Nav: Home

Study shows where you are is who you are

May 09, 2016

A recent study suggests that who we are might be more integrated with where we are than previously thought. Demonstrating how architects and urban planners might take guidance from disciplines like neuroscience, philosophy and psychology, a paper published in Frontiers in Psychology, reveals that a good built environment might promote well-being and effect our decisions.

Contrary to the idea that we are separate from what we experience, the study claims that we ought to think about how the environment we create might, in turn, be used to create us. With this in mind, the scientists investigated how the way we interact with space defines how we identify ourselves and our capabilities.

"The built environment can restrict or promote spatial cognition, which can influence one's self-hood," the researchers explain. "Our spatial coordinates and our 'selves' are intertwined."

According to the researchers, we understand our environment differently depending on our experience of it. For example, learning your way through a space using a map gives a different understanding than through learning your own route. In a mapped environment, the tendency is to think of objects in relation to one another, whereas finding your own way might lead to thinking about the space in terms of its relation to you.

"The greater familiarity one has with a place increases the knowledge one has of different perspectives and orientations," they said. Similarly, the amount of time we are in our environments can change our understanding. This also suggests that having unrestricted movement in the space can over time allow us to experience multiple paths and perspectives.

The researchers say social perspectives also change spatial perspectives. An example of this is language. "Our language reveals how social relationships are mapped onto spatial ones -- for example a close friend versus a distant relation. This reveals that spatial reference frames are the fundamental way that the locations of objects, people and oneself are understood," they explain.

Envisioning a more inclusive future, the scientists explain that well-built environments are important for well-being. A relationship to the space we're in is a fundamental human experience and so it is evident that built environments need to address everyone's needs.

"Recently, architects and urban planners have started to consider the abilities and reference frames of those using the space to optimize the design of the built environment," they said.

But it goes beyond creating a building space. The fact that experience can shape individual differences, which in turn can affect the quality of spatial and social cognition a person, suggests that growing up in certain built environments can have detrimental or beneficial effects on their cognitive ability. This brings up questions such as whether raising children in enclosed spaces versus open spaces will result in differences in spatial and social cognition.

More research also needs to be performed on how spaces might affect decision making in town halls and parliaments, and the extent to which these spaces, in interaction with individual differences, can help foster more effective policy making. "Where we are, might mould who we are, but given our ability to shape the environment, we can play an active role in the development of the self," they said.
-end-


Frontiers

Related Environment Articles:

How do fishes perceive their environment?
Fishes perceive changes in water currents caused by prey, conspecifics and predators using their lateral line.
A material inspired by a sea worm changes according to the environment
The gelatinous jaw of a sea worm, which becomes hard or flexible depending on the environment around it, has inspired researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to develop a new material that can be applied to soft robotics.
When human illness rises, the environment suffers, too
A toxic environment is known to create health problems for people, but sick people can also create health problems for the environment.
Changes of the cell environment are associated with certain eye diseases
In case of ischemic injury to the retina, changes occur in the protein scaffold in the environment of retinal cells, the so-called extracellular matrix.
A Trump twist? Environment over economy in Michigan
Most Michigan residents would prefer policymakers prioritize the environment over economic growth, finds a new survey by Michigan State University researchers.
More Environment News and Environment Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#534 Bacteria are Coming for Your OJ
What makes breakfast, breakfast? Well, according to every movie and TV show we've ever seen, a big glass of orange juice is basically required. But our morning grapefruit might be in danger. Why? Citrus greening, a bacteria carried by a bug, has infected 90% of the citrus groves in Florida. It's coming for your OJ. We'll talk with University of Maryland plant virologist Anne Simon about ways to stop the citrus killer, and with science writer and journalist Maryn McKenna about why throwing antibiotics at the problem is probably not the solution. Related links: A Review of the Citrus Greening...