Psychology is often defined as the scientific study of the mind and behavior. Given this definition, psychology is a broad field encompassing such topics as the brain and the nervous system, sensation and perception, human physiological and intellectual development, personality, social contexts and human behavior, workplace dynamics, group relations, counseling and mental health, clinical diagnosis and treatment, and education and student learning. Virtually all of these topics subsumed by the field of psychology relate in various ways to the physical or natural environment. Generally, the field of environmental psychology is concerned with studying interactions between individuals and their physical surroundings. These include natural environments, built environments, virtual environments, learning environments, and informational environments. Scholars often discuss two traditions of research and theorizing in the field of environmental psychology. One area of research in environmental psychology focuses on understanding how the various types of environments influence (and are influenced by) humans. A second tradition of research, somewhat overlapping with the first, focuses on understanding people’s attitudes, behaviors, and support for policies that relate to environmental issues (e.g., climate change or drought). Scholars sometimes call this second area of focus “conservation psychology.” The field of environmental psychology tends to be problem oriented, and although scholars in the area often emphasize rigorous basic science, they also offer practical insights and policy recommendations that help optimize reciprocal relationships between individuals and the environment. This applied focus means that environmental psychologists often contribute to interdisciplinary research related to the environment, including collaborations with scholars in anthropology, sociology, economics, biology, geography, architectural design, urban planning, public policy, and others. The first set of resources highlighted here cover general conceptualizations and overviews of the most frequently discussed issues related to areas of environmental psychology research. This includes general reviews of the area and commonly used textbooks. This section is followed by discussion of the most prevalent areas of environmental psychology research, organized into sections. These areas start with environmental perception and cognition (e.g., wayfinding, place attachment) and environmental assessment (e.g., classifying types of environments). Following these areas of research, the focus shifts to the relationship between the environment and physical health (e.g., how air quality, thermal comfort, and noise affect the body), and then the relationship between the environment and mental health (e.g., how disasters affect stress and coping responses; how exposure to nature influences happiness). Afterward, there is discussion of individual and social factors related to environmental behavior (e.g., energy and water conservation), followed by how to design and implement effective behavior change “interventions.” Finally, this review concludes with articles exploring environmental sustainability, climate change, and policy implications of environmental psychology research.
This section highlights resources that cover the most, if not all, of the breadth of the field of environmental psychology. This list primarily consists of textbooks used in introductory environmental psychology courses for undergraduate students (e.g., Bell, et al. 2005; Gifford 2007; Steg, et al. 2012; and Vlek and Steg 2007), although a handful of the textbooks may be better suited for specific undergraduate courses (e.g., courses focused on environmental behavior; Clayton and Myers 2015 or Gardner and Stern 1996) or graduate environmental psychology courses (i.e., Clayton 2012). Scholars looking for a focus on research methods commonly used in the field of environmental psychology should consider the Gifford 2016 textbook. A focus more on changing behavior can be found in Gardner and Stern 1996. For those looking for a more traditional psychological approach to the field of environmental psychology, consider Koger and Winter 2010. Finally, Gifford 2014 provides a nice overview of the field of environmental psychology for those looking for a shorter reading on the topic, perhaps for those teaching courses that only briefly highlight the field of environmental psychology, including introductory courses in environmental or sustainability studies, environmental social sciences, or applied psychology.
Bell, Paul A., Thomas C. Greene, Jeffery D. Fisher, and Andrew Baum. 2005. Environmental psychology. 5th ed. Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt.
An exhaustive exploration of the field of environmental psychology, starting from its historical roots to 21st-century conceptualizations of the field, in addition to specific theoretical and empirical traditions in environmental psychology. All of the main areas of research in environmental psychology outlined in this review are examined in this textbook.
Clayton, Susan. 2012. The Oxford handbook of environmental and conservation psychology. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.
A broad overview of the field consisting of essays by experts in each area of environmental psychology. This handbook is usable for undergraduate courses but is perhaps best suited for graduate-level surveys of the field. Overviews of practically every relevant environmental psychology topic can be found in this handbook.
Clayton, Susan, and Gene Myers. 2015. Conservation psychology: Understanding and promoting human care for nature. 2d ed. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell.
A review of theory and research on the topic of conservation psychology specifically, exploring how scholars understand and influence individuals’ knowledge, attitudes, values, and behavior that implicate problems related to the natural environment: such as climate change, drought, wildlife conservation, and natural disasters.
Gardner, Gerald T., and Paul C. Stern. 1996. Environmental problems and human behavior. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
A book highlighting how human behavior is related to a range of environmental problems, with a particular focus on understanding and changing environmental behaviors. Although the foundation for this book is in psychology, it draws on allied disciplines, including environmental policy, to consider effective ways to address environmental problems.
Gifford, Robert. 2007. Environmental psychology: Principles and practices. Colville, WA: Optimal.
A textbook that surveys the entire environmental psychology field to provide updated chapters on each main area of environmental psychology theory and research.
Gifford, Robert. 2014. Environmental psychology matters. Annual Review of Psychology 65:541–579.
An article overviewing the field of environmental psychology. Briefly but effective discussion on the major theoretical and empirical traditions.
Gifford, Robert. 2016. Research methods for environmental psychology. London: Wiley/Blackwell.
A book with essays from experts focusing on the common research methods used in the field of environmental psychology, including discussion of research design and statistics in general, observation, surveys, evaluation, intervention design, multilevel modeling, structural equation modeling, and meta-analysis.
Koger, Susan M., and Deborah D. Winter. 2010. The psychology of environmental problems: Psychology for sustainability. 3d ed. New York: Taylor & Francis.
This book takes a slightly different approach to organizing the theoretical and empirical traditions in environmental psychology by pairing ideas from environmental psychology to other traditions in psychology, such as developmental psychology, health psychology, sensation and perception, and neuropsychology.
Steg, Linda, Agnes E. van den Berg, and Judith I. M. de Groot. 2012. Environmental psychology: An introduction. Oxford: Wiley/Blackwell.
A textbook that overviews the major areas of environmental psychology, linked together with the explicit theme of sustainability and with an emphasis on empirical traditions in the field.
Vlek, Charles, and Linda Steg. 2007. Human behavior and environmental sustainability: Problems, driving forces, and research topics. Journal of Social Issues 63:1–19.
An applied review of environmental problems facing humans in the 21st century, as well as a theoretical review of areas of environmental psychology research related to these environmental problems.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
- Acid Deposition
- Agrochemical Pollutants
- Agroforestry Systems
- Applied Fluvial Ecohydraulic
- Arid Environments
- Arsenic Contamination in South and Southeast Asia
- Beavers as Agents of Landscape Change
- Berry, Wendell
- Burroughs, John
- Bush Encroachment
- Carbon Dynamics
- Carson, Rachel
- Case Studies in Groundwater Contaminant Fate and Transport
- Climate Change and Conflict in Northern Africa
- Common Pool Resources
- Contaminant Dispersal in the Environment
- Coral Reefs and Coral Bleaching
- Deforestation in Brazilian Amazonia
- Desert Dust in the Atmosphere
- Determinism, Environmental
- Ecological Integrity
- Economic Valuation Methods for Non-market Goods or Service...
- Economics, Environmental
- Economics of International Environmental Agreements
- Economics of Water Management
- Effects of Land Use
- Endocrine Disruptors
- Endocrinology, Environmental
- Engineering, Environmental
- Environmental Assessment
- Environmental Flows
- Environmental Health
- Environmental Law
- Environmental Sociology
- Ethics, Animal
- Ethics, Environmental
- European Union and Environmental Policy, The
- Extreme Weather and Climate
- Feedback Dynamics
- Fisheries, Economics of
- Forensics, Environmental
- Forest Transition
- Geodiversity and Geoconservation
- Geology, Environmental
- Global Phosphorus Dynamics
- Hazardous Waste
- Henry David Thoreau
- Historical Changes in European Rivers
- Historical Land Uses and Their Changes in the European Alp...
- Historical Range of Variability
- History, Environmental
- Human Impact on Historical Fluvial Sediment Dynamics in Eu...
- Humid Tropical Environments
- Hydraulic Fracturing
- India and the Environment
- Industrial Contamination, Case Studies in
- Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs) for Climate Change
- International Land Grabbing
- Karst Caves
- Key Figures: North American Environmental Scientist Activi...
- Lakes: A Guide to the Scientific Literature
- Land Use, Land Cover and Land Management Change
- Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning
- Large Wood in Rivers
- Legacy Effects
- Lidar in Environmental Science, Use of
- Management, Australia's Environment
- Marine Mining
- Marine Protected Areas
- Mediterranean Environments
- Mountain Environments
- Muir, John
- Multiple Stable States and Regime Shifts
- Natural Fluvial Ecohydraulics
- Nitrogen Cycle, Human Manipulation of the Global
- Non-Renewable Resource Depletion and Use
- Olmsted, Frederick Law
- Periglacial Environments
- Physics, Environmental
- Psychology, Environmental
- Remote Sensing
- Riparian Zone
- River Pollution
- Rivers, Effects of Dams on
- Rivers, Restoration of Physical Integrity of
- Sea Level Rise
- Secondary Forests in Tropical Environments
- Security, Energy
- Security, Environmental
- Security, Water
- Sediment Budgets and Sediment Delivery Ratios in River Sys...
- Sediment Regime and River Morphodynamics
- Semiarid Environments
- Soil Salinization
- Soils as an Environmental System
- Spatial Statistics
- Sustainable Finance
- Sustainable Forestry, Economics of
- Technological and Hybrid Disasters
- The Key Role of Energy in Economic Growth
- Thresholds and Tipping Points
- Treaties, Environmental
- Tropical Southeast Asia
- Use of GIS in Environmental Science
- Water Availability
- Water Quality in Freshwater Bodies
- Water Quality Metrics
- Water Resources and Climate Change
- Water, Virtual
- White, Gilbert Fowler
- Wildfire as a Catalyst
- Zone, Critical