Environmental Psychology: Key to Understanding Human-Nature Relationship

Environmental psychology is a relatively new branch of psychology which explores how the environment impacts human behaviour and vice-versa. It is an inter-disciplinary field which encompasses all kinds of environment including natural environments, built environments, learning environments, informational environments and social settings.

Human-Nature Relationship

The key objective of environmental psychology is to improve the relationship between mankind and the environment using theory, research and practice. It also endeavours to find ways to improve our relationship with the surrounding world. The popular areas in environmental psychology includes:

  • Perception and evaluation of built environment
  • Environmental consequences of human actions
  • Evaluation of building and natural landscapes
  • Psychological and behavioral aspects of people and nature
  • Psychological aspects of resource management and crises

Theories in Environmental Psychology

There are several concepts and theories on how and why we act the way we do in our environment. Read more on BetterHelp to know more about psychology. Below are the major theories in environmental psychology:

1. Geographical determinism

It is primarily based on the concept that environmental parameters, such as climate, topography, vegetation and water availability, are the foundation and lifespan of civilizations. According to this theory, huge environmental challenges may lead to annihilation of civilizations while insufficient challenges may lead to stagnancy of civilizations. It is also believed that environmental factors have tremendous potential to impact our society and the way we cohabit and work together.

2. Ecological biology

The foundation of the ecological biology theory is based on the theories of biological and sociological interconnectedness between organisms and their environment where organisms are considered an integral part of their environment, ant not separate entities. This idea paves the way for the exploration of interdependencies between the organism and its environment.

3. Behaviorism

The theory of behaviorism place emphasis on environmental context and personal context with personality, attitudes and experience being the key determinants of behavior. According to behaviorists, our responses to environmental stimuli shape our actions.

4. Gestalt Psychology

Gestalt psychology is the opposite of behaviorism with greater focus on perception and cognition. According to Gestalt thinkers, our minds tend to perceive objects as part of a greater whole and as elements of more complex systems. In contrast to seeing environmental stimuli as the sole objective factors, Gestalt psychology’s focus is on how people perceived and thought about these stimuli.

The Branches of Environmental Psychology

There are 2 major sub-disciplines of environmental psychology – conservation psychology and ecopsychology. Let us have a closer look:

1. Conservation psychology

It is the study of development of environmental attitudes and reciprocal relationships between the human and the rest of the nature with the aim of conservation of the natural ecosystems by fostering an environmental ethic. This branch of psychology is unique in its focus on the natural environment and changing attitude and behaviors.

2. Ecopsychology

The relationship between environmental and societal degradation is the mainstay of ecopsychology. Ecopsychology views human well-being integrally dependent on environmental well-being, and focuses on healing of both the human society and the nature. The key areas of focus are emotional responses to nature, impacts of environmental issues, environmental identity and environmental justice.


Environmental Psychology as a Career

Environmental psychologists have a great role to play in the well-being of the mankind and the preservation of the natural environment. Environmental psychologists are employed by the governments, non-governmental agencies, healthcare sector and the scientific community. They are associated with urban planning, environmental design and environmental health.


It is essential to study human behavioural changes as most of the contemporary environmental issues are caused by human behaviours and man-made changes. Environmental psychology has a crucial role to play in understanding human-nature interdependencies and finding ways to strengthen the relationship without hampering the growth of civilization.

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About Salman Zafar

Salman Zafar is the Founder of EcoMENA, and an international consultant, advisor, ecopreneur and journalist with expertise in waste management, waste-to-energy, renewable energy, environment protection and sustainable development. His geographical areas of focus include Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe. Salman has successfully accomplished a wide range of projects in the areas of biomass energy, biogas, waste-to-energy, recycling and waste management. He has participated in numerous conferences and workshops as chairman, session chair, keynote speaker and panelist. Salman is the Editor-in-Chief of EcoMENA, and is a professional environmental writer with more than 300 popular articles to his credit. He is proactively engaged in creating mass awareness on renewable energy, waste management and environmental sustainability in different parts of the world. Salman Zafar can be reached at salman@ecomena.org or salman@bioenergyconsult.com

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