The Sorting Task

Its Versatility and Adaptability in Research, Teaching, and Practice

Authored by: Linda N. Groat , Matthew Niermann , Brian Schermer

The Routledge Companion to Games in Architecture and Urban Planning

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  November  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138339026
eBook ISBN: 9780429441325
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter describes the history and evolution of ‘the multiple sorting task’ as an adaptable and effective device for eliciting participants’ understanding of both the qualitative nature of and the structure of their life experiences, including environments of all scales. The development of the sorting task – initially as a research tool – emerged over several decades through a long tradition in clinical and cognitive psychology. By the 1980s, researchers in environmental psychology had refined and adapted the sorting task for use in addressing a variety of research contexts, while also testing its versatility for engaging respondents’ multi-layered responses to environments at all scales. Once the sorting task’s inherent versatility was established, it was adapted as a ‘game-like device’ for engaged learning experiences in environmental design teaching, and for participatory purposes with client and civic groups in the practices of architecture, urban design, and planning.

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