Environmental psychology is the study of the transactions that happens between individual persons and their physical environment (Gifford et al., 440). Environmental psychology can be traced back in the early 20th century when psychologists started being aware of the connection between human and physical environment. In this regard, they studied the effects that noise had on work performance in the United States. Similarly, in England, psychologists studied the effects of heat on the performance of workers. Psychological scholars in Germany and Japan explored the major concepts that were related to moral philosophy and environmental psychology. By the mid of the 20th century, environmental psychology was an independent discipline that dealt with issues such as personal space, building design, and sensory isolation (Gifford et al., 441).
This field of inquiry focuses on the perception of the environment, spatial recognition, personality, the management of social space, human interactions with the natural environment, as well as the psychology in climate change. Environmental conservationists were concerned about the plight of nature. As such, they advocated for its respect for the sake of sustaining human life. Legislation regulated the relationship between human and natural environment. In this regard, according to Gifford et al. (443), laws like Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, as well as the Clean Water Act were instrumental in regulating how humans could use the environment. The interdisciplinary areas that led to environmental psychology are the social settings, built settings and the natural environment.
The conceptions of individuals towards the environment influence their actions and decisions towards it. Additionally, the judgments of approval or disapproval that individual have as to the goodness or badness of their behaviors will determine their reactions. Further, the specific expression of a value or belief towards objects and situation defines an individuals behavior. In this regard, attitudes are creations of human beings, which determine the way that they react to natural environment. An attitude that respects the environment will lead to its conservation, while a contrary one leads to its degradation. In 1975, Paul Watson was against the use of sabotage tactics in Greenpeace. He started the bold and most aggressive Sea Shepherd Conservation Society that was against environmental degradation. However, Abbey, Aldo Leopold, and Paul Watson are all supporter of deep ecology, which is break from the mechanistic ontology of nature. This version of revolutionary environmentalism requires the application of system of ethics based on biocentrism (or ecocentrism), and an application of equality and justice extended to the natural world.
Place attachment is a type of bonding that occurs between the human and natural environment (Scannell, Leila, and Robert Gifford, 3). This area has attracted a lot of interest due to the fragile nature that these bonds have been. Specifically, humans have encroached the natural environment and are threatening to bring it down to their detriment. Place attachment is mostly applied to disaster psychology, immigration and mobility. In this regard, it has been used to shed light on the grief and inconvenience that people undergo when they are forced to relocate. The ties, whether ancestral or otherwise, that individuals have with their environment makes them be eager to conserve it. Environmentalists study place attachments by evaluating how their attachment to the meaning of green place can spur them to actively protect and engage in behaviors that are pro-environmental. Additionally, they study the connection between green areas and the attachment that the inhabitants of those Areas have with the natural environment.
Attitude, from an environmental perspective, can be defined as the measure of how people perceive the environment and their feelings towards it. According to Scannell, Leila, and Robert Gifford (5), Attitudes (beliefs, ethics) influence the behavior of individuals towards the environment. If people believe that environment is an integral part of their survival, then they will do all that is aimed at protecting it. However, those who view the natural environment as a factor under their dominion, they will misuse it and lead to adversity. Similarly, those who trust in the ethical principle of environmental sustainability will do everything possible to ensure that they actions do not threaten the very existence of nature.
The measure of the relationship between attitudes (beliefs, ethics) and behavior related to environmental psychology can be measured using the Planned Behavior (or Reasoned Action) theory. The core assumption of this theory is that the behavior of an individual is determined by the intention to perform that particular behavior. Specifically, the theory presupposes that the best predictor of the behavior of an individual is the intention. Intention is the immediate antecedent of behavior that represents a persons readiness to perform and inhibit a certain behavior. Specifically, intention is determined by attitude, subjective norm, and perceived behavioral control. To research the issue of recycling using the planned behavior theory I would look at the intention of the recyclers which is to make the environment clean. This intention leads to them to clear the dumping sites and use wastes to make new products. As such, the intention of recyclers is to protect the environment and this is manifested through their behavior of collecting wastes.
Gifford, Robert, Linda Steg, and Joseph P. Reser. "Environmental psychology." IAAP handbook of applied psychology (2011): 440-470.
Inglis, Judi. Using human-environment theory to investigate human valuing in protected area management. Diss. Victoria University, 2008.
Scannell, Leila, and Robert Gifford. "Defining place attachment: A tripartite organizing framework." Journal of environmental Psychology 30.1 (2010): 1-10.
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