Environmental Psychology and Urban Design

Authored by: Jack L. Nasar

Companion to Urban Design

Print publication date:  January  2011
Online publication date:  March  2011

Print ISBN: 9780415553643
eBook ISBN: 9780203844434
Adobe ISBN: 9781136920097


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Prior to the development of environmental psychology, architects and planners gave normative descriptions – such as city beautiful, city efficient, the radiant city, or Broadacre city – about the ways they thought the world should be (Lang 1987). Their definitions of the environment and human responses, and the causal links were vague. Psychologists had precise definitions and methods for testing, but they often neglected the physical environment and tested variables under unrealistic conditions with little relation to people’s everyday life. Environmental psychology applies social science methods and theories to real world questions about human experience in everyday physical environments. Unlike the normative approach, it seeks to describe the world the way it is – how we use it and, in turn, how it affects our behavior – to build a knowledge base for urban design. Unlike psychology, it emphasizes large-scale physical environments in which people exist. It often takes a multi-level, multi-disciplinary, social ecological approach to examine relationships between characteristics of the physical environment, humans, context and human responses (King et al. 2002). It is evolving a knowledge base for urban design decisions about the context and characteristics of places.

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