A study at the University of Minnesota concludes that the ceiling height of a room affects problem-solving skills and behaviour by priming concepts that encourage certain kinds of brain processing, Yahoo News reports:
"Priming means a concept gets activated in a person's head," researcher Joan Meyers-Levy told LiveScience. "When people are in a room with a high ceiling, they activate the idea of freedom. In a low-ceilinged room, they activate more constrained, confined concepts."
The concept of freedom promotes information processing that encourages greater variation in the kinds of thoughts one has, said Meyers-Levy, professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota. The concept of confinement promotes more detail-oriented processing.
The study consisted of three tests ranging from anagram puzzles to product evaluation. In every tested situation a 10-foot ceiling correlated with subject activity that the researchers interpreted as "freer, more abstract thinking," whereas subjects in an 8-foot room were more likely to focus on specifics.
In one test subjects were more critical of a product's design flaws when evaluation took place in a shorter room. This result could have important implications for retailers.