Pruitt-Igoe housing project in St. Louis
(the) happy spaces project is concerned with understanding “how the physical environment affects people’s happiness.” Essentially we are interested in how space affects human emotion and perception. The field of Environmental Psychology is, broadly, investigating human behavior and space. They are concerned with better understanding how the environment affects human behavior.
Three Definitions of Environmental Psychology
Stokols & Altman (1987): The study of human behavior and well-being in relation to the sociophysical environment.
Russell & Snodgrass (1987): The branch of Psychology concerned with providing a systematic account of the relationship between a person and the environment.
Bell, Fisher, Baum & Greene (1996): The study of the molar relationships between behavior experience and the built and natural environments.
Many spatial design projects take little responsibility for the fact that their designs have social impacts — some good, some bad, some neutral. Design projects associated with commercial ventures have embraced the power of space to influence consumption and purchasing habits. Unfortunately, public spaces, health institutions, and private accommodation have not embraced the power of space to affect human psychology and behavior positively. Any space has the power to foster well-being, but understanding how a space can do that must be integrated into the design.
Apple Store NYC
In his article, Environmental Psychology: The study of human nature, reasonable behavior and durable living, Raymond De Young explains that environmental psychologists examine “the interrelationship between environments and human behavior.” He explains that by understanding how humans are affected by their environments, “one can design, manage, protect and/or restore environments that enhance reasonable behavior.”
environmental Psychology defines environments broadly, they may include the natural, the built, the social, and the informational environments that surround us. It also uses the fields of psychology, sociology, anthropology, biology, ecology in order to collect and process data.
Recurring elements of environmental psychology include attention, perception and cognitive maps, preferred environments, environmental stress and coping, and participation. The field also engages in a substantial amount of research that observes how the natural environment affects human behavior.
Environmental psychologist have proven through research that space does have an incredible influence on us as humans, and that we can design spaces that facilitate more productivity, comprehension, and well-being.
Below are quotes about the recurring elements from Raymond De Young’s article.
“Understanding human behavior starts with understanding how people notice the environment… enhancing people’s capacity to voluntarily direct their attention is a major factor in maintaining human effectiveness.”
Perception and cognitive maps
“Information is stored in the brain as spatial networks called cognitive maps… It is through these neural networks that humans know and think about the environment, plan and carry out their plans.”
“People tend to seek out places where they feel competent and confident, places where they can make sense of the environment while also being engaged with it. Being involved and wanting to explore an environment requires that it have complexity (containing enough variety to make it worth learning about) and mystery (the prospect of gaining more information about an environment).”
Environmental stress and coping
“Humans can change their physical or social settings to create more supportive environments (e.g., smaller scaled settings, territories) where they can manage the flow of information or stress inducing stimuli.”
“The field… is concerned not only with promoting citizen comprehension of environmental issues but with insuring their early and genuine participation in the design, modification and management of environments.”
Natural Environment and Conservation
The field…explores conservation-related attitudes, perceptions, motivations and values as well as devises intervention techniques for promoting environmentally appropriate behavior at a variety of scales.