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 atrazine regulations have influenced the environment
Opposing chemical trends linked to atrazine regulations from 1990s.
COVID-19 and the built environment
Social distancing has Americans mostly out of the places they usually gather and in their homes as we try to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
A broad look at plant-environment interactions
Three plant science journals---the American Journal of Botany (AJB), Applications in Plant Sciences (APPS), and the International Journal of Plant Sciences (IJPS)---have joined efforts to provide a broad look at how plants interact with their environment.
Observing proteins in their natural environment
Certain medications, such as those used to treat cancer, lose their effect because proteins in the membrane of the target cell simply expel them again.
New research looks at type 1 diabetes and changes in the environment
Studies have shown a rapid increase in new cases of type 1 diabetes worldwide.
Chemicals in the environment: A focus on mixtures
The real world is marked by multiple stressors, among them cocktails of chemicals.
Rubber in the environment
The tread on the tyre is worn out, new tyres are needed.
How we care for the environment may have social consequences
Anyone can express their commitment to the environment through individual efforts, but some pro-environmental or 'green' behaviors may be seen as either feminine or masculine, which Penn State researchers say may have social consequences.
Neighborhood environment and health
It is well understood that urban black males are at a disproportionately high risk of poor health outcomes.
Children shape their learning environment
A close collaboration between University of Connecticut and Interacting Minds at Aarhus University researchers is exploring how parents and children influence each other when they interact, and the longer term impact this has on language acquisition.
More Environment News and Environment Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Clint Smith
The killing of George Floyd by a police officer has sparked massive protests nationwide. This hour, writer and scholar Clint Smith reflects on this moment, through conversation, letters, and poetry.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Nina
Producer Tracie Hunte stumbled into a duet between Nina Simone and the sounds of protest outside her apartment. Then she discovered a performance by Nina on April 7, 1968 - three days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Tracie talks about what Nina's music, born during another time when our country was facing questions that seemed to have no answer, meant then and why it still resonates today.  Listen to Nina's brother, Samuel Waymon, talk about that April 7th concert here.