Office Decorations…Keeping Males Calm?

Topic: Job Attitudes, Stress, Work Environment

Publication: Environment & Behavior

Article:  Anger and Stress: The Role of Landscape Posters in an Office Setting

Blogger: LitDigger

Is there more to aesthetic beauty than, well, aesthetics?  Office employees may think they’re enjoying art for art’s sake, but the benefits of art may be more complex than that.  A study by Kweon, Ulrich, Walker, and Tassinary (2008) found that state anger and stress can be significantly reduced by the type of posters hanging in your office (or, for we more lowly servants, our cubicles).  But there’s a catch here: differences in anger and stress were only significant for males (Sorry, ladies. Keep investing in those yoga classes).

Kweon et al. (2008) set up four office conditions in a lab experiment involving 210 college students.  The conditions varied by how office walls were decorated: abstract posters, nature posters, mixed posters, or no posters.  Only four posters were used per condition, and the participants were NEVER told specifically to look at the posters (the artwork was in their peripheral vision).  Participants completed “mild anger-provoking computer tasks” and reported on their state anger and current stress levels.

The researchers found that males were least angry and stressed while surrounded by mixed posters (abstract and nature together), and they were most angry and stressed while under the no art condition.  Descriptively, females were the least angry and stressed while surrounded by either nature posters or no posters (yes, that’s right: zero, zilch, nada . . .), and they were most angry and stressed while surrounded by abstract posters (yes, the females weren’t grooving to Kandinsky and Miro).  Kweon et al. (2008) also found a mediating effect: nature paintings affected stress levels, which affected state anger.

Are you now conflicted because you have males and females sharing a single office?  You could either duke it out or compromise with nature posters. Got a few extra bucks on hand? Depending on your gender, it may be worthwhile to purchase some posters and give your office walls a facelift. At the very least, you’ll have something to stare at while your boss is screaming at you.

Kweon, B.-S., Ulrich, R.S., Walker, V.D., Tassinary, L.G. (2008). Anger and Stress: The Role of Landscape Posters in an Office Setting. Environment and Behavior, 40 (355-381).