I’ve been debating about whether to put this on my personal blog or my professional one. The professional one won out!
So, as some of my other blog posts have talked about, I am interested in how the environment, particularly physical objects in the environment, affect behavior. I’ve taken this research online in my virtual behavior settings research. Over the last 20 years or so (YIKES!) of doing this research, I’ve come to the conclusion that people have more control and power than objects on the actual behavior enacted in a particular setting. That is, objects are important, but people really control the space is used.
And it’s the oddest way that this conclusion has come about: It’s from the new rocking chairs we have on our front porch.
We’ve lived in this house for 13 years. We’ve had a variety of furniture on the front porch from a swing to a couple of ratty old wicker chairs. We’ve used the front porch during that time. HOWEVER, we recently received two new-to-us pretty rocking chairs with cushions. And I am here to tell you, we spend hours every day now on our front porch. Sometimes in our pajamas. I know that is not normal. But we love our front porch now.
We live in a neighborhood where folks spend time on their porches and neighbors walk around. We’ve sometimes taken an hour to go around the block because of how many people we’ve run into. So being on the front porch is a normal thing.
But we’re doing it so much more now, and I have to attribute the change in our behavior to the rocking chairs. One of the “benefits” of being a researcher is always living meta; I’m always analyzing what is going on from some organizational or interpersonal or group theory or another. So of course, I’ve been observing and analyzing our behavior in our pjs on the front porch. (We are concerned some neighbors are going to take a different route)
My conclusion at this point is that the comfort and attractiveness of these chairs suggest that objects in one’s environment may be subtle and we may underestimate them, but in this situation, they clearly have powerful effects on human behavior.