Environmental psychology is an interdisciplinary field that studies how people interact with their surroundings. It looks at how our natural and built environments shape us as individuals. Environmental psychology is concerned with how humans influence the environment as well as how the environment influences human experiences and behaviors. It is strongly connected to architectural psychology, socio-architecture, behavioral geography, environmental sociology, social ecology, and environmental design research. Environmental psychology was not acknowledged as a distinct science until the late 1960s. Since its start, the area has been committed to the creation of a value-oriented and problem-oriented discipline. Recently, there has been a greater emphasis placed on environmental sustainability issues within the field. It prioritizes research aimed at resolving complex environmental issues for the sake of individual well-being within the context of a larger society.

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People’s interactions with their environment _©Staticflickr.com – live.staticflickr.com

Characteristics of Environmental Psychology

One of the most important aspects of a problem-oriented field is the ability to research to find solutions by identifying problems. The solutions can help improve the overall functioning of society and generate a wealth of knowledge. Environmental psychology must reflect real society, not one created in a laboratory. It is critical to take into account both the broad and specific aspects of the problems. It discusses four key aspects of environmental psychology that define the field as it currently exists: an emphasis on human-environment interactions, an interdisciplinary approach, an applied focus, and a range of methods.

Environmental psychology is concerned with concerns such as population density and overcrowding, noise pollution, substandard living circumstances, and urban deterioration. It also works with the design industry, which includes architecture, interior design, urban planning, industrial and product design, landscape architecture, and conservation. An environmental psychologist‘s job is to look into everyday problems. They believe that concepts and principles should be derived from their surroundings.

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Approaches to environmental psychology_©Wordpress.com – clarke604.files.wordpress.com

Concepts involved in Environmental Psychology

Several concepts relating to humans’ innate connection to natural environments have been revealed by environmental psychology research. Nature’s connection has been shown to play an important role in predicting people’s general pro-ecological and pro-social behaviors. The term “nature-deficit disorder” was coined recently to describe a lack of connection to nature caused by a lack of consciousness identification and natural disconnect. The following are some environmental psychology concepts:

Nature restoration: Nature restoration studies revealed that patients with a view of nature from their hospital window recovered faster than those with a brick wall, demonstrating the extent to which nature has mental and physical restorative properties, which has been a central branch of the field. The most frequently cited theories are the Attention Restoration Theory, which claims that nature is a “soft fascination” that restores the ability to direct attention. According to stress reduction theory, because humans originated in nature, this sort of environment is soothing and better adapted to the senses. The Conditioned Restoration Method comprises associating nature with relaxation and retrieving that relaxation when exposed to a similar stimulus.

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Human-nature interaction_©Sageglass.com – www.sageglass.com

Place identity & attachment: Place identity has traditionally been defined as a substructure of a person’s self-identity comprised of broadly defined cognitions about the physical world in which the individual lives. These cognitions shape each person’s daily experiences by defining their perceptions, feelings, ideas, memories, personal values, and preferences toward a variety of physical settings. A person’s environmental history is developed when they encounter aspects that fulfill them physiologically, socially, mentally, or culturally. The sense of place is converted into a cognitive database against which every physical setting is experienced. Time and experience in a place are necessary for deepening the meanings and emotional ties at the heart of the person-place relationship, while place attachment is defined as emotional or affective ties to a location and is thought to be the result of a long-term connection with a specific environment. This is distinct from a simple aesthetic response, such as saying that a specific location is special because it is beautiful and creates a sense of place.

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Place identity theory_©Frontiersin.org – www.frontiersin.org

Impact on the built environment: Within the architectural industry, there is a debate about the role and impact of architecture on human behavior. The laboratory-experimental paradigm was rejected by environmental psychologists owing to its simplicity and biased view of human actions and experiences. People’s perceptions range from assuming that they will adapt to new architectural and urban forms to believing that architects cannot predict how buildings will affect people. Environmental psychology has dominated the entire architectural genre of retail stores and other commercial venues capable of manipulating customer moods and behavior. The development of eco-cities necessitates knowledge of the interactions between environmental, economic, political, and socio-cultural factors based on ecological principles. Future city planning will make extensive use of environmental psychology.

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Retailers use psychology to improve sales_©Chainstoreage.com – assets1.chainstoreage.com

Environmental Psychology’s Challenges

The word “environmental psychology” might be imprecise or misleading. It is a relatively new subfield with many opportunities to grow and interact with other disciplines. Environmental psychology studies how individuals interact with their surroundings. It aims to understand how and why our circumstances influence us, how we may utilize that information to our advantage, and what we can do to enhance our interaction with the world around us. Environmental psychology has gotten much too little research to be classified as a branch of psychology. It hasn’t advanced far enough to compete with areas like social, personality, learning, and cognitive psychology.

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Difficulties in being practical for researches_©Rohrmannresearch.net – www.rohrmannresearch.net

Because there is no clear definition or aim, becoming an interdisciplinary field is challenging. Some research relies on untested assumptions about human perception, and the topic is challenging to integrate into organizational systems. Guido Francescato described the field in 2000 as a bewildering array of disparate methodologies, conceptual orientations, and interpretations that make it difficult to define the field and what it might contribute to the construction of society and the unfolding of history with any degree of precision. In the study of environmental psychology, it is difficult to grasp the influence of human behavior on climate and climate change. Identifying why some individuals participate in pro-environmental actions can assist in predicting what will be required to engage others in long-term change. The area has gotten much too little attention to be called an interdisciplinary field within the discipline of psychology.

Significance of Environmental Psychology

Environmental psychology discoveries about how people perceive and respond to their surroundings have broad and long-term implications in fields such as city planning, architecture, landscape design, and environmental sustainability. Field observations can help highlight how changes in how individuals utilize their settings and how environments are designed might enhance people’s lives on an individual and population-wide scale.

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Factors affecting environmental psychology_©Positivepsychology.com – positivepsychology.com

In contrast to other fields of psychology, environmental psychology focuses on micro-units of the environment, such as people’s homes, neighborhoods, and work and community contexts. Environmental psychology research combines the scientific goals of analyzing and explaining the nature of people-environment transactions with the more practical goal of improving and even optimizing relationships between people and their daily environments through better urban planning and environmental design.

Another major factor that broadens the scope of environmental psychology is ergonomics, the scientific study of creating products and settings that are optimal for human usage. Furthermore, tackling environmental challenges such as pollution, climate change, deforestation, and so on has become increasingly important in recent years. Environmental psychology also aims to change behavior in ways that help the environment and address environmental challenges while guaranteeing human well-being and preserving a high quality of life. This brings us to the notion of sustainability, which is a key principle of environmental psychology. Environmental psychology now encompasses a wide variety of issues.

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Environmental stress affects human badly in daily life_©Focusforhealth.org – www.focusforhealth.org

Environmental Stress and Its Management

Environmental psychology is concerned with the negative and positive consequences of places on the people who occupy them. People can get stressed as a result of their surroundings, which can lead to bad health, diminished selflessness, increased behavioral and cognitive deficits, and a failure to pay enough attention to the environment itself. The capacity to manage incoming stress-inducing stimuli is a key benefit of living in a private place. We can also try to control our environmental stress by managing it or inventing strategies to analyze and make sense of such stimuli, and then share what we’ve learned with others.

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A stroll in a green environment relieves stress_©Livepositively.com – www.livepositively.com

Environmental psychology is crucial both within and outside the home. It focuses on environmental stressors such as outdoor sitting noise, pollution, congestion, and crowding. An hour of running in an urban environment versus one in a rural natural setting will have a distinct psychological impact on you. If you go for a walk or a jog on a busy urban street with a lot of traffic and noise pollution, your level of arousal and tension may arise when you get back. A nice walk beside a lake, river, or small park, on the other hand, will instantly lower your stress level.

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Stress levels rise as a result of urban overcrowding_©Scientificamerican.com – static.scientificamerican.com

While interior design is much more than just color and furniture, it is also founded on biology and the information you get through your senses. Your brain interprets all the information received from your senses and secretes chemicals in response. A red-painted room is a straightforward illustration. Because red is an energetic hue, it triggers your brain to produce dopamine, endorphins, or oxytocin, which are hormones that make you feel more sociable and cheerful, and these may be positive reactions in the proper context. Environmental psychology also impacts interior design through the utilization of spatial volumes. Frank Lloyd Wright, a master of this, would purposefully angle walls and squeeze spaces to make people feel uneasy, and then force visitors through that setting into another.

Environmental psychology is being used to lower crime rate_©Civiclive.com – p1cdn4static.civiclive.com

Environmental psychology aids in understanding the real-world applications of concepts such as spatial cognition and cognitive mapping to design easier-to-navigate spaces. Crime rates are reduced as a result of the practical application of environmental psychology. Having good signage inside buildings increases the rate of travel within the buildings, and using color-coded paths can reduce wayfinding errors in buildings. All human thoughts and behaviors occur within one of the numerous physical environments, each with its own distinct set of characteristics. The environment can be dissected at multiple levels, ranging from noisy, crowded offices to quiet, open fields, from one’s private bedroom to the entire natural world. Environmental psychology is not currently a major field, but it has the potential to be one of the most impactful in terms of the future of mankind.

Further Reading:

  1. History and evolution of spatial psychology – RTF | Rethinking The Future. (2021). RTF | Rethinking The Future. [online]. Available at: https://www.re-thinkingthefuture.com/history-of-architecture/a2930-history-and-evolution-of-spacial-psychology/
  2. RTF | Rethinking The Future. (2020). Can biomimicry affect Human Psychology – Rethinking The Future. [online] Available at: https://www.re-thinkingthefuture.com/rtf-fresh-perspectives/a591-can-biomimicry-affect-human-psychology
  3. RTF | Rethinking The Future. (2021). Psychological Studies of Urban Environments. [online] Available at: https://www.re-thinkingthefuture.com/city-and-architecture/a3218-psychological-studies-of-urban-environments/
  1. Ackerman, C. (2018). What is Environmental Psychology? (Theories + Examples). [online] PositivePsychology.com. Available at: https://positivepsychology.com/environmental-psychology/
  2. Sociology Group: Sociology and Other Social Sciences Blog. (2021). Environmental Psychology: Origin, Theories, Scope, Applications. [online] Available at: https://www.sociologygroup.com/environmental-psychology-origin-theories-scope-applications/
  3. www.youtube.com. (n.d.). Lecture 01 – Introduction to Environmental Psychology and Overview of the Course. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHUS5T6uYT4

Subhashinee is an Architect, Researcher, and Stereotype breaker. Deeply passionate about sustainability and environmental psychology. She is curious to learn new things in life that enhance her. An avid observer, she prefers writing over speaking. She believes that architectural journalism is as important as architectural design, as it binds knowledge providers with seekers.

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