Decorate Your Home for Joy Using Design Psychology

What Is Design Psychology?

Design Psychology exceeds “traditional” interior design practice by considering the effects of design elements on our five senses, as well as our emotions. Rather than decorating to impress or to follow a certain style, you can choose specific lighting, color, patterns, and other design elements to support your happiness and well-being.

Design Psychology includes an understanding of both physiological and psychological effects of design elements. For instance, our pituitary gland releases tranquilizing hormones when we view sky blue. Knowledge of physiological effects of color can be applied to home decorating to make sure a room uplifts, calms, or energizes.

Our physiological reaction to aspects of design leads to our psychological response. We all know that a trickling waterfall not only looks pretty, but relaxes those nearby. But do you know that certain textures make you feel irritable, while others comfort? Or that undulating patterns uplift the spirit, while geometric patterns cause anxiety?

With an understanding of design psychology you can choose elements of vision, hearing, touch, smell, and even taste which bolster positive feelings and contribute to happy living.

How Do You Get Your Home Decorated and Furnished Right the First Time?

Using design details chosen to encourage joyful living is easy. First, learn about lighting — the most important factor in residential design. Next, use colors appropriate to the natural setting, lighting, and desired emotional response. Then think about reactions to patterns already in the space and add harmonious patterns based on nature; patterns proven to make people happy. Other design details in your home also come into play — sounds, accessories, furnishings and arrangements for comfort.

Once you understand the science of Design Psychology, you can follow your own inspiration and creatively employ design elements.

Just as master artists study the physical body and anatomy, your background knowledge in Design Psychology prepares you with underlying theory. The practice or application of design details in Design Psychology is the ART of Residential Design.

(c) Copyright 2004, Jeanette J. Fisher. All rights reserved.

The Psychology of Kindness

On the human need for personal kindness and kindness of others, and what it means for the future of humanity

Kindness or benevolence is a very important psychological attribute. We are kind to others for various altruistic and sometimes selfish reasons. An individual may be kind to a homeless man and give him a blanket because of sympathetic and empathetic reasons or a man may be kind to a woman due to ulterior motives. Kindness is thus triggered from personal motivations including need for fame or reputation, need for love or companionship or from genuine empathetic and sympathetic considerations.

Kindness towards a homeless man is a sympathetic type. whereas kindness kindness towards a friend is an empathetic type.

Kindness towards someone in need may come from altruism or need for personal reputation. For example, your act of kindness may arise from your need to be seen as a good Samaritan or a benevolent member of society. Or a man may be kind towards others because he needs fame for his donations and gifts to society. A man may be kind to men or women as there may be a need to gain other people’s affections, love, sexual favors, respect or companionship. So kindness may be motivated by empathy, sympathy, need for reputation, respect or other ulterior motives.

Some people are naturally kind and cannot refuse if someone asks them for a favor. Kindness is related more to mental strength than weakness. Developing a theory of kindness in psychology could involve studying the activity of the brain and neural circuits when people suddenly feel this emotion of overwhelming kindness. Thus a physiological basis is important in a psychological theory of kindness. There may also be “kindness gene” and some people may be kinder than others due to hereditary reasons, they may have had a kind parent and thus inherited the trait. Kindness can be learnt through social conditioning and some people are kind because they watched and learnt from their parents or teachers.

I personally believe that kindness is an innate psychological trait and some people are more kind because they are born that way. I will not go back to the nature versus nurture debates but learning kindness from others may finally become too superficial if there is no innate natural kindness. So, I would suggest that kindness is innate and kind people are born that way.

Psychologists must definitely study the kindness gene and if there is any, what triggers kindness, what kind of emotion or neural activity is related to kindness and how it can be defined in psychological terms. The social conditioning of kindness is a possible theory and as I said, social conditioning may not finally lead to genuine kindness in individuals, as kindness I believe is inherent or innate and not taught or learned.

I wrote in my other essay on Altruism that altruism, which is a more purposeful or social kindness could be due to ulterior or unconscious motives of recognition. Do philanthropists always give away wealth because they are genuinely kind or are they looking for fame, reputation, respect and recognition for their philanthropic services?

Kindness could be based on sympathy, empathy, need for fame or personal recognition or a sense of duty or responsibility towards society or fellow citizens. So, some kids are kind, give away their clothes to homeless people, because they are naturally kind and sympathetic. Some may see a homeless person and feel empathy as they too may have been homeless at some point. Some men may intentionally develop personal kindness because they need fame and recognition and others feel a sense of strong responsibility towards society and perform kind acts. So there are specifically six reasons suggesting six types of kindness according to the underlying reason or cause.

1. Empathetic

2. Sympathetic

3. Altruistic or social

4. Motive oriented

5. Responsible

6. Superstition-based

These six different types can be elaborated with more examples. You feel sympathetic towards your dog and loosen his chain and you feel empathetic towards your friend and help them with advice or resources. People may feel a genuine altruistic need to give or they may have ulterior motives such as fame, recognition or even money and success. The kindness related to social responsibility comes from a genuine need to influence society, and kindness in older people is often accompanied by this overwhelming sense of responsibility towards other human beings so this is a type of social kindness.

I would suggest that children are more triggered by genuine sympathy and the adults are motivated by need for recognition or social responsibility when they engage in acts of kindness.

Sometimes you will see people leaving large amounts of cash in the Church or donating large amounts of money to others because they feel it will bring them good luck. This is superstition-based or can be termed as “superstitional” kindness. Let us turn to responsibility. Some individuals are “kind” towards a cause because they may feel responsible towards society and may want to do something about the cause. You see an ad to donate clothes and money to refugees in a foreign country. You immediately decide to give a large sum quite impulsively. Is this impulse due to genuine sympathy, empathy, responsibility, altruism, superstition or recognition need? As I wrote in the essay on the Psychology of Altruism, there may be ulterior motives for being altruistic and genuine selfless altruism is rare or non-existent. However, kindness or generosity as a result of social responsibility or responsibility towards other less privileged individuals may be considered as an altruistic type of kindness. So, altruism and social responsibility are associated in fundamental ways.

Now let me talk about the human need for kindness and this means both giving kindness and receiving kindness. Humans do have a genuine need for love, affection, happiness and also kindness. Kindness comes from love, affection, sympathy, empathy so may be considered a type of secondary or derived emotion rather than primary emotion such as love or anger. Let us say, sympathy creates kindness but it is necessary to give and receive kindness because human beings are social beings. Kindness creates a bond between the giver and the receiver and in cases when you are showing kindness to a cause, it is a generic social or altruistic kindness. It also creates your emotional bond with society and your cause. So, giving creates social bonds and that is why it exists in the first place. Kindness created social bonds and helped build families and societies. On the other hand, receiving also evokes a sense of gratitude among the receivers of kind acts and helps to create attachments and generosity. If you are generous towards a homeless man, he may learn from you and become generous towards others when he is no longer homeless. So, kindness develops or creates a cycle of positive interaction in society. Such positive interactions are at the core of social change, transformations and a spirit of genuine concern for each other. This is ultimately the goal of humanity.

The Psychology of Intelligence

On the five types of intelligence and why we need to develop comprehensive intelligence tests that will measure all types of intelligence.

If in your teenage years you felt like an alien from another planet, felt like you could not relate to people, felt like a social misfit, odd, out of place, never had too many friends, felt like a loner, felt that the world is too stupid for you to be part of it, and still feel a bit out of place, my recommendation is that you go to the nearest psychology laboratory and measure your Intelligence Quotient (IQ). That’s what many young adults must do to avoid getting into a prolonged depression. Your IQ score if it’s unusually high or at the level of genius will give you significant insight into your own emotional condition and the state of the world around you. Then you’ll stop feeling depressed or suicidal and will simply start looking at the world from a different perspective. You’ll also find the apparent stupidity of the world around you rather amusing.

Intelligence is a general cognitive ability to acquire and apply knowledge. It also refers to learning, self-awarenesss, creativity and perception. Intelligence literally means to comprehend or perceive and most Western philosophers from Thomas Hobbes to David Hume have referred to intelligence as ‘understanding’. Understanding and perception are terms used by philosophers, although the concept of intelligence is considered very important in psychology.

Psychologists largely agree that intelligence is the ability to understand complex ideas, to adapt to the environment and to solve problems. A popular theory used by psychologists is the ‘two-factor theory’ of intelligence developed by Charles Spearman. Spearman used a statistical method called factor analysis to divide intelligence into the ‘g’ factor which largely stands for general factor and ‘s’ or specific factor that gives us unique or specific abilities to complete specific tasks.

The general factor or ‘g’ is very important as a person with a high general intelligence will be able to do or learn anything without much difficulty. Logic, spatial ability, linguistic and mathematical ability are all part of general intelligence. Academic achievements and occupational success are predicted with the g factor. According to this theory, the specific factor or ‘s’ could be musical or artistic ability or technical ability. Some people are more adept in using computers and technology and have a high ‘s’ factor related to technical ability. Psychologist Robert Sternberg identified three types of intelligence in his triarchic theory namely analytical, creative and practical. Analytical intelligence is the intelligence that you use to write analytical essays and the problem solving skills required for standardized tests. Creative intelligence is about coming up with novel ideas and concepts and indicates the level of creativity in a person. Practical intelligence has to do with logic and it is required to perform daily tasks.

In this exposition, I go beyond the theories of Intelligence in psychology and suggest that there are basically five types of intelligence –

General or Cognitive





I’m inclined to add ‘spiritual intelligence’, but spiritual awareness is a combination of creative and emotional intelligence, so I won’t put that in a separate category.

General or cognitive intelligence is similar to the g factor and relates to general intelligence. This is the intelligence measured in intelligence tests and if you get a high IQ score, it means you have a high general intelligence which makes you capable of handling all situations in an intelligent manner, whether you are running a business, playing chess or training your child. Creative geniuses as we know have high general intelligence and high levels of creative intelligence which is actually one’s ability to imagine or create things. If you have high creative intelligence it means you’ll be very creative in all situations, whether you’re writing a book, cooking or making love. A poet or an artist will tend to have high creative intelligence and high cognitive or general intelligence. A scientist will usually have large amounts of technical and theoretical knowledge and will thus have high technical intelligence and high general intelligence. Criminologists, psychologists, social workers, politicians deal with people all the time and these occupations need high general as well as high social intelligence.

Psychologists, politicians, parents, teachers require high social and high emotional intelligence along with the common general intelligence because emotions are the central part of a growing child or adolescents and teacher-student or parent-child relationships. Firefighters, rescue workers, emergency workers need very high levels of emotional intelligence along with high general intelligence. Doctors, nurses, paramedics, mechanics, engineers need technical skills and high levels of technical and general intelligence. Businessmen, entrepreneurs, innovators need varying levels of creative intelligence, general intelligence and technical intelligence depending on the focus of their business or enterprise. Professors and academics usually have very high levels of general intelligence, although they must have the requisite technical knowledge in a specific subject or subjects and thus tend to have high technical intelligence. Professors are also teachers so they must have social intelligence to successfully interact with their students. Journalists, diplomats, activists all have high levels of social intelligence along with the general intelligence..

Traditional IQ tests tend to measure just the general intelligence, and anyone with an IQ score of 145 and above is considered a genius. Yet IQ scores do not adequately measure the other types of intelligence. IQ tests don’t measure creative intelligence and yet highly creative people are considered geniuses. It is generally agreed that high creativity also indicates high intelligence. The logic is, when someone is highly intelligent and is able to manipulate several concepts, they are also able to come up with unique or creative solutions and ideas. Traditional IQ tests also don’t measure social intelligence or emotional intelligence. So these IQ tests may be fundamentally incomplete in a certain way.

It has been argued that high IQ people are not always socially and emotionally adjusted. I will argue, that geniuses are well liked in society and do have a high level of social and emotional intelligence. They also have high creative intelligence and high technical intelligence as they are especially interested in complex subjects. There may be some resistance to my argument that geniuses have high social and emotional intelligence because geniuses do have more social and emotional problems than most average intelligence people. They may not relate to people, may have a problem with self-control and could have a history of depression or addiction. However, they tend to have a strong sense of the appropriate social and emotional responses to situations. Highly intelligent people do know which would be the best social or emotional response in a specific situation. However it is possible that a person with a very high level of general intelligence or IQ may require some maturity or may need to reach a certain age before they develop very high levels of social or emotional intelligence. High IQ individuals typically need more time to understand how social norms work or how people react in social situations. This is because geniuses or high IQ people tend to remain preoccupied with abstract concepts, they are usually not interested in interacting with people, unless it’s a highly abstract intellectual discussion. The apparent stupidity of the world also seem rather baffling, so they retreat into their own world. Yet as I argued, high IQ people tend to have full understanding about appropriate social and emotional reactions and responses but may not always act that way.

Howard Gardner, a professor and psychologist at Harvard has recently proposed a theory of multiple intelligences. He has considered nine types of intelligence including linguistic, musical and existential intelligence. I would argue that musical and existential intelligences are part of a broader creative intelligence, according to my theory. Linguistic ability is almost a technical ability as you tend to see the connections between words and concepts quickly. Learning computer programming may be similar to learning a language, so linguistic skills are largely technical skills and linguistic ability requires technical intelligence along with a high level of general intelligence. Gardner also proposed bodily intelligence, but I would consider that as sensitivity or sense perception rather than intelligence. Pedagogical intelligence proposed by Gardner, requires social, technical and general intelligence. So, all of Gardner ‘s ”intelligences” can be grouped into the five types of intelligence I have presented.

As I already mentioned, we need to develop a comprehensive theory of intelligence and intelligence tests must measure all five types of intelligence, instead of just the general intelligence that largely defines IQ. Gardner’s theory of nine types of intelligence is not a very convincing theory, despite its popularity. Developing a comprehensive intelligence test with these five types of intelligence will help us to understand the overall abilities of a person and will be extremely helpful in occupational psychology, because all occupations seem to require high levels of general intelligence and one or two of the other four types of intelligence.

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