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

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April 7, 2014

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

Sacha 2014

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

March 28, 2014

An Interview with Environmental Psychologist: Maggie Melin is Changing Habits

In my search for enthusiastic practitioners in the field of environmental psychology, the same name popped up behind several interesting projects.

Maggie Melin

Maggie Melin

Maggie Melin from Michigan, US, completed graduate degrees in urban planning and sustainability science from the University of Virginia and Lund University in Sweden, and her master thesis Active Learning as a Tool for Behaviour Change was inspired by a summer spent working on organic farms (WWOOF) in Italy.

Prior to her studies in Sweden she was running a blog with tips for making our bathrooms more eco-friendly (The Green Toilet) and also worked at the Green Infrastructure Center while living in Virginia. Currently she is active in promoting biking and walking in the United States at both The Alliance for Biking and Walking in Washington, DC and the Active Transportation Alliance in Chicago. The idea I associate with her name is well-expressed in the old saying  “…watch your habits for they become your character”. Maggie helps us watch our habits and change for the better. Continue reading

February 20, 2014

Environmental Psychology Related Online Courses – part II

I found 10  more online courses that could be interesting if you’re into environmental psychology (part I here). Some are about to start, some already started, some are self-paced and some are finished but materials are still available, so check out and find the one you like:

About design:

1. Intro to the Design of Everyday Things at Udacity;

intro Continue reading

July 31, 2013

Environmental Psychology Related Online Courses

Something I was hoping for some time now is coming true. I’m very excited about the idea of free education available to all  that’s successfully being translated into action through web services such as Coursera and EdX (and other Massive online open courses). Since I work in education myself, I find it very inspiring to be able to”attend” lectures by different experts in different fields from all around the world. I realize again and again how much I love learning (and miss college sometimes) and often remember how some of the great professors I had throughout my education made a big impact on me by expanding my horizons and transferring their enthusiasm for their subjects to us students. This is why I often find myself trying to follow more online-courses than my time permits (and successfully finishing much less), but enjoying nonetheless.

by saikofish

University of Pennsylvania campus in fall; photo by saikofish

Only 3 months ago I was e-mailing to all the environmental psychology departments that offer doctoral programs which I wrote about before (at Surrey, Irvine, Brasilia, CUNY, Rome and Cornell) to ask if they were planning to  offer some environmental psychology related online courses . Most of them politely answered there wasn’t  any such plans for near future. That’s why I was pleasantly surprised to learn that among many online courses University of Pennsylvania provides through  Coursera, there’s a new one about Designing Cities  that could be interesting to anyone who likes environmental psychology.

Continue reading

March 25, 2013

Great Places to Get a PhD in Environmental Psychology: #3 The World’s Crossroads

Even though small towns and pre-planned communities I wrote about before offer an interesting context for any environmental psychologist, the appeal of big cities is undeniable. That’s why I’ll research options for a PhD in environmental psychology in two capitals of the world – one traditional and one contemporary – Rome and New York.

Rome panorama; photo by Giampaolo Macorig

It’s hard not to feel like a fragile creature with short expiration date while walking amid stone edifices that stood as silent witnesses of human history for over 2 thousand years. That’s just my experience of the historic center of Rome (listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site), anyway. The feeling is not bad, though. Even without tour guides and guide books, just being there feels like an incredibly enriching learning experience. An experience that is beyond words, for after all, buildings don’t speak in words. Yet somehow, they might be  telling us more about mankind than you’d learn from psychology books. Continue reading

October 27, 2012

Great Places to Get a PhD in Environmental Psychology: #2 Pre-planned Cities

Building a pre-planned city is as close as we came to creating a world of our dreams. Or somebody’s dreams, anyway. That’s why I see those places as very stimulating for environmental psychologists. It makes you wonder how people respond to such environments. At first glance, the wholeness of a single vision transferred into reality is just impressive. One can assume that pre-planned communities feel very comforting and safe due to their high levels of  order, coherence and predictability.

Masdar City, UAE; photo by iied.org

Take a look at some of the futuristic dreams coming true at the moment – Tianjin in China, the zero-carbon, zero-waste Masdar in United Arab Emirates, or few others from all over the world. Not surprisingly, emphasis on sustainability is the key feature in all cities of the future mentioned above – green is a must at the moment. With good reason.

Continue reading

July 10, 2012

Great Places to Get a PhD in Environmental Psychology: #1 Tradition

Needless to say to those who, like me, wish to pursue a doctoral study in it, environmental psychology is an interdisciplinary field dealing with relations between humans and their environment. Its core idea is that where something happens matters, in a way that the environment influences how people feel and think and what they do. So, if you’re about to make a decision about getting a PhD in EnvPsych, you may want to make a choice consistent with the discipline by considering carefully where you’ll study it.

A look at people and their environment – natural, built and social; Slope day at Cornell University; photo by foreverdigital

It’s important to note that the environment can be defined very broadly, including  natural environments, built environments and social settings. Also, learning environments and informational environments are especially interesting in this context.

I decided to write a series of posts on some great places to get a PhD in environmental psychology by the following criteria: Continue reading

June 11, 2012

An Interview with Environmental Psychologist: Joren van Dijk on Creative Spaces

For many people I meet, everything seems to be going well in life, but they’re not feeling quite happy. With all the information, options and resources available nowadays (in the part of the world that lives in abundance), people seem to be lacking the spark, inspiration and intrinsic motivation more than ever. That’s why I belive we can benefit from exploring ways to enhance the level of creativity in our lives, presuming that being creative is a happier mode of human existence than repeating patters and being uninspired.

Everyday creativity of ordinary people has been a very interesting research subject for scientists in recent years (as opposed to creativity defined as a rare trait of exquisite individuals resulting in historically new scientific discoveries and great works of art – which was “the original” definition of creativity). In other words, creativity for the rest of us has been “discovered”. That’s why I’m happy to learn something about designing spaces that nudge ordinary people to find creative solutions to everyday problems from Joren van Dijk, a Dutch environmental psychologist and the founder of omgevingspsycholoog.nl (Dutch for environmental psychologist). Joren  consults organizations on how to design interior and exterior in order to facilitate people in achieving their goals.

  Continue reading

May 5, 2012

On Beauty, Ethics and the Nature – The Story of Tree Shape Preferences

When it comes to aesthetic preferences, I like to remember an older colleague’s explanation of why his wife’s eyes are beautiful – not because they fit some common criteria of what is considered a beautiful shape, size, or color, but simply because they’re hers.  He loves her, he loves her eyes. Many memories are kept in those eyes. He watches them smile, cry, get angry, getting old, and sees the value and beauty in them.

Is this a beauty pageant?; Lime Tree Avenue, Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire; photo by Lincolnian (Brian)

There are some things we consider beautiful (or at least want to) per se, just because. All the things and people we love could be included here, and everything we think of as valuable. Just writing about how some trees are prefered over others because of their appearance seems somewhat unfair.

Continue reading