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First impressions matter

By Russell Parnerships's Professor David Russell

Posted by Hannah Vickers | January 31, 2017 | Students

Whilst we traditionally associate first impressions with primary social encounters, physical environments are equally relevant in evoking opinions and connotations within this seven-second window.

Prospective students will be influenced by a multitude of factors during their decision-making process; the university reputation, the opinion of family and friends and the geographical proximity to home. Whilst these substantial influencers appear to dominate the perception of a university, often the smaller and seemingly insignificant aspects of the estate can be monumental in eliciting positive or negative emotional responses.

Indeed, the perception and intrinsic emotive evocation of environments can be studied via the practice of psychographic profiling and calibration. This is the study of cognitive and psychographic responses evoked by the physical environment and the influence this has on feelings and behaviour. Psychographic responses are the key thoughts, emotions and reactions that are evoked when immersed in a physical environment. Similarly, cognitive responses encompass behaviours such as attention, perception and memories evoked by the physical environment. Each response is influenced by a diverse range of factors. For example, architecture of a building, ambient noise within the area and the presence of green space are all catalysts for a psychographic response. Recurrent responses provide valuable insight into current perceptions and any mental boundaries towards specific areas, which can then be utilised to refine facilities, amenities and services to reverse potential negative psychographic responses, drive forward positive psychographic responses, and safeguard current locations that are returning positive psychographic responses. 

By understanding how physical surroundings influence specific thoughts, feelings and behaviours, there is opportunity to deliver informed decisions on how to shape new spaces and protect positive response spaces for optimum rates of student enrolment, engagement and retention. So, let us not underestimate the significance of ergonomic, aesthetically appropriate spaces for students to socialise, study and dine – it could be the determining factor for increased student recruitment…

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