Saturday, 28 August 2010

Predators In Mind at Bedtime

Research published this month in Evolutionary Psychology journal suggests that the human instinct to minimise risk from predators while sleeping is still alive and kicking. In spite of the fact that most of us sleep in locked houses and are not threatened nightly by sabre-toothed tigers, we still tend to prefer placing our beds as far away from the door as possible and allowing us to face the door.

Matthias Sporrle and Jennifer Stitch of the University of Munich asked 136 volunteer participants to arrange furniture on four different floor plans that included window and door positions. They found that most participants did position the bed where a view of the doorway was possible from the resting position, but when a window was also present this was less likely. They point out that these results are consistent with what the earliest human animals would have chosen in order to minimise the risk of attack from a specified direction while asleep. This behaviour has also been observed in other primates.

Considering that humans spend a third of their lives asleep and that the bed is, therefore, the most used piece of furniture it is not surprising that we have strong feelings about where and how it should be positioned. However, there is no prior academic enquiry that has looked specifically at choice of sleeping place and positioning of a bed in a room.

The researchers aknowledge that there could be other explanations for the observed tendencies (such as placing the bed against a wall in order to avoid losing the pillow) and further research is also required to determine if the motivations are primarily "nature or nurture".

What is your preference, and why?

Source: "Sleeping in safe places: An experimental investigation of human sleeping place preferences from an evolutionary perspective" - Spörrle, M., and Stich, J. in Evolutionary Psychology Pp.405-419 Vol 8(3), 2010.

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