Psychology of space

Partners: University of Bath, Bath Spa University

Working with the Department of Psychology and Crossmodal Cognition Lab to investigate psychological responses to space

An example of where we are now pushing the boundaries of design research in workplace design is our recent collaboration with University of Bath and Bath Spa University. This project which utilised a novel combination of virtual reality technology and digital survey methods, to get a deeper understanding of peoples response to a range of different spatial attributes within the built environment.

Using virtual reality environments and Visual Spatial Perspective Taking (VSPT) tasks to assess cognitive responses and spatial awareness, these studies have provided further insight into the complex relationships between different spatial attributes and human responses, as well as different methods that can be used in design research. This allowed us to study a range of variables within experimental conditions which would be difficult and lengthy to set up in more traditional approaches, such as area provided per person in an office and the number of people in each office.

The study considered how can we define the success factors of increasingly flexible environments, including social density, spatial density, type of view and presence of noise (Table below), and to what extent these influence our perception of the environment we work in, from our ability to concentrate, overall satisfaction, or our feeling of personal space.

Our Objectives

  • To better understand user experience and psychological responses
  • To explore social and cognitive psychological mechanisms related to physical environments
  • To explore new methods of studying and analysing design
  • To develop tools and methodologies to support design and design research


These studies have provided further insight into how the complex relationships between different spatial attributes can be studied, and the results of the studies are planned to be published over the next year. It has also provided us with an opportunity to explore different methods that can be used in design research and applying these methods to design briefing and design optioneering tools, providing greater intelligence and evidence for design decision-making.

Contact Information

Atkins Human-Centred Design

Atkins | Nova North, 11 Bressenden Place, Westminster, London SW1E 5BY

+44 (0)20 121 2000 |

Group company registration details are available via the link below