Post 32 -by Gautam Shah (Blog 2 in lecture series Space and Human Behaviour)


There are four elements that constitute behaviour: Space, Environment, Human beings and Nonliving objects. We perceive, become aware, and respond to these elements. The four elements form a locale for the behaviour to occur, seen, recognized, acknowledged, moderated and improvised.

Kiyamachi Cafe, Times II building, Ando Tadao, Kyoto > Wikipedia image by Japanexperterna.se

Of these four elements, we perceive space-environment as one entity. The space-environment affects the human processes of survival, perception, cognition, exploration and inhabitation. The space and environment converge to affect the human being, and in turn get impacted by the human endeavours. The exchanges between the humans and space-environment are so rapid and imperceptible in scale that is not possible to separate cause and effects. The first three processes, the survival, perception, cognition, are tactical, and offer learning and adaptation. The other two processes, exploration and inhabitation, are strategic, and here the responses lead to consistency and continuity.

Taos Pueblo, an ancient one belonging to native American tribe of Pueblo people. North of Taos city, New Mexico, USA > Wikipedia image by ASITRAC

Nonliving objects are also affected by the space-environment. And the process of affectation is seen in various levels of relationships like comparison, juxtaposition, sensorial qualities, orientation, exposure, mutual distancing, proximity to human beings, connectivity, overlapping, past remembrances and associations.

Nonliving things in space > Flickr Image by Tim Evanson

Human beings respond to space, environment and nonliving objects, and are conditioned by three major factors:

●       Personal factors include cognitive capacities and preferences, physiological capacities including reach abilities

●       Presence and awareness of other human beings, leading to sociological implications of group behaviour, expression and communication.

●       Contextual conditions include nonliving objects, other human beings and other beings.

Looking out of Pompidou Centre Paris > Wikipedia image by Official White House photo-stream

One reacts to the space-environment through the genetic make-up, physiological capacities, through cultural inclinations, and by intellectual choices. Space-environment combinations have different relevance for different people. The human responses though are individual, but also depend on how others respond to the situation. Human behaviour is the basis for group behaviour dynamics. The attention to the space-environment and others’ behaviour (group behaviour mechanisms), ‘makes the survival, exploration and inhabitation tougher, but equips one with better skills and greater efficiencies’.

Human behavioural responses are broadly of three classes: Physiological, Psychological and Sociological. The responses are also assisted by the supportive systems such as tools, implements, gadgets, equipments, amenities and facilities.

Response mechanisms are based on perception and cognition.

Perception is a process of becoming aware. It is an active process of selection, organization and interpretation of information about the world as conveyed by the senses like sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste, and not a passive mirroring of the external world. Perceptual experience is also influenced by various internal factors, such as our prior experience and expectations.

Cognition is a process evaluating the sensory information and the mental processing by remembering, thinking about it. It is further moulded by the inherited (intuitive) and learnt (intellectual) faculties.

Waiting for the principal > Flickr Image by johnrudolphmueller

■ Psychological Responses manifest even as perception and cognition, are happening. The responses could be seen in terms of: accommodation, adjustments (like acclimatization), spatial shifting or temporal rescheduling, biological correction or degradation. These are often imperceptible, or so small that only the concentrated effects are perceived.

Environmental responses form a process of becoming aware of a space. Our perception of things and happenings around us results from our cognitive capacities and the physiological needs, but is also moulded by the inherited and learnt faculties. The space-environment conditions format a life style that passes on from one generation to another as heritage, lifestyle, ethnicity or customs.

Potrait of a Girl > Pixabay=Pexels image by xusenru Khusen Rustamov Moscow Russia

■ Physiological responses seem to be instinctive because of the genetic makeup, but individual behaviour, however, is usually learnt. Accumulated experiences help us to respond specifically. The response mechanism or nature of behaviour varies due to individual factors like age, sex, level of adaptation, familiarity, limb capacity, body-limb coordination, sensorial abilities and supportive tools, etc. Our behaviour is also conditioned if the situations are consistent or extra ordinary. Physiological responses are directed for survival, inhabitation and proliferation. So we create, occupy and flourish in spaces.

Physiological responses allow spatial occupation with dimensional accommodation and fitment of the human-body. Physiological responses achieve task functionality by way of compliance within set confines for nominal to extreme purposes. Physiological responses to the environment develop both as historical and the current effects of the environment. The process of acclimatization is in way a physiological reaction. Physiological responses achieve both, stability and mobility necessary for efficiency, comfort and security.

Danish artists-architects in Rome > Wikipedia ART by Constantin Hansen (1804-1880)

■ Sociological Responses are (even of lone beings) are substantially in the context of ‘awareness’ of other human beings (and, not necessarily their physical presence). Interpersonal relationships among members of small groups are a result of the personality and cultural backgrounds of the individuals involved, their tasks, and the nature of the spatial arrangements or physical settings. Various cultures, however, respond differently to the amount and arrangement of spaces.

Human Behaviour in groups > Flickr Image by Procsilas Moscas (blogged procsilas.net/?=112)

The sociological determinants relate to the social needs of the occupants. Humans evaluate the acceptability or appropriateness of behaviour by using social norms, and regulate it by means of social control. The Sociological responses of human behaviour relate to the social needs of the occupants and awareness of their implications. The space, environment and the occupants together foster a social-contact mechanism. Sociological responses include group mechanisms like intra-personal communication, empathy, degree of familiarity, etc.

Crowds on the street > PEXELS Image by Ingo Joseph

Occupants of a space are real, and sometimes through the metaphoric presence. Behaviour responses occur due to both types of occupants. In this sense co-occupants are part of the environment with whom we react and are affected by their ‘presence’. A social acquaintanceship with anyone is not a necessary condition to respond. Our responses with other beings and social interactions regulate what we share and empathize. Responses with other occupants depend on the awareness about sex, age, stature, need, social position, degree of familiarity, distance and recognition (through cognition). Metaphoric presence of others is reinforced primarily by the historical context (what we have been told or learnt) and associations. Metaphoric presence is also enhanced by space and objects, as well as by other occupants confirmative or even rejective (empathetic, sympathetic or apathetic) behaviour.

Space, Environment, Human Beings, Nonliving objects > PEXELS image by negativespace.co


This is the SECOND lecture in the series Space and Human Behaviour for Winter semester, 2017, at Faculty of Design, CEPT University, Ahmedabad, India.


Published by

Gautam Shah

Former adjunct faculty, Faculty of Design CEPT University, Ahmedabad and Consultant Designer

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