Background: Recently I have been doing mathematics a whole lot,and I have noticed that my output varies wildly from many external factors,but mostly it is the enviorment I am working in. Namely one of the most unexpected things is that most my output depends on the quality of pen I am using and kind of notebook I am writing in. Last day I went to buy new notebooks and I laid my eyes upon one with especially distinguishing blue-white color scheme,and in my mind it was already set that it will be notebook I will write abstract algebra into,and truly while using that notebook I feel really motivated, it feels like the color of it and the subject of abstract algebra are intertwined in my brain.


  • What is the phenomena called where features of the work environment such as type of pen or color of paper influence productivity or workplace well-being?
  • How can such features be used to improve productivity?
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This sounds primarily like self-help, and as such is off-topic at CogSci.SE; if you want to rewrite the question to address the more general phenomenon and how it works, that would probably work. If what you're really interested in, though, is how to use this in your favor, then this might be a better fit for Productivity.SE. $\endgroup$
    – Krysta
    Nov 4, 2014 at 13:32
  • $\begingroup$ I agree that the question would be clearer if reformulated, especially without referring to subjective factors. However, I get the point. See below. $\endgroup$
    – user14074
    Apr 11, 2017 at 5:48

2 Answers 2


Environment can be highly motivating through positive and negative forces. The conditions of the world motivated the scientists of the Manhattan project to violate some of their ethics and risk destroying the world in order to create the atomic bomb. Likewise also the oppressed scientist some of which where Jews who were forced into labor on the same project destroyed and sabotaged their work in order to prevent the weapons control by the Nazi's. Then also the USSR was not capable of creating an atomic bomb because of their culture conformity to a specific tenant of Bolshevik and Stalinism stating the atom cannot be subdivided. Galileo also comes to mind yet slaves built the pyramids. These principles of being open free to create, having every comfort of home and preference then motivated in a social and personal way free from tyranny of governmental and cultural oppression allow people to do their best work.

Freud would say your maternal or paternal figure may have wore a blue and white dress during a birthday party or Christmas or other extremely positive event in your childhood which caused you to associate those colors with successes. Which no one could prove unless you happen upon some memory of why those colors are important to you. Likewise also you (or someone else) may have had success with some kind of work or test with a specific kind of pen or pencil. This irrational association connecting certain operating items and conditions with success is fundamental to the human condition.

See below paper for further information:

Effects of Perceived Work Environment on Employees’ Job Behaviour and Organizational Effectiveness

A.K. Srivastava

The study examined the effect of two constituents of work environment (i.e. physical and psychosocial on employees’ job satisfaction and performance, and organizational effectiveness in a sample of 360 technical supervisors and operating core personnel. The analyses revealed that participants who perceived their work environment as to be adequate and favourable scored comparatively higher on the measures of job satisfaction, performance, and perceived organizational effectiveness. The two constituents of work environment were also found causing significant variance in employees’ job behaviour and their perception of organizational effectiveness. Regression analyses revealed that among the various components of work environment, working condition, welfare provisions, interpersonal relations, and trust and support predominantly contribute to employees’ job behaviour and organizational effectiveness. The results also specified that psycho-social environment in work-place exert more impact on employees’ job behaviour and organizational effectiveness than the physical environment does.

  • $\begingroup$ While I respect that this answer was accepted, I just cannot agree on ranging from Nazi weapons to Freud in order to answer it. It's rather "eclectic". $\endgroup$
    – user14074
    Apr 11, 2017 at 6:00

What is the phenomena called where features of the work environment such as type of pen or color of paper influence productivity or workplace well-being?


Definition: According to the Penguin Dictionary of Psychology (Reber & Reber, 2001, p. 248), ergonomics is "the science of the 'fit' between jobs and persons, the study of the relationship between an individual's anatomy, physiology and psychology and the demands of particular forms of work".

How can such features be used to improve productivity?

I would rather say: How do such features improve productivity?

Answer: By reducing or eliminating superfluous effort or even noxious effects on health while going after work tasks. In practice, according to Sonntag (2001, p. 568), this can be achieved through the "identification of regulation requirements and cognitive demands" as well as the "identification of regulation obstacles in industrial work" (ibid.). Many theoretical assumptions behind such an approach are outlined by Leitner and Resch (2005) as well as by Hacker (2003). In short, regulation obstacles refers to the psychic regulation of work activity. Even more details can be found in Rau (2004).


Hacker, W. (2003). Action Regulation Theory: A practical tool for the design of modern work processes? European Journal of Work & Organizational Psychology, 12(2), 105. https://doi.org/10.1080/13594320344000075

Leitner, K., & Resch, M. G. (2005). Do the Effects of Job Stressors on Health Persist Over Time? A Longitudinal Study With Observational Stressor Measures. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 10(1), 18–30. https://doi.org/10.1037/1076-8998.10.1.18

Rau, R. (2004). Job Strain or Healthy Work: A Question of Task Design. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 9(4), 322–338. https://doi.org/10.1037/1076-8998.9.4.322

Reber, A. S., & Reber, E. S. (2001). The Penguin dictionary of psychology (3rd ed). London ; New York: Penguin Books.

Sonntag, K. (2001). Psychological Approaches to OSH Research—An Evaluation of 20 Years of Psychological Research on Industrial Safety and Health in Germany. International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics, 7(4), 561–573. https://doi.org/10.1080/10803548.2001.11076508

  • $\begingroup$ Hi Will, thanks for answering this (very old) question. However, at CogSci we expect some references to back up your statement. I understand that this question is rather basic, but a formal definition of Ergonomics/Human Factors would be nice (for the first question) and perhaps and example study (for the second). $\endgroup$ Apr 11, 2017 at 6:26
  • $\begingroup$ Hi @RobinKramer, with pleasure. However, given that the term "ergonomics" is rather well known, I will stick to the "Penguin Dictionary of Psychology". I agree though, that the second part of my answer is not explicit about its theoretical assumption. Short: I will edit my answer accordingly right away. $\endgroup$
    – user14074
    Apr 11, 2017 at 6:44
  • $\begingroup$ @RobinKramer Thanks for your feedback; I'm much happier with my answer now. Considering that I've had a little extra work finding English articles about the concept of "regulation obstacles", which is rather found in German literature, I sure needed an extra motivation ;-) Besides that, please have a look at my few other previous answers on CogSci to see that I usually argue referring to literature even when not asked explicitly. Regards $\endgroup$
    – user14074
    Apr 11, 2017 at 8:06
  • $\begingroup$ Already had. Saw some great answers indeed :) +1 for this one too $\endgroup$ Apr 11, 2017 at 8:49

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