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Concepts and Theories in Environmental Psychology

Geographical Determinism
Ecological Biology
Gestalt Psychology

Concepts and Theories in Environmental Psychology
Environmental psychology is littered with theories about how and why we act the way we do in our environment, but they tend to fall into one of a few main perspectives:

Geographical determinism is the idea that the foundation and lifespan of entire civilizations are dependent on environmental factors, like topography, climate, vegetation, and the availability of water. Theorists in this perspective believe that too great of an environmental challenge leads to the destruction of civilizations while not enough challenge can result in a stagnation of culture. Further, these environmental factors can have a huge impact on what we value as a society and how we live and work together.

The ecological biology perspective is grounded in theories of biological and sociological interdependence between organisms and their environment. From this point of view, organisms are viewed as integral parts of their environment rather than as separate entities. This opens the door for the study of interdependencies between the two and throughout the entire system.

Behaviorists brought an emphasis on context to the conversation, insisting that both environmental context and personal context (e.g., personality, dispositions, attitudes, views, experience) are vital determinants of behavior. Although behaviorism generally fell out of style as the leading perspective in psychology, its improved focus on contextual factors lived on.

Finally, Gestalt psychology was the other side of behaviorism’s coin; while behaviorists often considered behavior and nothing but behavior, Gestalt thinkers were more prone to considering perception and cognition. Instead of seeing environmental stimuli as 100% objective factors, the focus was on how people perceived and thought about these stimuli (Virtual University of Pakistan, n.d.).

To get a little more in-depth, we can dive into a few of environmental psychology’s more specific theories. Here are a few of those that can help you get a handle on the field, as broad as it is.

Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB)
This theory states that people choose the option(s) with the highest benefits (positive outcomes) and the lowest costs (e.g., energy, time, money) and that the behavior we engage in is a direct result of our intentions. Our intentions are determined by our attitudes towards the behavior, social norms about the behavior, and beliefs about whether and how much we are able to control our behavior.

The TPB has successfully explained lots of interesting environmental behavior, like the choice of mode of travel (e.g., car, plane, train, bicycle), household recycling and composting, use of water, consumption of meat, and other, general pro-environmental behavior