Space and the Psychology of Personality Types: How Personality Influences Reactions to Architectural Space
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Researchers in both architecture and psychology agree that open office plans can have significant negative consequences for employees. This, though, is where universal agreement ends: researchers in both fields have struggled to identify specific and repeatable negative effects of open offices. Some studies have linked open plans to privacy concerns and decreased job satisfaction (Oldham & Brass, 1979, p. 267; Brennan et al., 2002, p. 279), but others have found better communication and increased job satisfaction for some types of employees (Zalesny & Farace, 1987, p. 253). Employee reactions to open office spaces seem to vary by task, organizational status, age, and a myriad of other factors, which makes it difficult for architects to determine how offices should be designed.The mixed results on open offices are indicative of larger problems in the environment-behavior field. Psychological research should inform architectural design solutions, but before that can happen, communication between architectural and psychological researchers must improve. The environment-behavior discipline provides a forum for this communication, but current research in the field is published in several different journals and interested parties are unlikely to see all relevant studies. For example, environment-behavior researchers often ignore purely psychological research that might be relevant to their studies of behavior and perception.This paper reviews literature on open offices and personality characteristics to illustrate how psychological research can enhance environment-behavior research. Psychological research suggests that personality dimensions like introversion/extraversion may explain mixed responses to open offices, but personality factors are largely ignored in existing environment-behavior studies. Architects strive to design specifically for their clients and occupants, but are often forced to guess about how occupants will respond to a space. Improved communication between designers and psychologists may lead to better understanding of how different people react to the same architectural spaces.
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