High ceilings and abstract thinking

March 5, 2015 | By | Reply More

I’m now living in house with 10 foot ceilings, almost two feet taller than the ceilings in my previous house. I now read that these new tall ceilings might affect the way I think.

Across several experiments, the researchers found evidence that high ceilings seemed to put test participants in a mindset of freedom, creativity, and abstraction, whereas the lower ceilings prompting more confined thinking.

In one test, for instance, participants in the 10-foot room completed anagrams about freedom (with words such as “liberated” or “unlimited”) significantly faster than participants in the eight-foot room did. But when the anagrams were related to concepts of constraint, with words like “bound or “restricted,” the situation played out in reverse. Now the test participants with 10-foot ceilings finished the puzzles slower than those in the eight-foot rooms did.

Another experiment asked participants to identify commonalities among a list of 10 different sports. Those in the high-ceiling group came up with more of these themes, and had their themes judged more abstract in nature, compared with participants in the low-ceiling group. Meyers-Levy and Zhu suspect this outcome emerged from the psychological freedom that comes with taller ceilings—a mindset that might also enhance creative thinking.

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Category: Psychology Cognition

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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