Studying individuals in the contexts of their natural habitats
‘The difference, really, is psychological.”
On the latest episode of the podcast Talk Design, Sunshine Coast designer Adrian Ramsay spoke at length with Sam Gosling, Professor of Psychology at the University of Texas, Austin.
Sam’s insights about design run deeper than the usual insights about light, air, comfort and accessories. He’s been able to dive deeper into our motivations and guiding principles about what distinguishes a ‘house’ from a ‘home’.
He says that what makes a home makes it more than just the physical space. To Sam, the deeper psychology that people attach to their homes (as opposed to their houses) is the key to gaining a more thorough understanding.
The professor has a book, Snoop: What your stuff says about you, which explores the idea that we deliberately and inadvertently express our personalities in the environments in which we live and work.
“I talk to a lot of architects and design professionals who tell me that in their work they do research… It’s tremendously important. The space around us is incredibly important – for our wellbeing, for our productivity, for our creativity, all kinds of things. So, my view is that we need to apply systematic methods to it.”
Citing the idea that virtually all humans have things in common, Sam pointed out the fact that when faced with a window, almost everyone will look out of it, rather than turn their back to it.
“We are a certain type of biological thing that has certain patterns,” he said, noting that as an example, some people are extroverts and others are introverts. The extroverts have things in common, as do the introverts, and the similarities are what architects can apply to their designs to appeal to broader sections of the community.
“There has to be a system: in what ways are people all alike; in what ways are some people similar, and in what ways are we all truly unique? We essentially have to match our levels of systematicity to these different levels, whether we’re talking about personality or design and architecture.”
In a wide-ranging and elaborate conversation, the pair addressed several issues and topics; a deep dive into the world of what it fundamentally is that makes people happy, especially given how many people achieve certain levels of success and material wealth, only to discover that it doesn’t fulfil that yearning.
“One of the biggest issues is that people think they know what they want, or will make them happy, but they’re often mistaken about it; they think I want this huge, big living room, open plan kitchen and that… but in fact maybe for some reason it doesn’t. Because what they really want is a place to concentrate. Or who knows what they want. So how do you handle the fact that sometimes people may not have ‘self-insight’?”
In what is a significantly deep and philosophical conversation, listeners are afforded the opportunity via Sam and Adrian’s respective expertise, to gain a greater understanding of not just the fact that we might want certain things, but the fundamental reasons behind why we want them in the way we do.