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Inferences about homeowners' sociability: Impact of christmas decorations and other cues

by Carol M. Werner, Sonja Peterson-Lewis, Barbara B. Brown
Journal of Environmental Psychology ()

Abstract

Previous research suggests that U.S. residents may use holiday decorations on their home's exterior to communicate friendliness and cohesiveness with neighbors. In the present research, we examine whether strangers (naive raters) can accurately identify the more friendly residents, and what aspects of the homes' exteriors contribute to their impressions. We also examine the possibility that residents who decorate for Christmas but who have few friends on the block may be using the decorations and other cues as a way of communicating their accessibility to neighbors. Participants rated residents based only on photographs of their home and front yard. Stimulus homes had been preselected to represent the four cells of a two by two factorial design crossing the presence/absence of Christmas decorations with the resident's self-rated social contact with neighbors (low/high). As expected, a main effect for the decorated factor indicated that raters used Christmas decorations as a cue that the residents were friendly and cohesive. Decoration interacted with sociability in a complex but interpretable way. In the absence of Christmas decorations, raters accurately distinguished between the homes of sociable and nonsociable residents; in open ended comments, they attributed their impressions to the relatively more 'open' and 'lived in' look of the sociable residents' homes. When Christmas decorations were present, raters actually attributed greater sociability to the nonsociable residents, citing a more open appearance as the basis for their judgments. The results support the idea that residents can use their home's exterior to communicate attachment and possibly to integrate themselves into a neighborhood's social activities.

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