instead of new, strange or risky ones.

Generally, preference should increase as each of these qualities increases up to a certain point. Too much legibility in a setting might make the place less mysterious and become boring. Aesthetics  studies show that most people prefer natural, green, open grasslands with some water and pathways however each individual has slightly different preferences on how these elements combine.

Mehrabian and Russell’s pleasure-arousal hypothesis is also important to understand.  According to these researchers, people prefer settings that are moderately arousing and highly pleasurable. When a setting is arousing and pleasurable we are motivated to approach it. Studies confirm that moderately arousing settings are preferred but some studies show that highly arousing settings are also attractive.

What meaning we associate with the place also affects our appraisal of it.  There are at least 4 different ways we put meanings on places:

1. Place attachment: This refers to whether you feel “part” of a certain environment. It is the richness of meaning that develops when you are highly familiar with a place. A place can even come to be part of our identity.
2. Ideological communication: This refers to how the place signifies a philosophical, architectural or political concept to those who see it. Places can have certain styles or features that imply meaning such as a church signifying a belief in God.
3. Personal communication: This refers to what the place says to observers about the people who live in it or frequent it. People who live in higher-status neighborhoods are viewed as having more favorable traits.
4. Architectural purpose: This refers to the buildings function or why it was created. A famous dictum is that form should follow function, that is, the physical looks of the building should reflect its purpose.

Personality and Environment

Our personalities influence what types of environments we prefer and avoid.  One model suggests that some individuals are primarily attuned to objects and environments, whereas others are more attuned to people.Brian Little suggests that people can be high or low on each of the two orientations, creating four possible orientations that include:

i.) Person specialists: focus mostly on people.
ii.) Thing specialists: focus mostly on things.
iii.) Generalists: show marked interest in both people and things.
iv.) Non-specialists: These people are not very interested in either people or things.

Another model was developed by Joseph Sonnenfeld called the “Environmental Personality Inventory” outlines four different constructs that include:

1. Environmental sensitivity: This refers to how much environments are noticed by and affect an individuals. People who are environmentally sensitive will report that features of the environment have positive or negative connotations to them. Those who are not sensitive don’t really notice or ascribe much meaning to environmental features.
2. Environmental mobility: This refers to whether you wish to visit risky and exotic locations. People high on this trait visit risky and exotic places while those lower on this trait avoid them.
3. Environmental control: This refers to how much an individual believes he has control over his environment. Those who believe they have control are more likely to act on their environment.
4. Environmental risk-taking: This refers to a person’s propensity to take risks in their environment by engaging in activities such as rock-climbing or white-water rafting.

The Environmental Response Inventory is another framework  that puts people into 8 different categories that include:

1. Pastoralism: The tendency to oppose land development, preserve open space, accept natural forces as influences, and prefer self-sufficiency.
2. Urbanism: The tendency to enjoy high-density living and appreciate the varied interpersonal and cultural stimulation found in city life.
3. Environmental Adaptation: The tendency to favor the alteration of the environment to suit human needs and desires, oppose development controls, and prefer highly refined settings and objects.
4. Stimulus Seeking: The tendency to be interested in travel and exploration, enjoy complex or intense physical sensations, and have very broad interests.
5. Environmental Trust: The tendency to be secure in the environment, be competent in finding one’s way around, and be unafraid of new places or of being alone.
6. Antiquarianism: The tendency to enjoy historical places and things, prefer traditional designs, collect more treasured possessions than most other individuals, and appreciate the products of earlier eras.
7. Need for Privacy: The tendency to need isolation, not appreciate neighbors, avoid distraction, and seek solitude.
8. Mechanical Orientation: The tendency to enjoy technological and mechanical processes, enjoy working with one’s hands, and care about how things work.

Research has shown that four subspecies of the antiquarian personality exist. .

i.) Conservation is the tendency to support (or not) the preservation of historic buildings and archaeological sites.
ii.) Heritage is the tendency to appreciate (or not) the past as a cultural entity that has value in the present as a source of national identity or of lessons that could usefully guide today’s decisions.
iii.) Experience is the tendency to desire (or not) direct experience with historic or prehistoric places, such as wanting to visit reconstructed pioneer villages or living in a nice old house.
iv.) Interest is the tendency to think often (or not) about or reflect on past events and places.

Yet another way to measure personality and environment is the nature orientation scale. The nature scale measures a person’s propensity to enjoy wilderness, woodlands, campfires, and other outdoor activities in relatively undeveloped places.

The romantic escape scale also measures a person’s tendency to seek out natural settings but for a different purpose.  Those high on this scale want to escape urban life.

Individuals also differ in terms of how they process stimulation from the environment.  Mehrabian’s Stimulus Screening Construct measures a person’s responses to different kinds of environmental stimuli (such as slow to be aroused or quick to adapt). Stimuli may include sound, texture, odor, and heat that occur in different patterns (novel, complex, or sudden). It also measures how well a person filters out irrelevant stimuli.

Screeners are those who are able to filter out the distractions of irrelevant stimuli while non-screeners have trouble doing so. In general, screeners are believed to be less “arousable” than non-screeners.

Neil Stein’s Noise Sensitivity Scale measures a person’s emotional responses to noise in the immediate environment. Those who are more sensitive to noise perform worse in noisy environments than those who are less sensitive. Those who are more sensitive to noise choose lower levels of noise, listen to music less while working or reading, are more annoyed by noise from nearby roads and report more interference from noise with their daily activities. Noise-sensitive students also have a history of lower academic performance, perhaps because of their sensitivity.

Personal Space
Personal Space is the dynamic spatial component of interpersonal relations. It is the changing distance and angle of orientation between two people (e.g. Side by side or face to face). Personal space regulates things like food gathering and mating.  Interpersonal distance tells the individuals and outside  observers about the nature of the relationship.  There are four personal space zones that are used for different purposes.  These zones include the following:

1. Intimate Zone: The closest distance is the intimate zone and is used for comforting, protecting, sex and other full-contact activities. People who interact in this zone are intimate, adhering by a strict set of rules (wrestling) or are expressing strong negative emotions like anger.
2. Personal Zone: Just outside the intimate zone is the friend zone and is used by people who are familiar and friendly with one another. Good friends or happy couples often use this distance to talk to each other. If a member of the opposite sex enters this zone and they aren’t your wife then people will notice.
3. Social Zone: The social zone is used for interaction between acquaintances or those transacting business. This is also the zone that you would use when interacting with a cashier at a store or being introduced to a friend’s mom. We often interact with others and give “civil inattention” in this zone. This occurs when you notice someone, make quick eye contact and then look away to indicate you are giving them privacy.
4. Public Zone: The last zone refers to the space between a speaker and their audience. Some examples would include a professor giving a lecture or a politician speaking before a large crowd.

When someone else is too close or too far away, we feel uncomfortable and we attribute unfavorable traits to the person violating our space. We might believe that the other person is pushy, rude,
cold, or aggressive. We tend to feel negative emotions whenever our space is violated and are motivated to leave.  In one study, men took longer to urinate when someone stood beside them as the personal space violation caused them to tense up.

Personal space is often measured in the following three ways:

1. Relational Distance Index measures the use of distancing tactics in personal relationships.
2. Stop distance method:  The participant is asked to stand some distance away and then to walk slowly toward the experimenter and to stop at the point of discomfort
3. Naturalistic Observation: This simply involves observing personal space in the natural environment.

There are numerous other factors that influence our personal space preferences that will now be examined:

1. Gender: Male-male pairs keep the largest distances, followed by female-female pairs and then male-female pairs.
2. Age: Personal space increases with age until early adulthood. By age 12, children use personal space approximately the way adults do.
3. Personality: Extraverts need smaller personal space while disagreeable people need more. Trait anxiety and Type A people need more personal space.
4. Self-Construal: Those who think of themselves as social and interdependent (including those who are primed by a situation to think that way) choose closer distances than those who think of themselves as personal and independent.
5. Mentally Ill: People who are mentally ill or who have been abused usually need more personal space.
6. Attraction: Attraction draws us physically closer. Emotional displays also affect personal space. Women who see either happiness or sadness in someone’s face move relatively close. However, men move closer to happiness than to sadness. Both genders choose a larger distance when they see fear in the other person’s face.
7. Fear-Security: People choose closer distances when they feel secure and larger distances when they feel unsafe or fearful. Unfortunately, disabilities or other visible stigmata often lead to greater distancing by others.
8. Cooperation vs. Competition: Cooperation is associated with closer interpersonal space.
9. Power and Status: Personal space is related more to differences in status than to the amount of status; the greater the difference, the greater the interpersonal distance.
10. Physical Influences: Close distances are more uncomfortable when lighting is dimmer. Generally, we prefer more space between us when the overall supply of physical space is low.
11. Culture: Different cultures have different personal spacing.  In one study, those of differing religions had more space between them than those of the same religion.

There are at least 5 theories that attempt to explain personal space behaviors:

  1. Social Learning theory: Personal Space norms are taught and reinforced by parents and authority figures (stay away from strangers).
  2.  Affiliative-Conflict theory: We sometimes want to move closer to someone but also move away. An equilibrium is formed and if one person violates it the other compensates through other channels (eye contact, etc..)
  3. Social Penetration: As intimacy levels change in the relationship each person engages in compensatory and reciprocal behaviors. Moderate distances are most comforting and anything outside this zone is considered uncomfortable.
  4. Arousal Cognition: When you get too close to somebody you become aroused and label it either negative (anger) or positive (pleasure-sexual). We then reciprocate or compensate.
  5. Approach Avoidance: Discomfort comes when we don’t balance approach-avoidance in relationships.

And finally settings can be distinguished between those that encourage social interaction and those that don’t.  Sociopetal settings facilitate social interaction. Circular rooms are sociopetal. This is good for dinner tables and such.  Sociofugual settings discourage social interaction. Hallways are sociofugal. This is good for settings where social interaction isn’t desirable (library). People don’t fill libraries to capacity and they prefer sitting back to back.


Territoriality is a pattern of behavior and attitudes held by an individual or group, based on perceived, attempted, or actual ownership or control of a definable physical space, object, or idea that may involve habitual occupation, defense, personalization, and marking of it.  Territoriality involves psychological ownership, which helps fulfill three human needs: for efficacy (to be efficient and competent), for self-identity and for place identity (having a place of one’s own).

Marking and Personalization are both part of territoriality.  Marking means placing an object or substance in a space to indicate one’s territorial intentions.  Personalization means marking in a manner that indicates one’s identity.

According to Altman’s model, there are seven types of territory that differ in terms of degree of privacy, affiliation and accessibility allowed by each.  These seven territories include:

1. Primary territories are spaces owned by individuals or primary groups, controlled on a relatively permanent basis by them, and central to their daily lives.
2. Secondary territories are less important to us than primary territories, but they do possess moderate significance to their occupants. A person’s desk at work, favorite restaurant, locker in the gym, and home playing field are examples. They are more likely to be rotated with strangers.
3. Public territories are areas open to anyone in good standing with the community. Beaches, sidewalks, hotel lobbies, trains, stores, and ski slopes are public territories.
4. Objects meet some of the criteria for territories—people mark, personalize, defend, and control their books, coats, bicycles, and calculators.
5. Ideas are also, in some ways, territories. Creators defend them through patents and copyrights. Perhaps objects and ideas are the most human of all territories, in the sense that they are based in cognitive processes that are more developed in humans than in any other species.
6. Interactional territories are areas temporarily controlled by a group of interacting individuals. Examples include a classroom, a family’s picnic area, and a football game in the park. Little overt marking of these territories may occur, yet entry into them is perceived as interference, rudeness, or “crashing.
7. Body Territory: This is not the same as personal space, because the boundary is at one’s skin rather than some distance away from it. Individuals mark and personalize their bodies with make-up, jewelry, tattoos, and clothing, and they certainly defend and try to control access to their bodies.

Territory can be violated in three major ways:

1.) Invasion: Someone from the outside physically enters the territory usually to take control of it.
2.) Violation: This is a more temporary incursion into someone’s territory. Usually, the goal is not ownership but annoyance or harm. Vandalism, hit-and-run attacks, and burglary fall into this category. Playing loud music would also be a violation of another’s territory.
3.) Contamination: The person puts something foul in the other person’s territory.

When territory is violated, people try to defend it in three major ways:

  1. Prevention:  This involves using markers like signs or fences or coats to stop anticipated infringement.
  2. Reaction- This could involve slamming doors, using aggression or issuing court orders.
  3. Social Boundary: An example here would be a customs office at a border that separates wanted from unwanted visitors.

One study found that if you want decisions to go your way, you should try to get others to discuss the decision on your territory.

There are numerous factors that influence territorial behaviors.

  1. Personal: Kids can’t own territory so they do graffiti as a way of marking what is theirs. Males want more territory and think they own the home while the wife usually owns the kitchen.
  2. Social: Homeless-kids-poor-rich in this order from those who are least territorial to those that are most territorial.
  3. Competition: When resources are scarce people will be more territorial. In contrast, the cost-benefit theory of animal territoriality predicts that territoriality is greatest when resources are abundant, because that is when the benefits of territoriality are worth the effort of defending them. We deny outsiders access when resources are low.
  4. Defensible Space: There is more crime when nobody controls an area and when there is less lighting. Stores with smaller parking lots that don’t sell gas are robbed more. Surveillability helps defend houses but fences and symbolic barriers (being well kept) apparently don’t. Cul de sacs are better to defend and you should increase people walking in neighborhoods.
  5. Culture: French don’t even like territoriality but Germans do. Americans think the sidewalk is part of their territory but Greeks don’t.
  6. Home Field advantage:  It does exist and is due to fan support in closed buildings with more fans cheers/boos having more effects than when outside. Refs are influenced as more noise made their calls less certain and they give fewer fouls against the home team.

There are at least 3 functions of Territoriality

1. Ethological Approach: This approach suggests that evolution predisposes territoriality and emphasizes aggression and defense. There is no proof this is an inherited behavior and great apes show little territoriality.
2. Interaction organizer: Territoriality serves to organize human behavior so that violence is not necessary. It gives a sense of control and order to an environment. It fixes individuals in one place and allows for control of social and physical resources. Identity is increased and familiarity with a place enhances efficiency.
3. Functions: Territoriality reduces conflict by spreading out the species and increases commitment to certain settings. Antisocial behavior is a rarer result of territoriality.

You want to give people primary territories, block off streets in neighborhoods and live on a culs de sac. In hospitals, you should try to give patients control when possible and use visible markers to separate patients.

Privacy is selective control of access to the self or to one’s group. Access to self may mean information about or interaction with oneself. Sometimes we want privacy with select people. The words access to self also refers to a range of sensory avenues. Some allow us visual and auditory access but not touch. We can have cognitive privacy.

The key word is control. A person who has optimal privacy is not a recluse, but someone who is able to find either companionship or solitude easily (social interaction management) and who is able to either share or halt the flow of self-related information (information management).

Privacy can be a behavior, value, preference, need or expectation. Privacy has four faces: solitude (being alone), intimacy (group privacy), anonymity (wants to be among others but not identified) and reserve (limiting communication about yourself to others).  Five other forms of privacy include:

1. Solitude: includes seclusion (living away from others) and not neighboring (disliking contact with neighbors).
2. Intimacy: includes friends and family intimacy or only sharing things with certain groups or people.
3. Isolation: means solitude with no one else nearby, whereas solitude means being alone in the midst of others.
4. Individual cognitive freedom is the opportunity to do more or less as you please and to pay attention to whatever you like.
5. Social cognitive freedom emphasizes freedom from the expectations of others, such as your family, boss, or friends. Both might be described as privacy in the sense of “free to be the real me.”

There are a range of factors that influence how much privacy we want:

1.Personal: Males want more privacy and want to escape more while women seem to create social regulations. More reserved and introspective people want more privacy.
2. Social: People are more upset when information about personality is obtained without their consent and given to outsiders.
3. Physical: People want walls at work but at home open spaces are ok. People want insulated rooms for auditory privacy and want distance from neighbors. Soft rooms lead to more self-disclosure. Having to share small areas leads to more disclosure.
4. Culture: Cultures differ in how they regulate privacy, either through physical or social means. Some cultures rely more on social means and have taboos of violating privacy.

Privacy is also related to communication, control and our sense of identity.

1. Communication: Solitude and intimacy are used to evaluate our lives and allow emotional release (talking to self, off the record comments, crying). It’s used for contemplation, rejuvenation, creative expression, recovery and concealing oneself.
2. Control: People want control over access to themselves and information about themselves. Wilderness solitude gives us some more control over what we pay attention to and allows us to get away from it all. Hospital patients who have control over diagnostic information cooperate more and experience less stress.
3. Identity: Privacy allows us to contemplate our behavior and see whether ‘this is the real me.’ Place attachment is enhanced with privacy.

Some studies have shown that when people have less privacy they adapt by thinking they don’t need as much. Those who know how to regulate privacy do better in school. Those who have more privacy desire more while those who have less desire less.  Crowding is a failure to obtain privacy and too much privacy is loneliness. When desired privacy=attained privacy the
optimum results. Privacy might mean social and informational access while territoriality might be spatial access.

There are three major theories that attempt to explain our need for privacy.  These theories are:

1. Selective Control to access of Self: Privacy is a boundary control process as it lets us include and exclude others. It balances our need to be alone and with others. Privacy is an optimizing process by which we match reality with desired level of interaction.
2. Life Cycle: The development of the self is based on a gradual realization that self and non-self are distinct; this distinction is closely related to the individual understanding of privacy and the availability of privacy. Privacy has a time dimension, we don’t always want to be alone or we become lonely. People at different stages don’t appreciate privacy needs of other stages.
3. Hierarchy of Needs and Status: The higher status you are the more privacy you usually demand. At lower status jobs, people want social control, at mid status jobs people usually have offices and then at the top they want confidentiality and protected communication.

People construct environments with privacy in mind.  The physical environment-can impede or facilitate information flow. Some settings give visual privacy, others don’t.  Insufficient space can also hurt privacy.   Buildings with long corridors and having to pass more strangers in one’s building leads to less  privacy.  The privacy gradient suggests that designers should put the most public rooms in front and private ones in the back of a building. Not every job requires solitude (brainstorming) and not everyone wants an office and different people want different types of offices.


Crowding refers to a person’s experience of the number of other people around and is personally defined as opposed to density which is an objective measure.  Crowds-used to be seen as formation of large, temporary and emotional groups (lynch mobs). The key characteristics of crowds, insofar as their potential destructiveness is concerned, are:

i.) Anonymity of crowd members
ii.) Suggestibility of the crowd members and the
iii.) Unpredictability of the crowd’s behavior.

If a crowd does turn to anti-social activities, research suggests that the best ways to disperse it are to:

i. Create new stimuli that are stronger than whatever formed the crowd.
ii. Shift the crowd’s attention.
iii. Make the participants realize their personal identities and values.
iv. Divide the opinions of participants.
v. Isolate the leaders

Density is an objective measure of individuals per unit of area. Density is an objective measure, but it can be measured at different physical scales. The room, building, neighborhood, city, region, and nation in which an individual is located probably all have different densities.

Crowding, on the other hand, refers to a person’s experience of the number of other people around. Rather than a physical ratio, crowding is a personally defined, subjective feeling that too many others are around. Crowding may correspond to high density, but often the connection is not as strong as one might think. Crowding is related to too many demands on a person and loss of privacy.

Social Physics Theory is based on gravity and suggests that the effects of crowding are based on mass (number of others present) and their distance. Closer and higher mass exert more influence.

Many studies have shown that crowding has at least three aspects:

1. Crowding is based on some situational antecedent and includes feeling constrained, being interfered with physically, discomfort or having other expectations not met.
2. Crowding implies emotion or affect, usually negative, but positive if we overcome crowding.
3. Crowding will produce some kind of behavioral response, from assertiveness, finishing quickly, psychological withdrawal, physical withdrawal or adaptation.

There are at least six variables that influence crowding that include:

1. Personal: Grouping others into categories (in a setting) reduces crowding. If we expect crowding we aren’t as affected and those with experience in crowding adapt better. It’s more aversive in primary rather than secondary environments. Men handle it worse, women share distress with others but this may harm them in the long run. People feel more crowded in a negative mood.
2. Culture: Asians prefer social barriers while Mediterranean’s want physical barriers. Asians deal with high density better than Europeans. Cultures gradually learn to deal with high density by adapting. Some cultures encourage psychological distance, allow more times for escape and develop strict norms about who can say what to whom.  Others have rules around restricting movement in a home, encouraging interaction with acquaintances outside the home.
3. Presence of others:  Touching leads to more crowding, especially for men. We feel crowded when others around us do things we don’t like or if they are trying to interfere with us or believe things we don’t.
4. Carry over: Feeling crowded at one point in time can carry over to other times (even if density is no longer high).
5. Giving information: People who are told how long a wait will be, while in line, feel less crowding.  Telling people to expect a crowd aslo helps them adapt to it better.  Expecting fewer people in a place but finding out this isn’t true also leads to a sense of crowding.
6. Physical: Long-corridors, high rises, higher temperatures and darker rooms lead to more crowding. Higher ceilings makes people feel less crowded.

Crowding has real effects on health.  Specifically, high density affects blood pressure and other cardiac functions, skin conductance and sweating’ as well as other physiological indicators of stress. High density can precipitate illness merely based on the ease with which disease organisms can move from person to person. Those who want more distance experience more health problems when crowded. It’s worse when you have to physically interact as well.  Other variables include:

  1. Psychological stress: Mental health declines with high density. However, social support can mediate these effects. Too much or too little density can cause low social support.
  2. Alcohol: People in high-density groups tend to drink more.
  3. Expectations: In one study, expecting one level of crowd density and getting another reduced performance but those used to high density crowds performed better.
  4. Antisocial behavior: Robbery and car theft increase with population density, and there are increases in aggression for males with long term exposure to crowds. Increased social density often means fewer resources per person. Fear of crime also increases with high density populations.
  5. Dislike and helping: Anticipating high density can lead to liking others less. High density crowds predict lower levels of helping in individuals.
  6. Humor-High density crowds enhance humor. It may be through contagion or through releasing tension that high density crowds create.

There are several long-term consequences to too much crowding that includes an exaggerated stress response, learned helplessness, antisocial behavior, reactance (restoring freedom) and

There are several theories that seek to explain the effects of crowding.  These theories include:

1. Personal Antecedents- This theory suggests there are many personal factors that predict a greater sense of  crowding.  These factors include being: male, being in a new culture, being unfamiliar or very familiar with a setting, being a non-screener, having an external locus of control, preferring low density populations, anticipating a different density than exists all predict crowding.
2. Similarity theory: This theory suggests that crowding occurs when we meet dissimilar people doing things we don’t like.
3. Physical: The ecological approach says resource shortages lead to a feeling of crowding.  Hence, control of resources must be restricted through line-ups or lists.
4. Personal Control: Feeling out of control leads to a sense of crowding. There is cognitive, behavioral and decisional control. Cognitive control would be knowing about wait times, behavioral control would be being able to reach a goal and decisional control is the amount of choices available.
5. Overload- This theory suggests that a sensory overloaded person’s control is impaired. Adaptation levels can be compromised.

In order to design a physical space to reduce crowding you should provide more space, reduce the length of long corridors, divide up spaces with partitions, allow personalization and do
behavioral zoning in camp sites so that people with similar activities are near each other.

Source: Gifford, R. (2007). Environmental Psychology: Principles and Practices (4th ed). Canada: Optimal Books.


PDF Summary

The Matthew Effect

Main Idea: The Matthew effect refers to the idea that success breeds more success and failure breeds more failure in what becomes vicious and virtuous cycles.

The terms virtuous cycle and vicious cycle refer to complex chains of events that reinforce themselves through a feedback loop. A virtuous cycle has positive results, while a vicious cycle has negative results. Both of these cycles involve a complex chain of events that tends away from establishing an equilibrium (between positive and negative). A positive feedback loop is created in which each iteration of the cycle reinforces the next. These cycles will continue in the direction of their momentum until something intervenes to break the cycle.

The Cycle is called the “Matthew Effect” by some economists because the principle was referred to in the Parable of the Talents in the Book of Matthew. In the parable, it is written: “For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”(Matthew 25:29, RSV)

Virtuous Cycle: A business maintains positive relationships with customers that leads to increased work satisfaction for employees leading to more positive relationships with customers. These positives will keep spilling over into other areas of the business and will positively benefit all associated with the business.

Vicious Cycle: Poor customer service may result in negative interactions with customers resulting in low employee satisfaction and work‐related stress. This may lead to worsening customer service and the cycle repeats. These negatives will spill over into other areas of the business and all associated with the business will be hurt. When one good thing happens to you it increases the probability that another good thing will happen, and this momentum is like a wave you can ride. This works in the negative direction as well. You need to break vicious cycles because they can become all consuming and you need to embrace virtuous cycles.

Pareto Distributions
While normal distributions (bell curve) describe how many things are distributed in the world pareto distributions are the norm for any domain of creative production (agriculture, art, economics etc…). A Pareto distribution suggests that a very small percentage of people produce all of the wealth or content in a given domain. The square root of the number of people in a given domain produces half of the creative output. For example, If you have 10 employees, 3 do half the work.

The Pareto distribution applies to any endeavor with variability in individual production. If you take 100 composers, 10 produce half the music played and if you take 10 composers, of the 1000 songs created only 30 are played half the time.  The Pareto distribution governs the distribution of money in society. This isn’t just limited to economics, it is a natural law and applies to all creative domains. The problem is that resources will accumulate with fewer and fewer people over time. You can’t blame this on an oppressive system as that undermines the vast complexity
of the problem as nobody can figure it out.

In Western societies, IQ and conscientiousness predict success. This means that those who work hard and are intelligent succeed. This is a pretty good indicator of the validity of how western societies are structured.

Interaction Styles – Adam Grant

Main Idea: Employees can either be givers, takers or matchers. Management should remove takers from the team and promote givers.

According to psychologist Adam Grant, people in organizations develop one of three different styles of interacting with each other.  These three styles are:

1. Takers: These people think about every interaction as an opportunity to get things from other people. They are strategic about taking on visible and important projects, leaving the grunt work for other people and like to get more than they give. Takers are either psychopaths, narcissists or people who got burned too many times and are protecting themselves.
2. Givers:  These people enjoy helping others and often do so without strings attached.  They are focused on others, freely share their knowledge, time, skills and connections with other people and are focused on other people and give more than they receive.
3. Matchers:  These people try to keep an even balance of giving and taking and are governed by even exchanges of favors.   They think: “I’ll do something for you, if you do something for me.”

Results on Performance
Givers make up roughly 25% of the worst performers because they are either busy doing their colleague’s jobs or they care too deeply to see customers buy bad products.  Givers also make up a majority of the top 25% of the best performers because helping others can accelerate a person’s career.  Many people believe they are givers when they are actually takers. Givers are too busy helping others to promote how generous they are.

One of the best investments an organization can make is to get more people to act like givers. Givers go beyond their job descriptions at their own expense.  Takers rise quickly, but also fall at the hands of either matchers who sabotage a taker’s success or fall at the hands of other takers.  Matchers have limited long-term relationships and resources because of their limited perspectives on sharing information and resources.

The Giver’s Advantage
Givers learn to solve problems through helping others while gaining valuable insight into how things work across an organization.  Givers gain social capital by building relationships and networks of people willing to help them.

Building a Culture of Givers

You can build a culture of givers through utilizing these four strategies:

1. Keep Takers off the Team: Don’t equate giving with agreeableness as that is just an outer veneer. There are disagreeable givers and agreeable takers (fakers).  Agreeable takers are identified by the words they use. Ask interviewees to predict future behavior as people project their motivations onto others. Takers anticipate more selfish behavior when asked what they think other people will do.
2. Pay attention to Givers: Successful givers do five-minute favors. A micro-loan of time, skills or connections can add large value to people’s lives.
3. Ask for Help: Create a culture where it’s okay to ask for help. Leaders need to model asking for help to show its okay.
4. The Reciprocity Ring: Gather a group of eight to ten people and ask them to make requests for something they want or need, but cannot get on their own. Challenge everyone else to think like givers and try to fulfill the request. Givers naturally respond, takers act like givers because it is visible and matchers realize it’s best to be a giver.

Paranoia melts away in this type of culture and becomes “pronoia.” A “pronoid” believes other people are plotting his or her well-being.

Source: Adam Grant, Give and Take, The Global Leadership Summit

Learning Overview

Measuring Learning 

One of the major purposes of psychotherapy is to help facilitate change that clients value.  In order to best accomplish this, we need to understand how exactly to accomplish that change.  From a behavioral perspective, learning is a change in behavior due to experience.  We know that learning has occurred when we see behavioral changes  that are maintained over a period of time.  Experience refers to exposure to events that affect, or are capable of affecting, behavior.

However not all changes in behavior mean that learning has occurred.   Sometimes, behavior changes occur as a result of other factors that may include maturation, injury, drugs or disease.  It’s important to be able to understand what caused the change in behavior as you may have stopped worrying because you started taking a new drug and not because you have learned new behavioral responses.

If learning is a change in behavior, then to measure it we must measure changes in behavior.  There are a variety of different paradigms for measuring change that are worth consideration:

  1. Reduction in Errors: One way to measure change is by administering tests and then looking for a reduction in errors over time. For example, in therapy, you may ask a client to summarize what cognitive distortions are and she may only be able to name 1 or 2 when first introduced.  However, over time, if learning has occurred she should be able to accurately identify more of them.  If she can’t, learning probably hasn’t occurred.
  2. Change in Topography of Behaviors: Another way to measure change is to look at how a client is performing a behavior. For example, when initially doing exposure work the client may not write down her SUDS ratings at frequent intervals.  However, the next time she does exposures she may change that behavior and record her SUDS at frequent intervals.  This would mean the “topology” or the appearance of her behavior has changed and we can infer that learning has occurred.
  3. Changes in the Intensity of a behavior: Learning can also be inferred when we notice that a client has increased the intensity of a behavior.  For example, a client may begin filling out thought records without much detail or elaboration.  However, over time, the intensity of the behavior may increase so that the thought records are much more detailed and the client has elaborated on what was once miniscule detail.
  4. Change in the speed at which a behavior is performed: Another way to measure learning in therapy is to observe how quickly a client can perform a new behavior.  Ideally, over time, practice should lead to increased speed of completion.  For example, if you assign a client homework that involves doing the evidence technique on a belief then the first time that client attempts the exercise it may take them a long time to complete it.  However, completion time should decrease over time which would reflect new learning that the client has gained.
  5. Change in Latency: Learning can also be inferred when we observe a change in behavior latency.  Latency is a period of delay before a behavior happens.  If the delay between a stimulus and the appropriate behavioral response shortens over time then new learning has occurred.  For example, initially, there may be a large delay between when the client experiences an emotion and when they pull out a thought record to write that emotion down.  If the delay between emotion and filling out a thought record decreases, we can say that new learning has occurred.
  6. Change in Rate of Frequency: Another common way to measure change is to simply record how frequently a behavior happens.  For example, a client who is struggling with addiction can record the frequency of his lapses.  If frequency of lapses decreases over time then learning has occurred.  However, if frequency remains the same we can infer that no new learning or “progress” in therapy has been made.
  7. Fluency: Fluency is a measure that combines speed and accuracy to measure learning.  For example, clients should be able to complete thought records with increasing speed and accuracy over time.  If they do, we say that they have become “fluent” in the behavior and can be relatively confident that they have learned the principles and are progressing towards self-sufficiency in the intervention.

We also learn through feedback from the environment.  This type of learning is called: “operant learning” and is examined in the following three posts:

  1. Giving Rewards
  2. Using Punishers
  3. Observational Learning

Source: Paul Chance, Learning and Behavior (2013) isbn=1285545966


Full PDF Summary

Extinguishing Behaviors Worksheet

Rewarding Behaviors Worksheet

Leveraging Rookie Smarts – Liz Wiseman

Main Idea: There are downsides to knowledge and expertise as we make more assumptions and can cease seeking out new information. Learning how to shift back into “rookie” mode can make us better leaders.

The Downside of Experience 
A rookie moment is when leaders are doing something important and hard for the very first time. In rookie moments, leaders know absolutely nothing and need to ask a lot of questions.  With experience comes knowledge, confidence and credibility—obvious upsides. However, there are two major downsides:

1. Knowledge tends to lead people to make assumptions—to fill in gaps with what’s not there or see only what they want to see.
2. Knowledge and experience cause people to miss things entirely—to become so focused on what they are paying attention to that they miss what else is going on.

There are at least 4 ways that Rookie’s can contribute valuable perspectives:

1. There are no assumptions weighing people down.
2. There is a willingness to try, sometimes because people don’t know how hard the new challenge is.
3. People seek out and gather ideas and expertise from others and from God.
4. When people are new at something, they focus on the basics, improvise and become resourceful.

The “Stretching Experience” 
A learner’s advantage kicks in during a stretching experience. Through the process of reaching and seeking, rookies outperform people with years of experience in speed and innovation.  There are four things that can interfere with ideal “stretching experiences.”

1. Over-stretching asks for too big of a stretch from others.
2. Under-stretching gives people work they are already comfortable with and know how to do.
3. Rescuing eases up on the tension of a good stretch and loses out on a learning opportunity.
4. Lingering waits too long before offering the next challenge.

Plateau Warning Signs
The warning signs that a leader may be on a plateau ironically happen when everything is going right, so the signs can be hard to see when:

1. Things are running smoothly.
2. Familiarity about the business is high.
3. Positive feedback is present.
4. The leader becomes the mentor.
5. Busyness and boredom are partners.

Leading as a Rookie
People can lead as perpetual rookies, knowing when it’s time to draw upon wisdom and when to pivot to the role of rookie by asking questions and testing assumptions. Here are five ways you can shift into rookie mode again:

1. Throw away your notes and force yourself to improvise.
2. Take the extreme question challenge. Shift from knowing and sharing information to seeking and inquiring.
3. Admit you don’t know. When business is growing, most of us are underqualified every day so ask for help.
4. Let someone else take the lead and learn from them.
5. Disqualify yourself. Accelerate a learning curve by taking on a project or job that’s too big—an experience that demands growth.

Source: Rookie Smarts, Liz Wiseman, The Global Leadership Summit 2015

Moving From Good to Great – Jim Collins

Good to Great
Jim Collins suggests that  companies that move from good to great are led by level 5 leaders, hire self-motivated people and follow their “hedgehog” concept.

Jim Collins looked at companies that went from “Good to Great.” The companies had to have experienced 15-year cumulative stock returns that were at or below the general stock market (“good) and then they had to show cumulative returns at least three times the market over the next fifteen years (“great).  Companies that made this transition tended to be similar in many ways.

Companies that go from good to great are led by “level 5” leaders. Level 5 leaders are people who combine extreme personal humility with intense professional will. They shun the attention of celebrity and work tirelessly in the background towards creating a great company. They have the character traits taught by major world religions and do the following 4 things:

1.) Honesty: What is the truth of your ambition? Be ambitious first and foremost for the cause not yourself.
2.) They set up successors for success. They avoid the “curse of charisma” which is not sustainable. They establish systems that outlast them and can function without them.
3.) They are compellingly modest. They are seemingly ordinary people producing extraordinary results. They don’t like talking about themselves.
4.) They have unwavering resolve: They do what it takes to succeed and show “grit” or extreme discipline.

Getting the Right People
Executives that led companies from good to great first focused on getting the right people on the bus before deciding where to drive it. If you have the wrong people on the bus it doesn’t matter where you plan to go you won’t make it. “Who” questions must come before “what” decisions — before vision, before strategy, before organization structure, before tactics.  When in doubt, don’t hire — keep looking. The moment you feel the need to tightly manage someone, you’ve made a hiring mistake. If you are spending time trying to manage/motivate/incentivize people you have the wrong people. The right ones are self-motivated and self-disciplined.

Good-to-great companies tend to have rigorous cultures where leadership consistently applies exacting standards at all times and at all levels.  Put your best people on your biggest opportunities, not your biggest problems. Many companies think that putting their best people in bad situations will help turn the bad situation around. While this some-times works to everyone’s advantage, managers who do so fail to grasp the fact that managing your problems can only make you good. Building opportunities is the only way to become great.

Take yourself out of the equation when making personnel decisions.  When you need to make a personnel decision, consider the following questions: Is this choice about me or about the cause? How will the cause suffer if a change is not made?

The Hedgehog and the Fox 
Based on Isaiah Berlin’s essay “The Hedgehog and the Fox” people were compared to either foxes or hedgehogs. Foxes pursue many ends at the same time and experience a complex world and don’t have a unifying vision. Hedgehogs simplify a complex world into a single idea and vision that guides everything. Anything that doesn’t relate to the hedgehog’s ideas are seen as irrelevant and ignored. Hedgehogs always defeat foxes in 1 on 1 battles. To discover your “hedgehog” concept ask the following three questions:

1. What are you best in the world at? Figure out what you can be best at and what you cannot be best at and focus.
2. What are you passionate about? Determine what you are passionate about first and focus on that and the money will come. Don’t focus on things that you are not passionate about in an attempt to make money.
3. What drives your economic engine? Search for the one denominator that has the single greatest impact on your economic engine and increase that.

How to achieve Greatness – TD Jakes

Main Idea: Bishop Jakes counsels us not to be constrained by titles, to ignore haters, to minister to others through stories and to hire the right people. He also teaches us to let go of yesterday’s security and to embrace a life of creation and not consumption.

People get trapped by titles and don’t stray from them. Don’t let titles stop you from growing in a holistic manner.  God put a seed in all of us and gave us time to find out what was
in the seed. The notion that there is only one tree in the seed is a myth as there may be a forest. Don’t limit yourself by titles and expectations and you will evolve from a tree to a forest.  Find the common denominator and it can be manifested in many different ways. “He opened my mouth to speak” and that could be in movies, books, sermons etc…

We need to be challenged every day or we are wasting our life. You can’t go through the door of destiny without going through the hall of haters. Haters are symptoms that you are on the right track and they are just an attempt to distract you or to educate you because they aren’t always wrong. Eat the meat and throw away the bones (fish).  Success is not changing the hater’s minds it is submitting to what God has called you to do. Haters are  the seducers that say “You aren’t succeeding because I don’t like you.”

Jesus taught people through parables so we have to minister through stories people can see themselves in.  The art of great storytelling is to allow people to see themselves without assaulting them with the truth they see.  If you are going to affect the culture you have to leave the walls of your sanctuary. The great commission is about us going forth with the message where people are.  There are a lot of people starving for what we have become accustomed to and we need to bring that  nourishment in a way that is palatable to them.

You are no greater than the people you put around you. Jesus did more with the 12 than he did with the  5000. Your dream should be bigger than what you are capable of achieving yourself.  There is something you are going to miss every day when juggling lots of responsibilities just try not to miss the same thing too many times in a row. For example, if you miss too many father moments you need to focus there or too many business moments you need to focus there.   It’s about touching everything but not holding anything too long. If you have to hold it to have it you haven’t hired the right people. You should have to touch it to keep it going but you shouldn’t have to hold it.

When something is overwhelming it’s a sign you need to restructure to carry the load. What do I need to let go to be available for what He is giving me today.  The Lord won’t let us save bread (manna in the wilderness) that was meant to spoil. God does not mean for us to save what is yesterday’s vision.  “Give us this day our daily bread” how can you get this days bread when you are holding on to yesterday’s bread. If yesterday’s bread goes bad we think we have failed but that’s not true as sometimes the worms are a blessing.  Any problem you ignore long enough will show up in a symptom that hurts you so that it can help you.

We weren’t created to consume but to create. The first command from God was to be fruitful. We were created by a creator to be creative. We have to stop consuming from everyone else’s table. Give people strategies instead of a cheques as strategies help us become self-reliant.  God has put seeds inside of all of His creations that have a capacity for growth. You are gifted with multiple
gifts. What are you going to do with what God gave you? Can you take what God gave you and multiply it? He didn’t give it for you to keep it and hold it but to grow it.

Source: A Conversation with Bishop TD Jakes, The Global Leadership Summit

Enlarging Your Leadership Reach – Jossy Chacko

Main Idea: We can expand our stewardship by enlarging our vision, empowering our people and by embracing risk. The Parable of the Talents teaches us these principles.

The Parable of the Talents teaches us that we must use our gifts and resources to produce increasing returns. If we are wise with our talents then our stewardship and reach will be enhanced. It also teaches us that sitting on our talents means we lose what we have. We have to prove ourselves to be trusted with more. Often our dreams are about burying our talents to enjoy life/pleasure and those dreams need to be given up.

What have you done with your talents? Faithfulness is multiplying what you have been given not sitting on it to keep it safe. Our legacy is about what we have done with what we are entrusted with.  In order to enlarge your leadership reach, you can embrace the “three E’s” which include:

1. Enlarge Your Vision: The unfaithful servant had a vision but it was a “safe” vision to not lose anything while the faithful servants had a growing, multiplying vision. Is your vision about maintenance or the mission of multiplication?  Visions should inspire others to achieve, keep us awake and energize us. Don’t be upset when you see that others don’t share or believe in your vision as they haven’t seen what God has put in your heart.  Enlarging means staying focused but allowing your horizon to get bigger and bigger. Example: His vision is to “transform lives and communities holistically” which grew to include supplying toilets to people.  This wasn’t a new vision, it was expanding the horizons of the current vision.  If your vision is to keep what you have you won’t see opportunities around you.  Become a “passionary” and not just a visionary by becoming passionate about your vision. You need the help of others and ongoing miracles to accomplish big visions.

2. Empower Your People: The master gives the servants power to use talents as they see fit. We shouldn’t overlook others but learn how to see leadership in others. Your empowerment abilities will determine your leadership reach.  Take a long vacation and see what happens to the vision when you leave to determine how empowered your people are.  Leaders are like scaffolding as we lay the foundation, champion and raise up leaders, empower leaders and move on to the next horizon to champion.  We often get stuck in our projects and have no room to champion our next horizon. There are three prerequisites for empowerment:

i.) Focus on building character before empowering people or they can become dangerous. People don’t fail for lack of information they fail for lack of character. Great leaders build the character of those around them.
ii.) Empowerment happens through relationship because without relationship we can’t know how to empower others. It’s not about leading from the front but leading from the side.
iii.) Agree on Outcomes and Measures: You need to make sure you agree on the right outcomes and have systems for measuring those outcomes in place before empowerment. Empowerment is about controlling outcomes instead of people.

3. Embrace Risk: Risk and faith are the same thing. Without faith we can’t please God so we can’t please him without taking risks. We have to stop moving from pioneering to preserving (keeping what we have). To embrace risk you need to embrace three paradigm Shifts:

1. Paradigm Shift 1: See risk as your friend to love and not your enemy to be feared. The third servant was crippled by fear of losing everything while the other two servants embraced risk and prepared to lose everything. Christians should be the most risk taking as God has not given us the spirit of fear. Give back the spirit of fear to the devil and embrace the spirit of faith to chase after your vision.   Don’t let the fear of losing what you have make you lose out on what God has for you.  Most of us take significant risks when we have nothing to lose but we become more risk averse as we gain things. Not taking risks is seen as lazy and unfaithful.
2. Paradigm Shift 2: See comfort and safety as your enemies. Don’t allow comfort and safety to halt your expanse. By you not taking on risk who is missing out? We often have to try to figure it all out before we start something but if we are called to a work God will reveal what we need when we need it. Don’t allow the earthly practicalities to stop the heavenly possibilities.
3. Paradigm Shift 3: increase your pain threshold as your leadership capacity is in direct capacity to your pain threshold. Don’t take your gifts, talents and visions with you to heaven because heaven doesn’t need it they were given to you to transform this world.

Make a list of all the ideas, dreams and visions you have buried. Next write out a timeframe for when you will begin to take action on them. Write the name of the person that will hold you accountable as well.

Source: Jossy Chacko, Expanding Your Leadership Reach, The Global Leadership Summit