August 6, 2015

Dream Homes and the Idea of Happiness

I’ve recently re-read Alain de Botton’s Architecture of Happiness, a very popular book that deals with much of what I’m trying to learn about, though from a different, philosophic perspective. One of the book’s starting ideas  comes from another author: beauty is a promise of happiness, wrote Stendhal and de Botton discusses what this idea means in the world of  architecture. His interpretation is that we perceive a building as beautiful if we can imagine ourselves living happily in it.

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Dream homes for my students

I often wondered how to translate these kind of observations and ideas into research domain. An opportunity to investigate the relations between buildings, especially homes, and happiness came from my work in school. In a popular optional homework called „Buy a Home“ my students were supposed to go to a real estate search website and find a home they wanted to “buy”. There was no money limit, but it had to be a property they would be able to take care of on their own (no butlers and housemaids allowed, so they don’t drift too far from the reality). Continue reading

May 6, 2015

An Interview with Environmental Psychologist: Wil Whitfeld and his Path(s)

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Wil Whitfeld

Australian landscape architect Wil Whitfeld upgraded his design expertise by getting a Master’s Degree in environmental psychology at University of Surrey last year. Back in Sydney, where he recently started working at Oculus design studio, Wil eagerly accepted my proposition to do an interview about his study experience and the new insights it gave him. He also discusses his poetically titled dissertation research “Walking with your head in the clouds: The influence of pathway design on mindfulness, recall and affective state”, which he is presenting at this year’s EDRA conference in Los Angeles in less than a month. Continue reading

April 30, 2015

Environmental Psychology Related Online Courses – part V (Design, Architecture and Urbanism)

There are some interesting online courses about design, architecture and urbanism starting soon. Some are new and some are long-anticipated re-runs for me, since I missed previous sessions.  Here they are:

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Courses about design:

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April 29, 2015

Environmental Psychology Related Online Courses – part IV (Sustainability)

Sustainable development is a popular (and important) MOOC topic – I’m happy to notice that the updates to my Environmental Psychology Related Online Courses list are getting longer, mostly due to that topic. Here are some new (or newly discovered) options for learning about different aspects of sustainability:

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1. Introduction to Environmental Science at EdX Continue reading

January 19, 2015

Kindergarten Design: Buildings That Encourage Development

Pedagogical traditions seem to be very interested in the effects that environmental factors have on (small) people.  Over a century ago, some models like Montessori and Waldorf, which have influenced mainstream kindergarten practice as well, started promoting the idea that a great deal of attention should be put into the fabrics, the materials,  the colors and  the overall organization of spaces for children.

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Fuji kindergarten exterior; photo by 準建築人手札網站 Forgemind ArchiMedia

Since I work in a kindergarten as a psychologist one day a week, I recently had the opportunity to learn more about the psychology of spaces for children. Our small kindergarten was about to get a budget-friendly makeover and we were all asked for opinions. I spent a lot of time looking for research-based guidelines for kindergarten design, as well as coordinating everyone’s personal preferences. Here I would like to share some of the findings, and  some inspiring examples and other resources I found.

 

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November 12, 2014

TEDx Talk Announcement: Brian Kateman on The Reducetarian Movement

I was recently at a dinner party where a colleague of mine apologized for being a vegan, feeling her choice was somewhat inconvenient and obviously having experienced social judgement for it before. Luckily, there was an ethics teacher present, who assured her that there’s nothing to apologize for, but to be proud of. Others, however, kept their opinions to themselves. Obviously, being a vegan among other philosophy students at liberal arts college the young teacher just finished was one thing, but holding on to her beliefs among senior colleagues omnivores was another. I see her choice as admirable, but having known many people who adopted  vegetarian of vegan lifestyle during college but not holding on to it long after their mid-20s, I wonder how she’ll handle social pressure from this point on. It also makes me wonder if there’a way to support vegetarian aspirations, and being mindful about what we eat, but also leaving some room for occasional meat consumption. Is being mostly-vegetarian a goal worth pursuing?

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The Reducetarian

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October 14, 2014

Environmental Psychology Related Online Courses – part III (Sustainability)

The topic of how people affect the environment makes up one half of the environmental psychology’s story. It is a Yin to its Yang, the complimentary field to the topics of how the environment (both natural and built) affects us. Many studies in environmental psychology target the attitudes and behavior concerning sustainability and climate change, the big issues that transcend the limits of just one science. That is why the third part of my Environmental Psychology Related Online Courses series focuses specifically on these topics. It was very easy to find many promising courses, which is, I believe, due to the fact that many people find sustainability and climate change important and worth learning about. Here are my finds:

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introsus 1. Introduction to Sustainability at Coursera Continue reading

May 12, 2014

An Interview with Behavioral Ecologist: Gordon Orians Explains Our Innate Loves and Fears

 

Gordon H. Orians

“We could not understand the environment unless we entered the world already understanding these relationships.” – Immanuel Kant’s conclusion from his Foundation of the Metaphysics of Morals is used by Gordon H. Orians to illustrate his own understanding of how our mind responds to the environment. Observing our fascination with natural landscapes, our interest for animals, trees, flowers, sunrises and sunsets, through an evolutionary lens, Prof. Orians argues that the life of our ancestors shaped what we love and what we fear.

Having realised that our interests in human responses to the environment greatly overlap, prof. Orians and I started a discussion via e-mail.  Here are some of his reflexions on the topic, which is explained in detail in his book Snakes, Sunrises and Shakespeare – How Evolution Shapes our Loves and Fears. Continue reading

April 22, 2014

Book Announcement: Snakes, Sunrises and Shakespeare by Gordon H. Orians

Many people seek to understand the human connection to nature, wondering about our place in the world, and intuitively sense that it cannot be fully explained within the limited frame of individual experience. They often look for insight by trying to understand the life our distant ancestors experienced, prior to civilization. I’ve noticed that the “savanna hypothesis” is one of the most common search terms that brings readers to my blog.

new-coverAn evolutionary perspective on our relations with the environment might be the most profound, and perhaps the most useful when it comes to analyzing our emotional reactions to it. It goes beyond our immediate response to our surroundings, and focuses on how one particular type of environment in East Africa shaped many of our psychological processes. It addresses mechanisms that we’re not consciously aware of, though we experience their end results. We sometimes take these for granted — thinking, for example, that it is accepted knowledge that snakes are scary, and that’s just the way it is — while at other times the power of those evolutionary influences amazes us — how can sunsets be so compelling, though they are a common phenomenon in our lives?

A growing body of research in the field of evolutionary psychology has enabled scientists to offer many fascinating hypotheses regarding the relationship of evolution, environment and our behaviour. Gordon H. Orians, a biologist and the author of the savanna hypothesis, brings together theory and research in his new book Snakes, Sunrises and Shakespeare. He discusses how evolution shaped what we like and what we fear in the world around us. Continue reading

April 7, 2014

An Interview with Interior Decorator: Sacha Chabros Says Design is Felt

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Sacha K. Chabros Design Felt

Vancouver-based Sacha K. Chabros is an interior decorator, a volunteer for an international non-profit group and the author of Design Felt, a blog about how different elements of design relate to how occupants feel in a built environment. Sharing her interest in environmental psychology, I was excited to learn more about it from her perspective.

There are so many blogs about interior design, most of them filled with beautiful images. As many other people, I find them to be the source of inspiration, enjoyment and, well, procrastination. But rarely do I find a blog attempting to do a little more – to make you think about design, instead of just enjoying the sight of it. Continue reading