Over the past few decades, the popularity of environmental psychology, which analyzes the relationship between people and the environment, whether natural or man-made, has grown dramatically. In this article we will define environmental psychology and describe its main applications and approaches theoretical and practical.
Environmental psychology: definition and object of study
Environmental psychology is an interdisciplinary theoretical and applied field that it is about studying the interaction between human beings and the environment in which they find themselves. The main focus is on the psychological and behavioral variables associated with this relationship.
The object of interest of environmental psychology is broad, as can be deduced from its definition. Any context can be analyzed from the perspective of the relationship between people and the environment, such as the effects of classroom design on school performance or the creation of programs to promote sustainable consumption.
Environmental psychology seeks to find ways to predict how certain variables of people and the physical environment will influence the interaction between the two in order to optimize it. While in many cases this discipline it has an ethical and problem-solving component of global issues, Has many possible uses, such as business.
The fact that this field of study encompasses many different (and often opposing) sciences and interests has made it difficult to unite. Although in any discipline different ideologies and views coexist on what common goals should be, conflicts of this type are particularly noticeable in environmental psychology.
Applications of this discipline
The relevance of environmental psychology has increased due to the growing need for awareness and collective and institutional action against the deterioration of the planet. This is why over the past 50 years there has been an intense relationship between environmental psychology and environmental movements.
Another application of environmental psychology is the design of architectural environments that improve the psychological well-being of people therein or that promote certain behaviors. For example, there are both urban designs focused on stress reduction and consumer friendly shopping centers.
From the point of view of improving the well-being of people, environmental psychology can be useful to the population, especially in the public sector, In which planning and investment in social projects are more possible. In this sense, both urban planning and other environmental aspects, such as transport or schools, are relevant.
At the organizational level, the knowledge acquired through environmental psychology can be used to maximize the productivity or well-being of workers. Changing work environments is one of the most common applications of environmental psychology, which is a good example of the breadth of this discipline.
Theoretical and practical approaches
In environmental psychology, different methodological and conceptual approaches coexist, although in general they are complementary. Let us see what are the characteristics of these theoretical-practical orientations.
1. Solving environmental problems
The most common pattern of action in environmental psychology begins with the identification of problems on a specific mediumOften, but not necessarily, with special emphasis on the role of human beings. A plan is then developed to resolve the problem, it is implemented, monitored, and errors are corrected.
This area is closely linked to environmental defense movements. Some of the most frequently discussed issues are improving living conditions in disadvantaged areas, control of environmental pollution levels in urban cores and prevention of deterioration of forests or other means.
2. Systems perspective
Systems-centered environmental psychology analyzes social and psychological factors relevant to a particular area; it is often used in social integration programs. In this context, systems can be understood as human groups but also include other elements that are in the same environment.
3. Spatial orientation
This approach focuses on determining how certain factors from the past have influenced the problems that arise in the present in a specific location. It is also common to analyze the evolution of one or more variables over time, as would occur when studying the relationship between population density and air pollution.
4. Interdisciplinary approach
The knowledge and methods of environmental psychology are integrated with those of many other disciplines, both within and outside of psychology. Thus, we can highlight the relationship of this field with organizational psychology, cognitive or developmental psychology, as well as with architecture, interior design, sociology, economics or politics.