Social Science - Other

The Meaning of Environmental Psychology

Mary Tyrer's image for:
"The Meaning of Environmental Psychology"
Image by: 

The discipline of Environmental Psychology has many meanings, although the simplest way to explain Environmental Psychology as it relates to human psychological needs and values is that it lends value as it relates to psychology. According to Conservation Psychology Environmental Psychology is the study that examines the interrelationship between environments and human behavior and defines the term environment in a broad and natural way that the world and social settings, learning environments and informational environments are important to one another and how one works with the other (Clayton, 2009). However, this is only a brief example or definition supporting the full spectrum of Environmental Psychology, a more complete examination of the theoretical approach of Environmental Psychology and the importance of research of the field brings is a better comprehensive understanding of the study.

Environmental Psychology combines different psychological views of human psychology to explain how the interaction between the environment, and human behavior work together, the theories that motivate the philosophy of Environmental Psychology have access to the fields of architecture, anthropology, biology, sociology, psychology, physiology, and urban living (Garling, 1993). Although several disciplines of Environmental Psychology exist, the following stand out and appear the best way to define the Environmental Psychology.

Research in the Field of Environmental Psychology

Science, as it relates to the multidisciplinary examination of human behavior and the experience of Environmental Psychology, includes the beginning, middle, and end of a process and involves the environment and the human experience. The realistic science in the field of Environmental Psychology is an ongoing search for new facts and, and an effort to organize meaningful into a particular facts understandable pattern. The research methods available to Environmental Psychology researcher is split into categories the same as other psychological fields, laboratory experimentation, and field experimentation. The independent and dependent variables are capable of maintaining a high level of inner validity, which allows for the logical credit of cause and effect to the individual variables. In contrast, the fields linking the studies have a low internal strength, yet a high level of external soundness, which can predict the association of naturally occurring events. Environmental Psychology immaterial variables allow the science to continue to go unchecked when causal variables are influenced to explain the relationship of cause-and-effect. The best of both worlds, when merging the two sciences in the laboratory is the experimentation while still integrating the external legitimacy of both studies. Even though laboratory experiments seem best for scientific study, approximately one-half of Environmental Psychology literature is based on laboratory experiments (Stewart, 2007). For this reason, Environmental Psychology is the more of an applied, practice more so than a research driven field. In addition, Environmental Psychology includes controlled experimentation in laboratories. However, much of the knowledge is observed over time, and learning through experiences.

Arousal Theories

The arousal theory exists between performance and arousal meaning that when arousal increases so will a person’s performance. However, once arousal reaches extreme levels, performance begins to decrease. Applying this to Environmental Psychology, the arousal theory explains the transitional levels of arousal are optimal when it comes to noise levels, physiological responses, invasion of personal space and neurological stimulation. Additionally cultural tends develop in environments that only have intermediate challenges, which means inverted-U relationships exists when an individual, has a personal and a cultural, corporate level.

Stimulus Load Theories

As opposed to the arousal/performance emphasis of arousal theories, stimulus load theories stress the limited ability of humans to process information (Garling, 1993). The stimulus load theory limits a person’s capacity to process information. A person’s attention is very important for stimuli and proper performance. When the person is concentrating on what he or she should be paying attention to, the fundamental task becomes important and the stimuli performance begins to enhance. However, when the unimportant stimulus is necessary performance falls. Therefore, the environmental surroundings affect the relevance of attention, and as predicated of importance of the stimulus. In addition, when an organism’s capacity to deal with stimuli is exhausted and the smallest demands of attention can be psychologically overwhelming and distracting. The stimulus load theories suggest a theory that has attention limitation to explain the interaction between performance and stimuli.

Compare and Contrast

The external environment and the internal of Environmental Psychological is the idea of humans, environment, and the interchanging affects performance. Arousal theories point to transitional levels of arousal as the best situation for performance to increase. Whereas, the stimulus load theory maintains that attention direction as a control of the limited ability of humans to understand stimuli are the best predictors in performance.


Examining the discipline of Environmental Psychology includes broad definitions for of the environment, physical and world exterior world around humans and the surroundings in which we live. The science is more of a specific estimation of the environment nature, chemical, biological ecosystems in which we live and how the environment affects humans and how humans affect the environment, in which we live. Both arousal theories and stimulus load theories stipulate intermediate arousal as the best way to produce optimal performance. The intermediate levels of dealings between the environment and humans bring optimal performance of both (Stewart, 2007). Still, laboratory experimentation, correlation studies, and field experimentation are the best means to gather facts about the environment.


Clayton, S., & Meyers, G., (2009). Conservation Psychology, Understanding and promoting human care for nature. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., Publication.

Garling, T. & Golledge, R., (1993). Behavior and Environment: Psychological and Geographical Approaches. Amsterdam, North Holland: Elsevier Science Publishers.

Stewart, A. (2007). Individual psychology and environmental psychology. Journal of Individual Psychology , 63 (1) 67-85.


More about this author: Mary Tyrer