environmental psychology
environmental psychology

Introduction to Environmental Psychology

“A branch of social science that studies the link or relationship between environment or surroundings and the human beings.”

It helps researchers understand how man is shaping his outer world and making environment for himself.

It also gives information about us i.e. humans, the way we built physical world and then shape the environment accordingly with detail in depth explanation.

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This is not an old branch of psychology but it’s a relatively new discipline within the psychology. As for as its conceptual understanding is concerned then it’s not too much new.  Normally every human being feel comfort in natural environment.

His moods and emotions get positive energy in peaceful natural environment especially this thing is very evident in people who are living in busy areas of city and get a chance to spend few days in natural green and fresh environment.

We definitely feel a strong sense of comfort, well beings and energy within ourselves, in our home and ultimately within our community. Once upon a time a beautiful saying was said by W. Churchill that we actually shape up our buildings and later on these building shape us.

This is evident when we prepare environment for a big sports event like a FIFA world cup and immediately that event starts giving us comfort and happiness back in short period of time.  Therefore, psychology and environment have a close relationship with each other.

In universities many courses are being taught to conduct environmental research. Various universities are offering BS, MSc and PhD degrees in this particular field of study. Contents of environmental psychology also attract biological psychologists to study about environment too.

Some experts are offering online courses related to environmental psychology. Previously, it was tough to find a book on this topic but now even textbooks are available in the market. Basically human being are the product of environment.

Origin of Environmental Psychology

The subject of Environmental sociology emerged basically in USA.  After the environmental movement of the 1960s and early 1970s, working on this subject had been started. In the late 1970s, they called for a new holistic, or systems perspective.

Since the 1970s, general sociology has noticeably transformed to include environmental forces in social explanations. With the efforts of early environmental psychologists, this subject has now solidified as a respected, interdisciplinary field of study in academia.  

Environmental sociology is a relatively new area of study that is emerging largely in response to increased social recognition of the seriousness of environmental problems.

Many areas of sociology like poverty and inequality, racial and gender discrimination, and crime and delinquency have similarly arisen as a result of societal attention to above said problematic conditions.

Environmental sociology is a unique discipline, however, in that sociological attention to problems of environment had to overcome strong disciplinary traditions that discouraged giving attention to non-social conditions such as environmental quality.

Consequently, the growth of sociological work on environmental issues has been accompanied by a critique and reassessment of core sociological assumptions and practices, with the result that environmental sociology has a somewhat ambivalent stance toward its parent discipline.

Approaches to Environmental Psychology

There are two schools of thoughts, when it comes to environmental sociology; i.e. constructivism and realism. Some details are appended below:-

(a)     The Constructionist Approach

The constructivists tend to be those individuals who develop ways and these ways help to improve the overall environment; however, they do tend to be on the more extremist side in their methods. 

(b)     The Realist Approach

The realists are those who want to find the solutions that are urgently needed for the improvement of the environment.

Moreover, these individuals also understand that there are some concessions that are needed to be made out of necessity for the benefit of humans.

environmental psychology

Designing of Environmental Psychology

Apparently people may feel that psychologists related to environment just focus on the ways and means of how an environment affects our mood, emotions and attitudes but in fact environmental psychologists have a close eye on the ecology and the paradigm of how people as humans being affect the environment.

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There are many examples of human how they are affecting environment, few of them are appended below: –

  • Rise in temperature of globe (Manmade machines and other human activities are increasing the overall temperature of earth and ultimately this surge in temperature affecting the moods and behaviours of human being.
  • The release of greenhouse gases is increasing day by day. This is happening because of cutting forests at large scale, installation of heavy industries in natural environment and un-controlled burning of fossil fuels etc. The greenhouse effect is a natural phenomenon. Psychologists studies the close relationship and impact of these activities on humans.

After reading above said information, it is clear that we can impact our environment positively by taking the following steps:-

  • By increasing green spaces
  • By developing sustainable communities
  • By taking tangible steps to enrich environment for wildlife

It is very important for all of us in general and environmental psychologists in particular that we should have some proper planning, effective policies, long term ideas, sustainable buildings and infrastructure.

These are the ways in environmental psychology through which we can overall improve our environment and ultimately improvement in moods and emotions of community will be seen. That particular type of environment can be called as social or cultural environments.

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Popular Terms of Environmental Psychology

Following are few renowned terms related to environmental psychology:

  • Environmental Attitude: If we put some sincere efforts to make our environment healthy and livable then our attitude is said to be an environmental attitude.
  • Area Affection: It is the sensitive and affectionate pledge between a person and the place or area where he is living.
  • Environmental Restoration: All efforts and energies used for the betterment of environment particularly bringing the natural environment back to its track. The whole process is known as environmental restoration which is directly affecting human psychology. 

Environmental Psychologists

For the more studies about environmental psychology, the work of following researchers can be studied: –

  • Linda Steg (University of Groningen, Netherlands)
  • Robert Gifford (University of Victoria, Canada)
  • Stephine Wilkie (University of Sunderland, UK)


Generally, environmental sociology study is important for both the categories i.e. to the environment and to the human being, firstly it helps in the preservation of both nurture and nature, then it gives man an opportunity to change the negative actions if any that may damage relationship to a minimal.

It also helps future researches that can help when it comes to finding a careful balance to help mankind, enlightened the share of give and take between human and environment, as well as environment sociology help to determine the mankind and nature to interact each other in a more productive way.

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Important Topics of Environmental Psychology

Definition and Scope of Environmental PsychologyCatastrophes and human adjustments
Historical backgroundFuture environmental challenges posed to humanity
Importance and Application of Environmental PsychologyImpact of environment changes in industrial and geographical development
Definition and Scope of Human NaturePersonal space and territoriality
Environmental Perception of NatureNoise, air and water pollution
Cognition & Attitude of Human BehaviourEffects of environmental stressors
Social interaction and the EnvironmentPhenomenon of Urbanization
Impact of environment on personality development and individual differencesFactors in adjustment to environment: gender, age, job, family, fashion, religion, society
Arousal Theories in Environmental PsychologyPlanning and design for human behavior
Stimulus Load TheoryHigh density and crowding in Town Planning
Behavioral Constraint TheoryThe Built Environment and Human Adjustment
Adaptation Level TheoriesDesign in residential and institutional environments
Environmental Stress Theories (Ecological Theories)Work, Learning and Leisure environments
Research Methods in Environmental PsychologyChanging behavior to save the environment
Disasters, toxic hazards and pollutionMob and Group Behavior in Environmental and Cultural Variances

Recommended Books

  • Baum, A. (1998). Advances in environmental psychology. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associate.
  • Bell, P. A., Greene, T. C., Fisher, J. D., & Baum, A. (2001).Environmental psychology(5th ed.). USA: Harcourt College Publishers.
  • Cassidy, T. (1997).Environmental psychology. UK: Psychology Press.
  • Garling, T., & Golledge, R. (Eds.). (1993). Behaviour and environment: Psychological and geographical approaches. Amsterdam: North Holland.
  • Golledge, R. G. & Stimson, R. J. (1997). Spatial behavior: A geographic perspective. NY: Guilford Press.
  • Spindler, G. D. (1998).Making of psychological anthropology. California: University of California Press.
  • Stokols, D., & Altman, I. (Eds.).(2000). Handbook of environmental psychology. New York: Wiley.


Color can have a significant impact on human behavior in the environment. For example, warm colors like red and orange can stimulate the senses and increase energy levels, while cool colors like blue and green can have a calming effect and reduce stress.

Noise pollution can have negative impacts on human behavior and well-being in the environment. Excessive noise can lead to increased stress, annoyance, and sleep disturbance, as well as reduced cognitive performance and academic achievement.

Environmental psychology can inform workplace design by providing insights into how the physical environment affects employee behavior and well-being. For example, natural elements like plants and sunlight can improve mood and reduce stress, while flexible workspaces can promote creativity and collaboration.

Exposure to natural environments has been shown to have a variety of benefits for human health and well-being, including reduced stress and anxiety, improved mood, and increased cognitive performance.

Environmental psychology can provide insights into how people interact with the environment and how to promote sustainable behaviors. This can inform sustainable design practices by helping designers create spaces that promote environmentally responsible behavior, such as reducing energy consumption and waste production.

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