High ceilings help you think creatively

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….and low ceilings help you concentrate on the details.

This study published in the Journal of Consumer research explains how Rui (Juliet) Zhu, an assistant marketing professor at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business and Joan Meyers-Levy at the University of Minnesota,  used two test rooms, one with an eight-foot ceiling and the other10 feet high, and suspended colourful Chinese lanterns to emphasize the height.

In one experiment, they showed 100 volunteers pictures of a wine rack and a coffee table that were smooth and sleek except for a few awkward features. When they asked the volunteers to describe the “products,” those in the low-ceilinged room zeroed in on the imperfections, while the ones in the taller room took a more generalized view and ignored the glitches. “When a person is in a high-ceiling environment, they are going to process information in a more abstract, creative fashion,” Zhu says. “Those inside a room with relatively lower ceilings will process in a much more concrete, detail-oriented fashion.”

That’s because people in a high-ceilinged room are “primed” to think broadly because of the sense of freedom associated with the space, she says, while the containment of a lower room encourages people to think small and focused.

She suggests hospitals could design post-surgery recovery rooms with tall ceilings so patients will “focus on the bigger picture,” rather than momentary pain or anxiety. But bigger isn’t always an advantage, she points out, and a surgeon may be better off in a low-ceilinged operating room that encourages focused attention to detail.

So artworkers and proof checkers should sit in low ceilinged rooms whilst creatives should sit in high ceilinged rooms.

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