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The Influence of Ceiling Height: The Effect of Priming on the Type of Processing That People Use

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This article demonstrates that variations in ceiling height can prime concepts that, in turn, affect how consumers process information. We theorized that when reasonably salient, a high versus low ceiling can prime the concepts of freedom versus confinement, respectively. These concepts, in turn, can prompt consumers' use of predominately relational versus item-specific processing. Three studies found support for this theorizing. On a variety of measures, ceiling height-induced relational or item-specific processing was indicated by people's reliance on integrated and abstract versus discrete and concrete ideation. Hence, this research sheds light on when and how ceiling height can affect consumers' responses. (c) 2007 by JOURNAL OF CONSUMER RESEARCH, Inc..
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... Following theories on priming, exposure to one cue influences the response to a subsequently encountered other cue (Bargh, 2006). For example, playing French music, enhances sales of French wine in a supermarket (North et al., 1999) and a high ceiling can be used to prime the concept of freedom (Meyers-Levy & Zhu, 2007). The chapters 5, 6, and 7, each focusses on different dimensions of perceived cleanliness (cleaned, fresh, and uncluttered). ...
... Volgens theorieën op gebied van priming, beïnvloedt de blootstelling aan één omgevingsfactor de reactie op een tweede omgevingsfactor (Bargh, 2006). Het spelen van Franse muziek verhoogt bijvoorbeeld de verkoop van Franse wijn in een supermarkt (North et al., 1999) en een hoog plafond kan worden gebruikt om het concept (bewegings)vrijheid te primen (Meyers-Levy & Zhu, 2007). ...
... 22 Meyers-Levey et al. found that rooms with high ceilings generate feelings of freedom, whereas those with low ceilings trigger thoughts of confinement. 23 Deng and colleagues revealed that when an object is placed in a low position, it is perceived to be heavier than the same object located in a higher position. The authors posit that this judgment relates to experiences with gravity, as heavy objects pull downwards whereas objects lighter than air, like a balloon, float upward. ...
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... A smaller stream of research has touched on the less extreme experience of physical constraint in consumption contexts, and specifically, feelings of confinement imposed by physical boundaries in a consumption space. One study [23], for example, explored the effect of ceiling height on consumers' information processing, and showed that a low ceiling can prime confinement-related concepts and consequently prompt consumers' use of predominantly itemspecific processing (versus relational processing). Another study [24] examined how aisle width can evoke feelings of containment and enhance variety-seeking behaviors. ...
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Consumers tend to have negative perceptions of service providers that limit their freedom. People might therefore be expected to respond particularly negatively to service providers that physically limit their freedom of movement. Yet, we suggest that physical constraints that a service provider unapologetically imposes with no obvious logical justification (e.g., closing a door and restricting consumers to stay inside a room) may, in fact, boost consumers' evaluations of the service provider. We propose that this effect occurs because consumers perceive such constraints as creating a structured environment, which they inherently value. Six studies lend converging support to these propositions, while ruling out alternative accounts (cognitive dissonance, self-attribution theory). We further show that the positive effect of physical constraints on evaluations is reversed when consumers perceive the constraints as excessively restrictive (rather than mild). These findings suggest that service providers may benefit from creating consumption conditions that mildly restrict consumers' freedom of movement.
... There is also evidence that people think more creatively while standing (Baker et al., 2018). • Higher ceilings have been tied to enhanced creative performance (Meyers-Levy and Zhu, 2007). Meyers-Levy and Zhu compared creative thinking in spaces with 8-foot and 10-foot ceilings and recorded more creativity in the areas with 10-foot ceilings. ...
... There is also evidence that people think more creatively while standing (Baker et al., 2018). • Higher ceilings have been tied to enhanced creative performance (Meyers-Levy and Zhu, 2007). Meyers-Levy and Zhu compared creative thinking in spaces with 8-foot and 10-foot ceilings and recorded more creativity in the areas with 10-foot ceilings. ...
... To exemplify, researchers reported the effects of building ceiling heights on the ability of problem solving. Observations revealed that images of high ceilings gave the brain a feeling of freedom, thereby improving creativity and spontaneous behavior; whereas low ceiling increased focus and concentration 16 . Therefore, spatial design interventions can be used to influence user behavior and brain physiology. ...
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... However, while the priming effect can clearly be seen in the low variety performance of both Heuristics-First groups, it is less clear why the Control groups follow this pattern, having received no priming information. The difference in Control groups may be attributable to environmental factors: factors as simple as the height of a ceiling in a room (Meyers-Levy and Zhu 2007) or levels of ambient light (Steidle and Werth 2013) can impact creativity levels. While all in-person participants experienced the same environmental conditions, these variables were uncontrollable for the virtual groups. ...
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