Does Perceived Control Matter in the Outpatient Waiting Room?

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Objective: The study examined perceived control in the context of the outpatient waiting room to further understand the extent to which patients want to exercise control in that environment. Background: In Ulrich’s theory of supportive design, research shows more evidence for positive distraction and social support than for perceived control; its role in outpatient settings has not been examined. Method: This between-subjects experimental design, in which participants read a written scenario varying the number of patients waiting (1 or 5) and the control available (no information provided, personal controls, and room controls), examined the effect of those variables on stress, satisfaction with the environment, extent of perceived control, and participants’ schema of who should control the environment of the waiting room. Results: Having individual controls available in the waiting room favorably impacted the perception of the environment but did not significantly impact stress. The data show that people likely have a schema of appropriate behavior in a doctor’s waiting room, which does not encourage manipulation of environmental elements. Conclusions: In the doctor’s office waiting room, having individual controls, such as on-off knobs on table lamps next to each chair, can improve evaluation of the environment and increase people’s perception of control.




Devlin, A. S., Hetzel, C., & Rathgeber, M. (2023). Does Perceived Control Matter in the Outpatient Waiting Room? Health Environments Research and Design Journal.

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