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Br J Soc Psychol. 2015 Mar;54(1):125-39. doi: 10.1111/bjso.12062. Epub 2014 Feb 18.

When friendship formation goes down the toilet: design features of shared accommodation influence interpersonal bonds and well-being.

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School of Psychology, Cardiff University, Wales, UK; School of Psychology, University of Sussex, Falmer, UK.


Despite its omnipresence, the influence of the built environment on human psychology is not well understood. In a five-wave longitudinal study, we investigated whether physical design features within shared student accommodation predicted the frequency of coincidental meetings between new flatmates, and whether these meetings predicted the strength of their interpersonal bonds and psychological well-being. Multilevel latent growth modelling on responses from 462 new university residents supported our hypotheses: Respondents living in flats with design features that encouraged the use of communal areas--a shared common area and an absence of ensuite toilets--reported unintentionally meeting their flatmates more frequently within their flats. This in turn predicted the initial strength of their interpersonal bonds with their flatmates, which in turn positively predicted their well-being. These effects were maintained throughout the 10-week study. Our findings provide an empirical basis for the development of shared housing designed to foster positive relationships and well-being among residents.


built environment; interpersonal bonds; latent growth modelling; privacy; relationship formation; well-being

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