5 Books for Environmental Psychologists

The interdisciplinary field of environmental psychology studies the effects people’s environment has on their mood, mental function, productivity and overall well-being. Researchers have discovered a number of factors in our immediate environment can influence our emotional health as well as our ability to think, reason and work effectively. Something as simple as lighting in an office building can have a dramatic effect.

For example, a recent article in the Journal of Environmental Psychology reported that during a study, office workers’ “reading speed and comprehension were respectively faster and more accurate in conditions where simulated daylight was available.” By studying the effects of various environmental conditions on the human psyche, environmental psychologists can argue for beneficial changes to the way we live and work. If you’ve intuitively known that your environment affects your mood and abilities, but have wanted to learn more about the science behind this instinct, you might enjoy reading these five great books for environmental psychologists.

1. The Power of Place: How Our Surroundings Shape Our Thoughts, Emotions, and Actions, by Winifred Gallagher

The Power of Place is a fast 256-page read for prospective environmental psychologists. Gallagher weaves together evocative stories to explore why we feel grounded, connected and soothed by natural settings. From bustling streets in Manhattan to the diffuse calm of a mother’s womb, the book explores how environment plays on individual personality and behavior. The author hypothesizes humans are more wild than we pretend, and she delves into the biology and psychology behind our more animal-like instincts to crave wide open spaces and greenery.

2. Drunk Tank Pink: And Other Unexpected Forces That Shape How We Think, Feel, and Behave, by Adam Alter

Next on our list of books for environmental psychologists, Drunk Tank Pink is the at times unsettling account of how exterior influences have vast subconscious reach on a daily basis. The title, taken from a paint color often used at police station cells to induce calm in violent offenders, points to the key environmental influence of color on human perspective. Using this illustration and myriad others gleaned from observation and research studies, Alter argues that though we feel in charge of our will, we are actually bombarded by thousands of external cues that shape our psychology for better or worse.

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3. This Is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live, by Melody Warnick

Part personal memoir, part science experiment and part how-to guide to making peace with a new hometown, Warnick’s This Is Where Your Belong is written in the tone of a wise friend. Warnick’s take on environmental psychology flows both ways: our surroundings can isolate or endear, but our conscious decision-making can transform the way we perceive our surroundings. Through careful trial and error with research on how humans become connected to a place, the author decides to embrace Blacksburg, VA, her sixth hometown, in a way that will help her set down roots and contribute to lasting positive change both in the community and in her perception of it.

4. Environmental Psychology for Design, by Dak Kopec

This textbook targets students of urban design and architecture with insightful and practical ways that they can apply the field of environmental psychology to their future career. The author considers a number of philosophical perspectives on human habitation as well as presents current scientific and sociological research studies. The tome is also packed with illustrations of how design can interact with human behavior by taking into account gender, age and cultural context. Moreover, Kopec illuminates the way psychological attachment to a particular place can engender deep feelings of connection that often bind some people to their towns.

5. Healing Spaces: The Science of Place and Well-Being, by Esther M. Sternberg

Written by a researcher at the National Institutes of Health, Healing Spaces explores how certain places can positively influence both the mental and physical health of people. In particular, she studies which places can have the positive impact of actually healing the psyche. The author gently encourages readers to find a place in which the sights and sounds induce a healing process rather than contribute to stressful sensations that tear down their health.

Related Resource: 5 Websites for Environmental Psychologists

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Whether you are interested in a career in psychology, sociology, interior design, architecture, city planning or simply personal wellness, you will find that one discipline ties all these themes together. These five engaging books on environmental psychology will provide a taste of this fascinating and eminently practical field.