So, it is that time of year....you know...the time when you are no longer resolute in keeping your resolutions. Often our resoultions, and goal attainment in general, fail because desired accomplishments are unreasonable or unplanned. In order to guarantee success, revisit your resolution and ask yourself, "Is my goal actually attainable?" and "What small steps should I plan throughout the year to attain it?" Many of the most popular resolutions involve our space. It is with our spaces that we can plan and accomplish small easily attainable changes to help us feel better and keep our resolutions to spend more time with the family at home, become more organized, and live a simpler life with less stuff.
Environmental psychology, as defined by Wikipedia, is an interdisciplanry field focused on the interplay between humans an their surroundings. It is through this field of study that we learn about the impact of our space on our psyche. Dr. Sally Augustin, a environmental psychologist, has taken the study of our surroundings out of the lab and into our lives.
What made you pursue this area of psychology? I have an MBA and, in a management role, became involved with retail design projects. I was so intrigued by the influences of store design on human behavior that eventually I went back to school to formally study environmental psychology. While in school, I became interested in human behavior in all sorts of settings, and now work on many types of projects (e.g., residential, workplace, school, healthcare, etc.). I often also work with people designing objects - from furniture to tools.
What is your design philosophy? My design philosophy is that people need to be true to themselves, their personality, and their culture. Different sorts of places support different sorts of individuals and groups doing whatever they're up to. Consider design a tool you can use to help achieve your life objectives.
What steps do you take in your own home to maximize the space? I carefully consider who will use each space most intensely and for what purpose, and create a place that supports that person in that endeavor - from the home lab where my husband needs to think creatively, to the spaces where we rest and restock our mental energy, to those where we cook the meals that literally fuel our lives.
What was your greatest success in the field? My greatest success in the field, I believe, is the work I have done to move research from arcane academic journals into the hands of people who can use it. There has been a lot of research done about the psychological implications of using different sorts of surface colors, types of light, materials, architectural features, you name it, on humans, but most people aren't familiar with it. In particular, I edit Research Design Connections (www.researchdesignconnections.com), an electronic publication that shares this information in everyday language, and wrote Place Advantage (Wiley, 2009) to get research findings out into the world.
What was your greatest challenge? I am working to create a new field, applied environmental psychology, and increasing awareness of my profession and the benefits of working with someone with my background, can definitely be challenging.
For the New Year, how can a person make a small change in her home? Open the drapes and let the sunshine in. Daylight is a sort of wonder drug that boosts our spirits and performance.
In her office? Simplify what you see as you work. Clutter creates tension which distracts us from the work we're trying to do, so minimize it, to the extent possible - use storage boxes, etc. Make sure the scene you survey is of moderate visual complexity - that's more like the living room in Charlie's mother's house than in Charlie's, if you're a fan of Two and a Half Men. Elliot and his team have found that seeing the color red (the sorts of reds teachers use to mark papers) impedes analytic perofmrance and viewing green seems to encourage creative thought - so use color accordingly. Don't try to create a workplace that's perfectly silent - that's unnerving to us as humans - but minimize the audio and visual distractions where you work - multi-tasking makes success less likely.
In her car? People often use their driving time to think through situations that they need to resolve - lemon air freshners can support these efforts.
Any latest research that would captivate our readers? There's always something new! Be in touch to learn more.
How can our readers learn more about your work?
Research Design Connections (www.researchdesignconnections.com)
Place Advantage: Applied Psychology for Interior Architecture (Wiley, 2009)