An environmental psychologist studies the effects that a person’s surroundings have on his or her mental state, and the findings of environmental psychologists are used to formulate plans and processes that will enable people to feel at ease and well in their work or social environments. Certain colors, for example, evoke different emotional states. This knowledge is used to allow employers, hospitals or retailers to promote a response whether the desired effect is one of calm, contentment or energy.
The field is not limited to decorating concerns however. Sound, smell and temperature all factor into how effectively the desired reaction is achieved. For example, classrooms can be designed to facilitate learning through the mind and body’s natural responses to the environment. In many ways, the environmental psychologist does for the mind what an ergonomist does for the body. He or she helps to design objects that work most efficiently for the user.
Psychologists typically have doctorates in psychology, but an environmental psychologist’s job requires that their education be multi-disciplinary. Social sciences, architecture, and natural science all figure prominently in the field. A person with several degrees may serve as an environmental psychologist though, beginning in 1970s Great Britain, some universities began to establish degree programs in this field.
The job description for an environmental psychologist features many tasks that are research oriented. In addition to the analysis of data, the psychologist must be able to communicate that analysis to policy and decision makers. He or she must also be knowledgeable about building and construction techniques and be able to accurately make recommendations based on feasibility and cost.
Conducting interviews and reviewing plans may also be part of the typical duties of an environmental psychologist. Experimentation may be required in the quest to improve or fine tune environmental features already in place. The psychologist also needs to be available for public forums if civil and municipal projects are affected by his or her findings. As in other health professions, continuing education is required.
The growing awareness that surroundings can affect people in unintended ways, coupled with the desire to address social and environmental concerns, indicates that this field will grow. Environmental psychologists are needed in corporate and governmental sectors to assist in creating the healthiest settings for populations to live and work within. It is becoming an increasingly valuable role in the modern world.