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NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Journal of Environmental Psychology. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Journal of Environmental Psychology, Vol. 31, Issue 4, Dec 2011, p. 393-406. DOI#10.1016/j.jenvp.2010.09.001.


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 There were three factors for authority (Ineffectual, Strong, and Outdated); three for professionalism (Unskilled, Non-traditional, and Governmental); and four for approachability (Uninviting, Accessible, Public, and Impenetrable).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.




The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author.