Designed Environment and Behavior 46
  • 友善列印版本


    By Manager (Cost & Controls) Eugene Chang


    In the year 2000, the city of Glasgow in Scotland installed a series of blue street lights in prominent locations as an aesthetic enhancement. Unintentionally, the number of incidents of crime in the areas illuminated by the blue lights noticeably decreased. In 2005, police of Nara, Japan, installed blue streetlights and alsoexperienced a decrease in the crime rate. Since then, more prefectural governments in Japan, including Hiroshima, Okinawa, and Osaka, have introduced the bluish toned light. The phenomenon was first reported by a Japanese television program and some other overseas media (the New York Times being one notable example). Some credit the fact that the light was new and unusual, causing people to act more cautiously in the area. Others suggest blue also mimics the lights atop police cars and suggests that the area is under surveillance. However, it remains difficult to pin down any scientific evidence or support that a switch to blue streetlights actually affects crime rates. Yet this interesting phenomenon does pose an intriguing question: Does design influence cognition and behavior?


    In the search for an answer, consider this research published in Science in 2009 by the University of British Columbia on how colors influence imagination. 600 subjects were invited to perform a variety of basic cognitive tests displayed against red, blue or natural color backgrounds. The results were interesting. Red groups did better on tests of recall and attention to detail (such as remembering words or spelling checks), while the blue groups did better on tests requiring imagination (creative use of bricks or creating toys from shapes). According to the researchers, people tend to automatically associate red with danger, which makes them more alert, while blue might trigger associations with the sky and ocean, inducing a sort of mental relaxation (Of course, context matters too. In China, red symbolizes prosperity and good luck). 


    Evidence for the impact of design on behavior can be found in the Pruitt-Igoe, a mega public housing complex. An estate consisting of 33 11-story buildings in St. Louis, US, Pruitt-Igoe was completed in 1955 but demolished only two decades later after it became a crime hot spot and denigrated into a slum. Designed to provide community gathering spaces and safe, enclosed play yards within the complex, the project featured skip-stop elevators (which only stopped every three floors) to encourage residents to mingle and interact with each other in public areas. However, the long galleries, isolated staircases and enclosed elevators instead became the perfect backdrop for muggings. (Remark: The construction of the housing complex was setwithin a period when the city's industrial base was shifting and during which the population of St. Louis witnessed a rapid decline of some 50%. The authorities had rejected the original design proposal with mixedrise cluster of buildings, instead insisting on a uniform height of towers. This, and the lack of Federal funds to maintain the complex's operations and safety, contributed to the failure of the project.)


    Moving ahead into the 1970's, Oscar Newman posited the theory of Defensible Space in response to rising crime rates in cities. The theory proposed that natural surveillance space is created for residents under a set of principles of physical features (a similar idea can be observed in digital communication and social media "peerveillance'). His theory was popular in urban design in the 1980s and some aspects continue to have an impact on design until today. 


    Recently, some studies suggest that the layout of shops can actually influence shoppers' behavior. In a book by John Stenebo in 2010 on the world's largest furniture retailer, IKEA, the layout of the stores is described as carefully planned and continuously refined with discounted items towards the end of the route to encourage extra sales. In 2005, Sorensen Associates conducted a study on customer shopping behavior patterns by placing active RFID tags in supermarket shopping trolleys. They concluded shoppers spent an average of US$2 more per trip when following a counter-clockwise route around supermarkets. The result has since influenced supermarket entrance positions and layouts.


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