Our psychological well-being is closely and inescapably linked with the environments we live in. The desire to get away from stressors connected to our urban lifestyles is a noteworthy motivation for pursuing nature experiences. Many people feel pain on witnessing the devastation of natural areas and the vivisection of ecosystems. Their efforts to set things right give them pleasure and, sometimes, a sense of personal revival when standing in places they helped restore.
In tampering with natural environments to serve human life and physical comfort, many people have become aware that changes made have promoted their psychological detriment. This understanding has stimulated both the development of interest in ecology and the appearance of environmental psychology.
Environmental psychology is the study of interplay between individuals and their surroundings, that is, the interaction between people and their environment. In this interplay, people change the environment, and, in turn, the environment changes their behavior and experiences. Here, the term environment refers to natural and built environments, social settings, learning and informational environments. Environmental psychology is both value and problem oriented and includes theory, research, and procedures that can improve our relationship with the environment.
Field of operation
Environmental psychology’s closely related fields include socio-architecture, architectural psychology, behavioral geography, environmental sociology, social ecology, environmental and urban design and planning, environmental aesthetics, environmental philosophy, sustainability science, conservation psychology and many more.
Environmental psychologists examine people’s homes, workplace and recreational settings, the visual effects of buildings, the negative consequences of cities, the therapeutic role of nature, environmental attitudes and long-term behavior.
Conservation psychology focuses on the interplay between humans and the rest of nature, with an emphasis on ways to support and promote conservation of the natural world. Conservation psychologists investigate the development of environmental attitudes. For instance, they may look into how and why people value nature in order to understand how to nurture an environmental ethic better. Another research area includes studying behaviors and attitudes towards nature and natural resources that can help determine how to foster sustainable ones. Conservation psychologists may also carry out experiments on the therapeutic effects of nature on our mental health, for example, how spending time in the open reduces stress or enhances concentration.
While conservation psychology focuses more on changing behaviors, ecopsychology is more concentrated on ties between environmental and societal degradation. For instance, it tackles poverty and inequality. It perceives human well-being as directly linked to environmental well-being and concentrates on healing the human society alongside with healing the nature. Ecopsychology studies emotional responses to nature, the effects of environmental issues such as global climate change, and environmental identification and concern.
There are several significant challenges that appertain to the field as a whole. They address the need for further unification, development of theories and models, and additional engagement of environmental psychologists with environmental questions. Environmental psychology has progressively embraced sustainability as its main focal point of research, providing us with many useful insights and mechanisms for advocating sustainability at regional and global levels. Nevertheless, it is not yet considered a major player in sustainability science. In order to make a significant difference in the battle to save the planet from ecological and social deterioration, environmental psychologists should be more engaged.
(1) “What Is Environmental Psychology?” APS, https://www.psychology.org.au/About-Us/What-we-do/advocacy/Advocacy-social-issues/Environment-climate-change-psychology/Psychology’s-role-in-environmental-issues
(2) Moser, Gabriel & Uzzell, David. (2007). Environmental Psychology. 10.1002/0471264385.wei0517.
(3) Steg, Linda, and De Groot Judith I. M. Environmental Psychology: an Introduction. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, 2019.