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  • American Geographical Society

    Public Places and Private Spaces by Albert MehrabianReview by: Bonnie LoydGeographical Review, Vol. 67, No. 4 (Oct., 1977), pp. 493-494Published by: American Geographical SocietyStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/213636 .Accessed: 08/05/2014 17:58

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  • GEOGRAPHICAL REVIEWS GEOGRAPHICAL REVIEWS

    Fire Island National Seashore and the William Floyd Estate, Suffolk County, New York" Uack McCormick & Associates, Inc., Devon, Pa.; Natl. Park Service, Denver, Colo.; 1975]).

    Unfortunately, the recent Corps Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the beach erosion and hurricane protection project for both Fire Island and Westhampton Beach does little to advance our knowledge either of shore erosion in the region or of the intentions of the Corps ("Draft Environmental Statement for Fire Island Inlet to Montauk Point, New York, Beach Erosion Control and Hurricane Protection Project" [2 vols.; Tetra Tech, Inc., Pasadena, Calif.; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District, 1976]). Heikoff does not discuss the past or the future role of federal flood insurance in his study region, a surprising omission for an analyst of institutional arrangements in the coastal zone.

    Overall, "Politics of Shore Erosion" is attractively produced, but a paper cover would have made it less costly. Errors of spelling and punctuation are few, and there are brief lists of references at the end of each chapter. The regional map has been reduced beyond the point of legibility, and the dozen photographs are of uneven quality. The caption should have stated clearly that Figure i8 (also used on the dust jacket) shows a morainal headland on the northern shore of Long Island. Such landforms do not exist on the south shore outwash plain in the vicinity of Westhampton Beach. It is unfortunate that there was a delay of some eighteen months between completion of the report and its publication, for implementation of the Coastal Zone Management Act is proceeding rapidly, and this book should be an important contribu- tion to that undertaking nationwide.-JAMES A. SCHMID

    PUBLIC PLACES AND PRIVATE SPACES. By ALBERT MEHRABIAN. xiii and 354 pp.; diagrs., bibliogr., index. Basic Books Inc., New York, 1976. $15.95. 9/2 x 61/4 inches.

    Are places and spaces appropriate subjects for geographers? Perhaps. Albert Mehrabian stretches the meaning of environment farther than most geographers would; he writes as easily about homes and offices as about drugs and music. He states that environmental psychologists "describe environments as wholes," and his Magical Mystery Tour begins. The path wanders from apartments to theaters and from the image of doctors to interoffice communication.

    Mehrabian never attempts to justify his ramble, but he does propose a few principles to tie it all together. The first is "load." The higher the information rate or level of stimuli offered by an environment, the higher its load. Then he presents a U-shaped curve for human response. A higher load makes a pleasant situation more pleasant and an unpleasant situation less pleasant. Turn up the volume on a Fleetwood Mac record; listeners will either enjoy it more or leave the room. The response theory is not original to Mehrabian, but he applies it more widely and with more popular flair than other psychologists. The simplicity of the idea and its ease of appli- cation are seductive but ultimately not satisfying. Mehrabian preaches a doctrine of stepping up environmental stimuli in prisons, hospitals, homes, and offices as a cure to contemporary ennui, but he neglects to help us define what makes an environment pleasant or unpleasant.

    Another catchy concept is the classification of screeners and nonscreeners. Mehrabian claims that individual processing of stimuli is based on unknown, inherent characteristics. Nonscreeners tend to hear, see, smell, and sense more than screeners. Their attention to the environment tends to be more diffuse. They experience places as more complex and more loaded. In high-load situations, such as a competitive job, they are more aroused and stay aroused longer. In contrast, screeners are more selective about the stimuli to which they respond. By allocating less importance to parts of the environment they make it less complex and reduce its load. A dropped dish evokes less reaction from them, and they recover their equilibrium more quickly.

    Mehrabian applies this concept to a vast array of situations, but he sacrifices depth for breadth. In an effort to appeal to a popular market he neglects a thoughtful examination. He simply dichotomizes humans into screeners and nonscreeners. He does little to suggest that these are poles of a continuum. He does even less to investigate or to speculate on the reasons

    Fire Island National Seashore and the William Floyd Estate, Suffolk County, New York" Uack McCormick & Associates, Inc., Devon, Pa.; Natl. Park Service, Denver, Colo.; 1975]).

    Unfortunately, the recent Corps Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the beach erosion and hurricane protection project for both Fire Island and Westhampton Beach does little to advance our knowledge either of shore erosion in the region or of the intentions of the Corps ("Draft Environmental Statement for Fire Island Inlet to Montauk Point, New York, Beach Erosion Control and Hurricane Protection Project" [2 vols.; Tetra Tech, Inc., Pasadena, Calif.; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District, 1976]). Heikoff does not discuss the past or the future role of federal flood insurance in his study region, a surprising omission for an analyst of institutional arrangements in the coastal zone.

    Overall, "Politics of Shore Erosion" is attractively produced, but a paper cover would have made it less costly. Errors of spelling and punctuation are few, and there are brief lists of references at the end of each chapter. The regional map has been reduced beyond the point of legibility, and the dozen photographs are of uneven quality. The caption should have stated clearly that Figure i8 (also used on the dust jacket) shows a morainal headland on the northern shore of Long Island. Such landforms do not exist on the south shore outwash plain in the vicinity of Westhampton Beach. It is unfortunate that there was a delay of some eighteen months between completion of the report and its publication, for implementation of the Coastal Zone Management Act is proceeding rapidly, and this book should be an important contribu- tion to that undertaking nationwide.-JAMES A. SCHMID

    PUBLIC PLACES AND PRIVATE SPACES. By ALBERT MEHRABIAN. xiii and 354 pp.; diagrs., bibliogr., index. Basic Books Inc., New York, 1976. $15.95. 9/2 x 61/4 inches.

    Are places and spaces appropriate subjects for geographers? Perhaps. Albert Mehrabian stretches the meaning of environment farther than most geographers would; he writes as easily about homes and offices as about drugs and music. He states that environmental psychologists "describe environments as wholes," and his Magical Mystery Tour begins. The path wanders from apartments to theaters and from the image of doctors to interoffice communication.

    Mehrabian never attempts to justify his ramble, but he does propose a few principles to tie it all together. The first is "load." The higher the information rate or level of stimuli offered by an environment, the higher its load. Then he presents a U-shaped curve for human response. A higher load makes a pleasant situation more pleasant and an unpleasant situation less pleasant. Turn up the volume on a Fleetwood Mac record; listeners will either enjoy it more or leave the room. The response theory is not original to Mehrabian, but he applies it more widely and with more popular flair than other psychologists. The simplicity of the idea and its ease of appli- cation are seductive but ultimately not satisfying. Mehrabian preaches a doctrine of stepping up environmental stimuli in prisons, hospitals, homes, and offices as a cure to contemporary ennui, but he neglects to help us define what makes an environment pleasant or unpleasant.

    Another catchy concept is the classification of screeners and nonscreeners. Mehrabian claims that individual processing of stimuli is based on unknown, inherent characteristics. Nonscreeners tend to hear, see, smell, and sense more than screeners. Their attention to the environment tends to be more diffuse. They experience places as more complex and more loaded. In high-load situations, such as a competitive job, they are more aroused and stay aroused longer. In contrast, screeners are more selective about the stimuli to which they respond. By allocating less importance to parts of the environment they make it less complex and reduce its load. A dropped dish evokes less reaction from them, and they recover their equilibrium more