The Psychology of Wood

The Psychology of Wood

by Erik Schwarzkopf

There are a bevy of materials to pick from when deciding the interior finishes of a building. At Meyer Group, we evaluate what materials are selected based on a variety of parameters including, but not limited to cost, durability, environmental sustainability, maintenance, and visual and tactile appeal. The visual and tactile appeal of a material is a multi-dimensional facet, and one that is the object of much study in architecture and design. We often value a finish material such as tile, paint colors, chair fabrics, etc. based on snap judgements made by ourselves and our clients as to whether or not we believe the material has beauty and is desirable to us and our clients.

However, a more in depth analysis of one particular material finish, performed by professionals more concentrated than ourselves, reveals that we risk asking the wrong question of our finish materials. I would propose to you that the question ‘Is this material visually and tactilely appealing?’ should be replaced with ‘How does this material make us feel?’ The material we will apply this question to today is one we have all been familiar with for a very long time: wood.

As a material finish, wood has been in and out of style over the course of time. Now, don’t worry, no one at Meyer Group is proposing we go back to the days of 1960s wood paneling. That being said, wood is an all-natural, tried and true material for just about every finish material need imaginable. Contemporary research has revealed why people find wood to be an appealing interior finish based on how it makes us feel. The theory behind this relates directly to the biophilia. Biophilia is a term defined in Edward O. Wilson’s book Biophilia as the “(suggestion) that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life.” This idea has become increasingly more apt as most of us spend an ever increasing majority of our time indoors.

Several studies from across the world have shown that wood used as an interior finish material can benefit occupants in a multitude of ways including lower blood pressure, lower heart rate, fewer colds, faster recovery from illness, lower pain perception, better creative task performance, better concentration task performance, greater focused attention, and lower aggression. While the exact science behind how much wood finishes and their location in a space is still being studied; it is safe to say the wood interior finishes should warrant greater consideration beyond our initial, subjective conclusions of its appeal.

The inspiration for this post can be found at http://www.woodworks.org/wp-content/uploads/2014-jul-webinar-fell-Healthy-Buildings.pdf

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