Sam Gosling, Ph.D., is an associate professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. His work has been widely covered in the media, including The New York Times, Psychology Today, NPR, and "Good Morning America," and his research is featured in Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink." Gosling is the recipient of the American Psychological Association's Distinguished Scientific Award for Early Career Contribution. His first book, Snoop, was a New Scientist Editor's Pick for top books of 2008. His most recent research has focused on how animal psychology can inform theories of human personality and social psychology.
Question: How are people affected by the spaces they inhabit?
Sam Gosling: It’s not something that I have studied, but it’s certainly something I’m interested in, and it relates to how we decorate them. And part of what we do is we decorate them in order to make us feel a certain way- in terms of the pictures we put up, the music we play and how we arrange it. One of the things we found, for example, is that- and we know extroversion is defined by people who are sociable and outgoing, and we know those people- they just like people.
For them, the thought of going to a party is exciting, whereas for an introvert, it’s- just fills you with anxiety, the thought of all those people and having to talk to them. So- and in all kinds of contexts, there’s evidence of them liking people. But they craft the environment to do that, so we found- one of the things we found was that extroverts had offices that were thought to be inviting. And so they just want people to come in- they just tempt- they have whether it’s their cubicle or whatever, it just- it makes you want to go in.
They maybe have a bowl of candy on the desk and a comfortable chair, and it makes you want to go in and linger. Introverts don’t- they don’t want you in there. Their doors are more likely to be closed and they just don’t- so they are creating a space to try and reflect and reinforce their personality, acting that way.
Recorded on: June 13, 2008.