Keep Your Head in the Clouds

Consider:  Students in rooms with high ceilings do better on tasks where they have to see relationships between things and think abstractly, while those under low ceilings excel at detail oriented work.

This “high ceiling finding” was recently discovered through a study undertaken by the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management.  With high ceilings, the participants in the study more easily saw relationships between different pieces of information, and focused on the similarities between things as opposed to points of differences.  The inverse was found true in the case of lower ceiling height.  The lower ceiling caused the students to process information in a more detailed fashion.  So, in general, they processed more freely with higher ceilings and processed in a more focused and detailed way in lower ceilings.

Consider: A positive mood enhances efforts to attain future well-being, encourages broader and flexible thinking, and increases openness to information.

This “positive mood finding” is based on a study recently reported in the Journal of Consumer Research.  The most sweeping conclusion is that a positive mood can increase our ability to understand the big picture.  The authors explain that being in a good mood allows you to step back emotionally, to distance yourself from the situation.  Those in a positive mood not only adopt higher-order future golas but work harder toward attaining them, the researchers concluded.

If there is validity to this research, architects, executives and essentially anyone who values their ability to think should take notice.  If you are working on a long-range strategy make sure you remain in a good, positive frame of mind and seek expansive physical environments.  Perhaps this is why we use the phrase “blue-sky thinking” and “you have your head in the clouds.”  On the other hand, if you have detailed work to do, such as accounting, stay in a good mood but head for the basement.  Evidently, you will do your best work there.  Personally, I prefer to keep my head in the clouds.


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