Thursday, 3 December 2009


Comparing two sources, a journal and a book, an outline of how interior spaces and the environment can have an impact on our personality and emotions.

The Environment in which we live and interact with has a major impact on our personality and therefore our every day lives. In Interior and Environmental Design it is important to take this into consideration – realising that what we design can have an impact on how a person interacts with a space. I have chosen a journal looking specifically at personality to give a scientific base to this theory. This will then be built on by discussing how the environment has an impact on personality and our emotions.

Personality, Values and Motivation by Laura Parks and Russell P. Guay reviews “the constructs of personality and values, clarifying how they are related and how they are distinct.” They look into how “personality and values have different influences on different motivational processes.” The paper presents a model in which “personality and values influence motivation via the motivational processes of goal content and goal striving.” (pg 675)Park and Guay are interested in seeing how all these areas of a person interlink with each other in different ways and therefore impact on how we react to situations in our day to day lives. In interior design, these factors must be taken into consideration as not only could a design or space impact a personality, it could also have an effect on their values and motivation in life. The goal of this paper is to gain a clearer ”understanding of how values and personality are similar, how they are distinct, and how they might collectively influence motivated behaviour.” (pg 675)

This article looks into the science and psychology behind our personalities building on research by Goldberg, 1993, Olver & Mooradian, 2003 and Bouchard, 2004, which states that our characteristics can be altered depending on the surrounding environment.“Personality is defined as enduring dispositions that cause characteristic patterns of interaction with one’s environment” (Goldberg, 1993; Olver & Mooradian, 2003)

When investigating personality a Five Factor Model (FFM) is used in many psychological experiments. This breaks down our personalities into individual aspects that are affected by different circumstances. For example, our openness to experience (curious, imaginative, open-minded). Factors like these must be considered when designing a space or object that will be experienced by an individual. Motivation and values are closely linked to each other, as these are something of a personal choice, more so than your personality. In other words, personality is something that can change without the individual being very aware of it, whereas you chose your values and make these decisions yourself. Your values in turn, impact your motivation. For example if you are interested in religion (your value), a motivation will be there to learn more about it and so practice this religion. This is clearly explained by Parks and Guay as they look into the three separate aspects individually and then bring them all together, seeing interactions between the three. They conclude that they“expect personality and values to each make unique contributions to motivational processes.” (pg 680) As all of these ideas are linked closely to how they effect our working lives, the impact of motivation in goal striving and goal content is explained in the article. This takes us away from the original idea to a deeper level of thinking and investigation.

When working with people, designers need “A greater understanding of how both personality and values relate to motivation is important because it can lead to more comprehensive theories of human behaviour.” Parks and Guay have clearly and successfully broken down the three areas of interest for investigation. They start by looking at other research to aid their reasoning and then add their own ideas and research to give a greater understanding into how the areas link together and also how this is needed to be understood when dealing with people in any environment.

Art, Community and Environment: Educational Perspectives edited by Glen Coutts and Timo Jokela is a personal review of the experience of designers and artists who work very closely with an environment, and in a community. There are three main chapters to this book – Environment, Communities and Education. Each of these sections is divided into subsections in which artists have explained their experience and work in the creative environment. The main chapter of interest is The Environment. Here Timo Jokela explains his work in Lapland, an obviously unique environment to be working in. He describes how the environment had an effect on his work, and how his work in turn had an effect on the environment. Both worked very closely together and also involved the community that interact with it. He looked into impact that it had on the viewer and their reaction to it. This proved to be something of interest and helped gain a deeper understand of how designers do have an impact on people.
“…individuals become attached to their place and merge with it; they associate their place with their image of themselves; they locate themselves there wholly, so that no one can touch the place without touching them.” (Tournier,I, pg 60.)

Jokela explains how important the surroundings and experience of the environment are to our identity and person. We often need a change of environment from that of which we are used to. I feel that this is especially important for designers as different environments can lead to lots of new ideas and experiences which may influence our work. This chapter is backed up with secondary sources for example from Yi-Fu Tuan who explains the study of Topophilia which is the feeling of belonging to a place. The close link between the environment and community is also explained from a personal point of view backed up by Suzi Gabilk and Irit Rogoff.

I can see similarities in the work of Jokela and Andy Goldsworthy. They are both artists who use the landscape and environment as and important part of the way in which they express themselves. Their work becomes part of the landscape and therefore the viewers experience it all as one. This is just one form of how the environment can therefore impact a person. Jokela describes his interaction with the community;“I often encourage the people in the area where I am making a work of art to commit themselves to the creative process. I strive for communication in my art, and this takes the form of traditional work amid the landscape rather than an external aesthetic appraisal of it. In this way, my art stimulates, transmits and brings an awareness of the culture’s own way of looking at the landscape and experiencing it.” (pg 36)

My interest in bringing both this journal and book together is by thinking of how an environment can impact a personality and therefore your values and motivation. I wanted to learn more about how our personalities are impacted in order to gain a better understanding of how space and the interaction with it can effect our emotions. Learning that not only will an experience affect our personality, but also our values and motivations brought ideas to together. For example when you visit an old cathedral or church it is very common to start thinking about religion and what it means to you. Or if you visit a war museum, you will leave with thoughts of those that risked their lives, or what may have happened if the war hadn’t happened. These spaces will have an effect on your emotions and personality and can change or alter your thinking. From the research it is shown that the designs can change our motivation and values, or our outlook on life which explains my thinking.

When designing for something that is very much about the human interaction with it, it is important that we fully understand how they may or may not react to it. It is important to take into consideration the emotions that are involved when a person will view a space or place that we have designed. Another point of interest is how people react to different spaces. The difference between how someone acts in a cosy pub in comparison to a fancy cocktail bar. The same person may alter their personality to fit into the surroundings and so our values and motivations may change due to the space that you are reacting with.

Jokela adds to this interest with his work that is very much about the environment and landscape and how they can be linked. An environment can also be a space in which we interact and therefore links these ideas to interior and environmental design. As designers it is often our job to create something that will improve a lifestyle or purely impact a person. The way this can be done can alter greatly between different cultures and communities. It is also important to consider that we ourselves experience different environments and they also have an impact on us, this can in turn affect our designs.

Coutts, Glen. & Jokela, Timo, 2008, ‘Art, community and environment : educational perspectives / edited by Glen Coutts and Timo Jokela.’

Parks, Laura & Guay, Russell P, 2009, ‘Personality, values, and motivation’, Personality and Individual Differences, vol. 47, no. 7, pp. 675-684, Nov 2009

Tournier, I. (1971). Ihmisen paikka. Porvoo: WSOY, p. 60.

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