Behavior and Environment: Psychological and Geographical Approaches

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Although "environmental psychology" is arguably the best-known and most comprehensive description of the field, it is also known as human Factors science, cognitive ergonomics , ecological psychology , ecopsychology , environment—behavior studies, and person—environment studies. Closely related fields include architectural psychology , socio-architecture , behavioral geography , environmental sociology , social ecology , and environmental design research. The origins of this field of study are unknown, however, Willy Hellpach is said to be the first to mention "environmental psychology". One of his books, Geopsyche , discusses topics such as how the sun and the moon affect human activity, the impact of extreme environments, and the effects of color and form Pol, E.

The end of World War II brought about a higher demand for developments in the field of social psychology particularly in the areas of attitude change , small group processes , and intergroup conflict. This demand caused psychologists to begin applying social psychology theories to a number of social issues such as prejudice , war and peace.

It was thought that if these problems were addressed, underlying notions and principles would surface. Although this period was crucial to the development of the field, the methodologies used to carry out the studies were questionable. Consequently, environmental psychologists began to conduct studies outside of the laboratory , enabling the field to continue to progress. Environmental psychology is a direct study of the relationship between an environment and how that environment affects its inhabitants.

Specific aspects of this field work by identifying a problem and through the identification of said problem, discovering a solution. Therefore, it is necessary for environmental psychology to be problem oriented. One important aspect of a problem-oriented field is that by identifying problems, solutions arise from the research acquired. The solutions can aid in making society function better as a whole and create a wealth of knowledge about the inner workings of societies.


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Environmental psychologist Harold Proshansky discusses how the field is also "value oriented" because of the field's commitment to bettering society through problem identification. Proshansky also points out some of the problems of a problem-oriented approach for environmental psychology. First the problems being identified must be studied under certain specifications: it must be ongoing and occurring in real life, not in a laboratory. Second, the notions about the problems must derive directly from the source — meaning they must come directly from the specific environment where the problem is occurring.

Environmental psychology needs to reflect the actual society not a society built in a laboratory setting. The difficult task of the environmental psychologist is to study problems as they are occurring in everyday life. Proshansky makes this point as well, discussing the difficulty in the overall problem oriented approach.

He states that it is important, however, for the environmental psychologist to utilize all aspects of research and analysis of the findings and to take into account both the general and individualized aspects of the problems. Environmental psychology addresses environmental problems such as density and crowding, noise pollution , sub-standard living , and urban decay.

Although it has been found that control and predictability are the greatest factors in stressful effects of noise; context, pitch, source and habituation are also important variables [3]. Environmental psychologists have theorized that density and crowding can also have an adverse effect on mood and may cause stress-related illness. To understand and solve environmental problems, environmental psychologists believe concepts and principles should come directly from the physical settings and problems being looked at.

Having an area of personal territory in a public space, e. Having such a 'defensible space' can reduce the negative effects of crowding in urban environments. The term, coined by John B. Calhoun in , is the result of multiple environmental experiments conducted on rats.


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Originally beginning as an experiment to measure how many rats could be accommodated in a given space, it expanded into determining how rats, given the proper food, shelter and bedding would behave under a confined environment. Under these circumstances, the males became aggressive, some exclusively homosexual. Others became pansexual and hypersexual, seeking every chance to mount any rat they encountered. As a result, mating behaviors were upset with an increase in infant mortalities. Creating barriers and customizing the space are ways of creating personal space, e.

This increases cognitive control as one sees oneself as having control over the competitors to the personal space and therefore able to control the level of density and crowding in the space. The systems oriented approach to experimenting is applied to individuals or people that are a part of communities, groups, and organizations. This approach particularly examines group interaction, as opposed to an individual's interaction and it emphasizes on factors of social integration. In the laboratory, experiments focus on cause and effect processes within human nature.

Behavior and Environment: Psychological and Geographical Approaches - Google книги

Environmental psychology relies on interaction with other disciplines in order to approach problems with multiple perspectives. The first discipline is the category of behavioral sciences, which include: sociology, political science, anthropology, and economics. Environmental psychology also interacts with the interspecializations of the field of psychology, which include: developmental psychology , cognitive science , industrial and organizational psychology , psychobiology, psychoanalysis , [10] and social neuroscience.

In addition to the more scientific fields of study, environmental psychology also works with the design field which includes: the studies of architecture, interior design, urban planning, industrial and object design, landscape architecture, and preservation.

How Can Psychology Save the Planet? Bringing Behavior Change Science to Conservation

Space over time orientation highlights the importance of the past. Examining problems with the past in mind creates a better understanding of how past forces, such as social, political, and economic forces, may be of relevance to present and future problems. It's important to look at time over extended periods.

Physical settings change over time; they change with respect to physical properties and they change because individuals using the space change over time. There are a variety of tests that can be administered to children in order to determine their temperament. Temperament is split up into three types: "easy", "difficult", and "slow-to-warm-up". Birch, Margaret Hertzig and Sam Korn created an infant temperament test in the s and rated them using nine temperament criteria.

Place identity has been traditionally defined as a 'sub-structure of the self-identity of the person consisting of broadly conceived cognitions about the physical world in which the individual lives'. Through 'good' or 'bad' experiences with a place, a person is then able to reflect and define their personal values, attitudes, feelings and beliefs about the physical world. Place identity has been described as the individual's incorporation of place into the larger concept of self; a "potpourri of memories, conceptions, interpretations, ideas, and related feelings about specific physical settings, as well as types of settings".

Three humanistic geographers, Tuan , Relph and Buttimer , [ full citation needed ] share a couple of basic assumptions. Five central functions of place-identity have been depicted: recognition, meaning, expressive-requirement, mediating change, and anxiety and defense function. Place identity becomes a cognitive "database" against which every physical setting is experienced.

The individual is frequently unaware of the array of feelings, values or memories of a singular place and simply becomes more comfortable or uncomfortable with certain broad kinds of physical settings, or prefers specific spaces to others. In the time since the term "place identity" was introduced, the theory has been the model for identity that has dominated environmental psychology. Many different perceptions of the bond between people and places have been hypothesized and studied.

The most widespread terms include place attachment [17] and sense of place.

Table of Contents

While both researchers and writers [19] have made the case that time and experience in a place are important for deepening the meanings and emotional ties central to the person-place relationship, little in-depth research has studied these factors and their role in forging this connection. Place attachment is defined as one's emotional or affective ties to a place, and is generally thought to be the result of a long-term connection with a certain environment. For example, one can have an emotional response to a beautiful or ugly landscape or place, but this response may sometimes be shallow and fleeting.

This distinction is one that Schroeder labeled "meaning versus preference". According to Schroeder the definition of "meaning" is "the thoughts, feelings, memories and interpretations evoked by a landscape"; whereas "preference" is "the degree of liking for one landscape compared to another". Environmental cognition involved in human cognition plays a crucial role in environmental perception. All different areas of the brain engage with environmentally relevant information.

Some believe that the orbitofrontal cortex integrates environmentally relevant information from many distributed areas of the brain.


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  • Due to its anterior location within the frontal cortex, the orbitofrontal cortex may make judgments about the environment, and refine the organism's "understanding" through error analysis, and other processes specific to prefrontal cortex. But to be certain, there is no single brain area dedicated to the organism's interactions with its environment.

    Rather, all brain areas are dedicated to this task. One area probably the orbitofrontal cortex may collate the various pieces of the informational puzzle in order to develop a long term strategy of engagement with the ever-changing "environment.

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    The earliest noteworthy discoveries in the field of environmental psychology can be dated back to Roger Barker who created the field of ecological psychology. Founding his research station in Oskaloosa, Kansas in , his field observations expanded into the theory that social settings influence behavior. Empirical data gathered in Oskaloosa from to helped him develop the concept of the "behavior setting" to help explain the relationship between the individual and the immediate environment.

    This resulted in the students' ability to presume many different roles in small schools e. In his book Ecological Psychology Barker stresses the importance of the town's behavior and environment as the residents' most ordinary instrument of describing their environment. Greene, Jeffery D. Fisher, and Andrew Baum. Environmental psychology. Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt. An exhaustive exploration of the field of environmental psychology, starting from its historical roots to 21st-century conceptualizations of the field, in addition to specific theoretical and empirical traditions in environmental psychology.

    All of the main areas of research in environmental psychology outlined in this review are examined in this textbook. Clayton, Susan. The Oxford handbook of environmental and conservation psychology. New York: Oxford Univ. DOI: A broad overview of the field consisting of essays by experts in each area of environmental psychology. This handbook is usable for undergraduate courses but is perhaps best suited for graduate-level surveys of the field.

    Overviews of practically every relevant environmental psychology topic can be found in this handbook. Clayton, Susan, and Gene Myers. Conservation psychology: Understanding and promoting human care for nature.

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    Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell. Gardner, Gerald T. Environmental problems and human behavior. A book highlighting how human behavior is related to a range of environmental problems, with a particular focus on understanding and changing environmental behaviors. Although the foundation for this book is in psychology, it draws on allied disciplines, including environmental policy, to consider effective ways to address environmental problems. Gifford, Robert. Environmental psychology: Principles and practices. Colville, WA: Optimal. A textbook that surveys the entire environmental psychology field to provide updated chapters on each main area of environmental psychology theory and research.

    Environmental psychology matters. Annual Review of Psychology — An article overviewing the field of environmental psychology. Briefly but effective discussion on the major theoretical and empirical traditions. Research methods for environmental psychology.

    Behavioral geography

    A book with essays from experts focusing on the common research methods used in the field of environmental psychology, including discussion of research design and statistics in general, observation, surveys, evaluation, intervention design, multilevel modeling, structural equation modeling, and meta-analysis. Koger, Susan M. The psychology of environmental problems: Psychology for sustainability. This book takes a slightly different approach to organizing the theoretical and empirical traditions in environmental psychology by pairing ideas from environmental psychology to other traditions in psychology, such as developmental psychology, health psychology, sensation and perception, and neuropsychology.

    Steg, Linda, Agnes E. Environmental psychology: An introduction. A textbook that overviews the major areas of environmental psychology, linked together with the explicit theme of sustainability and with an emphasis on empirical traditions in the field. Vlek, Charles, and Linda Steg. Human behavior and environmental sustainability: Problems, driving forces, and research topics. Journal of Social Issues — An applied review of environmental problems facing humans in the 21st century, as well as a theoretical review of areas of environmental psychology research related to these environmental problems.

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