The principle of Feng shui – to arrange rooms and buildings in ways that are pleasing and health-giving – has popular appeal. Unfortunately, Feng shui’s scientific credentials are lacking, being based as it is on the ancient Chinese concept of Ch’i or life-force. The good news is that psychologically informed, evidence-based design is on the increase. Consider this new study by Sibel Dazkir and Marilyn Read, which has compared the effects of curvilinear (rounded) and rectilinear (straight-edged) furniture on people’s emotions.
Over one-hundred undergrad participants viewed four computer-generated room interiors via an online survey, and provided ratings about how each one made them feel in terms of pleasure (e.g. how happy, hopeful) and approach (how much time they’d like to spend in the room; how sociable the room made them feel). Two of the rooms contained curvy, rounded furniture arranged in two different ways, whilst in the other two rooms all the furniture had straight edges and sharp angles, arranged in the same two different formations. To control for other influences, the rooms were in grey-scale and devoid of any patterned decor or artwork.
Overall, the students rated the rooms negatively because they found them boring – no surprise given their simplistic form and lack of colour. Crucially, however, the two room versions full of curvilinear furniture provoked significantly higher pleasure and approach ratings from the students. In open-ended questions afterwards the students made comments like ‘I like the rounded shapes. They make the furniture look comfortable and inviting.’ Another said: ‘The rounded furniture seems to give off that calming feel.’
Obviously this is just a preliminary result – future research needs to test cross-cultural samples, check whether the effects apply when people actually enter rooms furnished in these different ways, and check whether or not influences of colour and patterns drown out the effects of furniture shape. It’s also worth considering whether rectilinear-themed rooms may have their own benefits for purposes other than relaxing and socialising. In the meantime, the researchers said their results ‘can guide designers to design more welcoming and pleasant environments with the use of curvilinear lines in their designs.’
Dazkir, S. and Read, M. (2011). Furniture Forms and Their Influence on Our Emotional Responses Toward Interior Environments. Environment and Behavior DOI: 10.1177/0013916511402063. Image is taken from the paper.
Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.