The Psychology of Space: How Design Influences Behavior

Space psychology is an emerging discipline within the design industry that integrates both personal and social perspectives to aid designers in creating spaces that meet users’ needs more efficiently while creating harmonious relationships within buildings.

Human beings have an inherent sense of physical space since birth. Children learn quickly to estimate distances as part of developing skills needed to cope with objects, environments, others and themselves.


Color plays an integral role in how we perceive and respond to our physical environments, yet scientific research is limited in this area and any associations between certain colors and certain emotions are often only established through anecdotal evidence.

Generalized trends can still be identified; for instance, green often represents nature and growth while blue tends to be seen as soothing and red signifies power whereas purple was historically the color associated with royalty in ancient cultures.

Space psychology has become an important field of study as humans expand beyond Earth orbit and begin occupying long-distance stations. Astronauts must work in close quarters over extended periods, deal with no family mental health support and handle high stakes demands of their mission; plus face environmental obstacles (microgravity exposure etc). Space psychology examines these psychological effects while helping astronauts prepare through rigorous inflight training as well as terrestrial simulators/analogs.


Studying how people interpret visual objects based on their lighting environment is an emerging field of study, and creating a comfortable lighting design can have profoundly positive results on our comfort in space. Unfortunately, knowledge on the impact of different hues of lighting on mood and impression remains scarce.

Studies have demonstrated that rapid changes in lighting conditions can interfere with circadian rhythms, leading to negative consequences on cognition and mood. Therefore, when designing interior spaces it is crucial to take account of how different lighting conditions impact on a person’s emotions and wellbeing.

Studies have also demonstrated how seating arrangements can drastically affect social dynamics within an area. When close seating areas are combined, people tend to interact and collaborate more freely – providing designers an opportunity to design spaces that promote connection and interaction and ultimately increase interpersonal liking, leading to overall improvements in health and well-being.


As human exploration of space accelerates, understanding how psychological influences impact any given space has never been more crucial. Space psychology has evolved into an important long-term study. Topics covered range from mental preparation and training through ergonomic design and human factors to ergonomic design considerations and human factors analysis.

Space psychology can also aid architects when designing buildings. By creating environments tailored to specific needs and experiences, architects can design buildings which foster higher productivity in commercial projects, boost retail sales for retail stores and speed recovery times in healthcare facilities.

Space psychology can also influence human behavior by encouraging optimal levels of arousal. Studies indicate that people perform best and feel most satisfied when adequately aroused but not overstimulated; this can be achieved using color, lighting, texture and layout – for instance curved spaces have been found to be preferred over straight ones.


Design decisions have an immense effect on our mood and behavior. Clutter can increase stress and anxiety levels, while close quarters may bring on feelings of claustrophobia.

Design elements such as hierarchy, proximity and contrast can help optimize any layout’s effectiveness. Hierarchy places priority on content that’s most essential, while proximity emphasizes relationships among different elements and contrast adds visual interest by using colors, shapes and sizes that set apart different types of information.

As we learn to understand the psychological effects of space, the more effective we will be at creating environments that meet human needs and promote healthy interactions. A home designed with open areas for family gatherings as well as private nooks for individual activities can increase wellbeing for its inhabitants while simultaneously increasing productivity and efficiency – just one way that an holistic approach to design can change our way of living.