Environmental Psychology at UW-Green Bay

UW-Green Bay Environmental Psychologists

Dr. Georjeanna Wilson-Doenges

Dr. Wilson-Doenges’ research interests involve individual’s interpretation of sense of community and how neighborhood design can foster or break down that sense of community in residential life.

Personal Space – How Close Is Too Close?

When it comes to space, there are terms such as personal bubble which individuals use to describe their ideal amount of space away from others. Personal space is the portable and invisible boundary which surrounds your body and it never goes away. Your personal space is always with you.

Some functions of personal space include:

  • Avoiding overstimulation
  • Avoiding stress
  • Avoiding behavior constraint
  • Non-verbal communication
  • Boundary regulation
  • Intimacy-equilibrium model
  • Protection from harm

How close is too close? Well, according to Hall’s Spatial Zones, there are levels of appropriate space depending on the relationship between individuals. There are four levels: public space, social space, personal space, and intimate space. The closer the relationship, the less of a distance is allowed between individuals.

Hall’s Spatial Zones https://acoarecovery.wordpress.com/tag/healthy-boundaries/  

Other factors such as attraction and type of interaction, positive or negative, impact the distance between individuals. Gender, age, and personality traits also play a role in the optimal distance of personal space. When it comes to physical reasons for personal space, individuals require a larger personal space when there is no easy escape route. This is a protective mechanism

When it comes to physical reasons for personal space, individuals require a larger personal space when there is no easy escape route. This is a protective mechanism. When personal space is invaded it results in arousal. When the invasion is unwanted, it results in a flight or fight response.

Watch this video to see people’s reactions to someone “invading” their personal space.

Affordances

Affordances are one of the theories of perception in Environmental Psychology. According to Gibson, affordances are how we perceive environments as ways to afford us our needs.

There are things in the environment which allow us to meet our needs. These needs can be anything from the shade, food, parking, safe walking, sitting, activities, etc. When an environment meets almost all of an individual’s needs, it is an ecological niche. This would be the environment which is most optimal for that individual.

According to Mariela Alfonzo’s 2005 study, individuals base their decision to walk on environmental factors and how those factors fit their desired affordances. The hierarchy of needs for walking begins with feasibility, accessibility, safety, comfort, and finally pleasurability. Like in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, if the first need is not met, then an individual does not proceed to the next level.

If an environment does not provide or afford, the necessary items then individuals are less likely to interact with the environment. It is important when designing spaces to consider a variety of affordances so the environment can appeal to a variety of optimal levels of affordances.

Watch this video on affordances to learn more!

 

Alfonzo, M.A. (2005). To walk or not to walk? The hierarchy of walking needs. Environment and Behavior, 37, 808-836. DOI: 10.1177/0013916504274016

Nature is Restorative: The Attention Restoration Theory

Credit:http://www.planwallpaper.com/wallpaper-nature

Spending time in nature has a large amount of benefits for you. Studies have shown that spending time in nature can provide individuals with renewal cognitive, psychological, and physiological resources. Many people in the world spend a lot of their time inside, either working or relaxing. However, this can lead to increased stress and irritability, while concentration can decrease. This, of course, if not the best way to work and be productive. When we spend time outside, nature can naturally restore us by holding our attention in an effortless way.

Nature can also decrease our stress levels. One study done shows that when individuals were put into stressful situations, and afterwards asked to either walk in the city or walk in nature for 30 minutes. Before they left, participants had their blood pressure and cortical levels measured. Participants who walked in nature for 30 minutes had lower cortical levels and lower blood pressure, which us that their stress had decreased. However, participants who were asked to walk in the city for 30 minutes had no decrease in their blood pressure or cortical levels.

So, when you are feeling stressed, take a walk outside and enjoy the nature surrounding you! If you can’t, research also shows that just looking at nature is restorative! In the meantime, gaze at these beautiful photos of nature and take a deep breath.

Credit: https://www.pexels.com/search/nature/
Credit: https://www.pexels.com/search/nature/
Credit:http://www.shunvmall.com/nature-pic.html
Credit: https://www.pexels.com/search/nature/

Goldilocks and The Yerkes-Dodson Law

In 1908, Psychologists Robert M. Yerkes and John Dodson created the Yerkes-Dodson Law of Arousal. This law states that in order to see peak performance, one must be feeling a moderate degree of arousal, but not too much. If an individual experiences too much stress or arousal, they can become exhausted or too anxious, which could lead to poor performance. If an individual has absolutely no arousal, or motivation to do well, their performance may also be poor.

Credit: http://changingminds.org/explanations/motivation/yerkes-dodson.htm

We can compare this law to the children’s book, Goldilocks and the Three Bears. For example, Goldilocks tries each bowl of porridge. As the story goes, one bowl was too hot (high arousal), the other was too cold (low arousal), and the next was just right (moderate arousal). Though this is not a perfect comparison, it does show us that optimal performance can be achieved through a moderate amount of arousal.

Arousal also be explained through stimulation. More specifically, overstimulation and under stimulation. Cohen’s Model of Overstimulation explains that an individual has a limited capacity to take in stimuli (i.e. our surroundings). Zubeck’s explanation of under stimulation can also have a negative impact on us. For example, people can experience sensory deprivation when they are in environments that have nothing to produce stimuli (i.e a desert). We adapt to both of these situations in different ways. When you feel overstimulated, you tend to use tunnel vision, and only look where you need to. This can cause exhaustion. When you feel under stimulated, you may experience hallucinations.

For more information or more examples, check out these links below!

Under stimulation. Credit: http://geology.com/records/largest-desert.shtml
Overstimulation Example. Credit: http://www.wildnatureimages.com/San%20Diego%2024.htm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Systematic Desensitization of Fears: Wolpe’s Findings

In 1961, Dr. Joseph Wolpe published an article titled: The systematic desensitization treatment of neuroses. His findings changed the way counselors and therapists now help patients with anxiety disorders, or neuroses.

Credit: http://desensitization.org/joseph-wolpe/

The process of systematic desensitization begins with relaxation training, where the therapist/counselor will train their patient on how to relax their body. Next, the patient and therapist will create a hierarchy of fear/anxiety. For example, if someone has a strong phobia of heights, their hierarchy of anxiety may first begin with something that produces a small amount of fear, like thinking about someone else walking on a bridge. The hierarchy continues until you get to the thing the patient would fear most. In this example, it may be imagining themselves standing on a tall building looking down.

After the hierarchy is complete, systematic desensitization can begin. First, the patient reaches a state of relaxation. Then, the therapist will guide the patient through their hierarchy with imagination. All the while, the patient is encouraged to stay relaxed, while they are imaging their fears.

Credit: http://theskydeck.com/the-tower/facts-about-the-ledge/

While this method of counseling is effective, it does not always help every patient. It is important to note that there are many methods of therapy, and the solution is not one method fits all. Every individual is unique, so their therapy must be unique as well.

To learn more, check out these links:

Psychology March Madness: Finals

Vote in each of the polls below for the study you think was most influential.  Polls close at 8:00pm central on March 30th.

Learn more about the studies here.

See all the match-ups here.

For the Championship!

Which study was more influential?

  • 10. Smith, M.L., & Glass, G. V. (1977) (63%, 10 Votes)
  • 1. Milgram, S. (1963) (38%, 6 Votes)

Total Voters: 16

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And for Third Place!

Which study was more influential?

  • 11. Bouchard, T. et al., (1990) (71%, 12 Votes)
  • 13. Harlow, H.F. (1958) (29%, 5 Votes)

Total Voters: 17

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Psychology March Madness: Round 4

Vote in each of the polls below for the study you think was most influential.  Polls close at 8:00pm central on March 29th.

Learn more about the studies here.

See all the match-ups here.

Which study was more influential?

  • 1. Milgram, S. (1963) (77%, 10 Votes)
  • 13. Harlow, H.F. (1958) (23%, 3 Votes)

Total Voters: 13

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Which study was more influential?

  • 10. Smith, M.L., & Glass, G. V. (1977) (62%, 8 Votes)
  • 11. Bouchard, T. et al., (1990) (38%, 5 Votes)

Total Voters: 13

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Psychology March Madness: Round 3

Vote in each of the polls below for the study you think was most influential.  Polls close at 8:00pm central on March 23rd.

Learn more about the studies here.

See all the match-ups here.

Which study was more influential?

  • 1. Milgram, S. (1963) (100%, 9 Votes)
  • 8. Asch, S. E. (1955) (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 9

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Which study was more influential?

  • 13. Harlow, H.F. (1958) (100%, 9 Votes)
  • 21. Rorschach, H. 1942) (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 9

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Which study was more influential?

  • 10. Smith, M.L., & Glass, G. V. (1977) (56%, 5 Votes)
  • 18. Zimbardo, P.G. (1972) (44%, 4 Votes)

Total Voters: 9

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Which study was more influential?

  • 11. Bouchard, T. et al., (1990) (63%, 5 Votes)
  • 19. Darley, J. M., & Latae, B. (1968) (38%, 3 Votes)

Total Voters: 8

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