Over the years, environmental psychology has been referred to as a unique and specialized field in psychology, which entails the scientific study of interactions and transactions involving people and their environment. Here, the environment takes the form of built and natural human surroundings, nature, and natural resources.
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Additionally, environmental psychology focuses on the study of human behavior relative to the use and abuse, conservation, and sustainability of people’s physical surroundings. In his article, Gary (1996, para 1) claims that the discipline of environmental psychology has undergone considerable changes in the recent past resulting into both positive and negative implications regarding research studies in psychology.
According to Gary (1996), the initial objective of environmental psychology was based on the need for social scientists and architects (infrastructural designers) to share ideas regarding construction of buildings that match the needs of the people while safeguarding the environment. However, in the recent past, this trend seems to have changed, especially in the United States.
This is the case because much of the benefits associated with the interaction between social scientists and architects have been realized to a considerable extent, and thus, it is apparent that environmental psychology forms the mainstream of psychology at large.
Gary (1996, para 1-10) notes that various aspects of environmental psychology have been utilized in psychology through increased publication and submission of journals to various branches of psychology including the Journal of Environmental Psychology and the Journal of Architectural and Planning Research.
These changes, among other remarkable developments such as increased sales on psychology textbooks and the incorporation of cognitive mapping into the field of psychology clearly indicate that environmental psychology is a major contributor of researchable topics in psychology.
The impact of environmental psychology on research in psychology
From the foregoing discussions, it is apparent that the field of environmental psychology plays a major role in psychology by first extending the scope of researchable topics in psychology.
Here, it is essential to note that apart from the initial interactions of social scientists and infrastructural designers on grounds limited to construction of buildings, contemporary scientific knowledge in environmental psychology entails the study of the transactions and interrelationships involving humans and their environments.
As a result, it is common practice to encounter topics regarding ecological consequences of human activities, evaluation of buildings and natural resources, and environmental risk and hazard analysis relative to human behavior, management, and perceptions.
Conversely, environmental psychology is not all about the study of the relationship between people and their physical surroundings, but it also involves the study of the impact the physical/social surroundings (environments) on the behavioral attributes of the people.
As a result, a social scientist is no longer limited in his or her research to helping the infrastructural designer to create buildings that best fit the needs of the people and safeguarding their natural landscapes.
Therefore, it is notable that the scope of psychology is expected to cover various psychological issues and research areas such as computational methods of environmental cognition, cognitive mapping, spatial memory, and way-finding as the major research areas in modern-day scientific studies.
On the other hand, child psychologists find it useful to extend their studies as far as examining the role played by the immediate social and physical settings in the growth and development of children throughout the process of life-span development.
Furthermore, some social scientists have embarked on the study of human behaviors related to leisure and tourism relative to people’s physical and natural landscapes while others are more or less concerned with construction of theories of place and place attachment.
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Through these psychological theories of place, various scientists are convinced that they can infer various human behaviors related to the use or abuse of natural landscapes and resources.
In the long run, it can be shown that the additional research areas as a result of incorporating environmental psychology into the field of psychology play a very important role in terms of increasing the publication and sale of psychology textbooks by including some chapters covering ecological issues.
For instance, the Journal of Social Issues, which was traditionally designed to cover psychology and public policy, has decided to include coverage of topical issues regarding environmental stress, environmental hazards, and residential mobility besides the original problems covered by the journal (Gary, 1996, para 5).
Accordingly, as more and more people face the blunt side of environmental degradation and global warming, the field of ecological psychology has given social scientists avenues through which they can address the pertinent issues regarding the interrelationships between the people and their environments.
Therefore, it is not surprising to note that most interior designers prefer to involve social scientists who are endowed with research training and practical experience in evaluating new or alternative approaches in urbanism.
Furthermore, social scientists and researchers are invited to collaborate with urban planners and landscape architects to ensure that the concept of restorative environmental conservation and landscape aesthetic assessment processes form the core of all new developments.
Overall, the idea of embracing various aspects of environmental psychology is a trend that cuts across all issues affecting people in the contemporary society right from human behavioral issues through ecological issues resulting from abuse of natural resources.
As a result, social scientists have a call to make in terms of ensuring that scientific research is used to bring people to see the importance of safeguarding their physical, natural, and social environments if at all they are to serve them right.
Gary, W.E. (1996). Environmental psychology as a field within psychology. New York: Cornell University, Human-Environment Relations. Web.