Fish in the Mall
Fish in the mall—a new study investigates the human propensity to direct attention towards biological stimuli (water, animals and plants) even in modern urban environments.
Sonja Windhager, Klaus Atzwanger, Fred L. Bookstein und Katrin Schäfer from the Department of Anthropology, University of Vienna, Austria, observed the effect of a small biophilic stimulus, an aquarium, in the window display of a shopping mall on the behavior of passers-by. The study is going to be published in the high-impact journal Landscape and Urban Planning. Link to the article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2010.08.008).
Detailed behavioral observation of passers-by unaware they were under observation showed that people were more likely to stop in front of the window display and to stay for a longer period of time when the aquarium was on display. They also used more pointing gestures, a strong indicator of desire to direct joint attention, and they returned more often to the window display when the aquarium was shown. People were especially likely to stop in front of the aquarium when the density of passers-by was high. This might be a relaxing effect of the aquarium, which could counteract the stress that results from being in the midst of crowds. Our study shows that even a small manipulation, such as the insertion of an aquarium, can make a huge difference—it invites passers-by to stop, to communicate with each other and to stay. Practical implications extend not only to marketing, but also the design of waiting rooms, kindergartens, offices and hospitals.