People, Places, and Things

The psychology of design: How to create an environment in which you will thrive

Sitting Smart

Posture really does make a difference!

On pleasant spring/summer days, the lounge chairs in your backyard, on your front porch, down the street in the park, or in your living room are probably imploring you to visit them. There’s psych research indicating that’s exactly what you should do.

The posture you’ll find yourself in as you stretch out on that chaise lounge and put your feet up has been linked to specific types of thinking.

Research conducting by Lipnicki in Australia associated laying down and creative thought – so a few minutes on a lounge chair may be just what you need to come up with a birthday party theme, concoct a great summer cocktail recipe, or develop an advertising slogan that will blast your firm past its competition.

When we’re sitting in a reclined position, we also seem to get along better with others. Harmon-Jones and Peterson conducted the related research finding that when we’re reclining we seem to get less angry when provoked than non-recliners incited in similar ways. When you need to work something out with your partner, or just want to have a better conversation, two lounge chairs seem to be in order.

How we’re sitting even influences how powerful we feel. Carney, Cuddy, and Yap learned that when we’re sitting in an open posture – for example, with our legs stretched out in front of us, we feel more powerful than when we’re seated in a closed position, for example, with our shoulders pivoted forward a tiny bit. When we sit in an open position, the chemical balance in our body shifts, as Carney and her team report: “High-power posers experienced elevations in testosterone, decreases in cortisol, and increased feelings of power and tolerance for risk; low-power posers exhibited the opposite pattern.”

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So, you see, you need to go sit in that lounge chair.

Sally Augustin, Ph.D., is a practicing environmental psychologist who studies person-centered design and sensory science.

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