This study examined the relationship between exteriors of police department facilities and participants’ ratings of the buildings’ authority, professionalism, and approachability. After a pilot study, research was conducted with 122 participants who were undergraduate students from a small, liberal arts college in the Northeast. On each of three characteristics (authority, professionalism, and approachability), participants rated 16 color images of police departments located in the United States. The façade ratings for each characteristic were then categorized into factors through factor analyses. There were three factors for authority (Ineffectual, Strong, and Outdated); three for professionalism (Unskilled, Non-traditional, and Governmental); and four for approachability (Uninviting, Accessible, Public, and Impenetrable). The results were compared to participants’ scores on the Right-Wing Authoritarianism Scale (Altemeyer, 1981) and the Social Dominance Orientation scale (Sidanius & Pratto, 1999). Although the primary goal for the study was to determine whether there are consistent responses to police department exteriors, it was hypothesized that the façade ratings would relate to the authoritarianism ratings, with more authoritarian people expected to rate the façades higher in authority. Although this hypothesis was not supported, significant findings were related to gender. Applications to architectural design are discussed.
Clinton, A., & Devlin, A. S. (2011). "Is this really a police station?": Police department exteriors and judgments of authority, professionalism, and approachability. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 31, 393-406. doi:10.1016/j.jenvp.2010.09.001
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