We are now seeing the end of semester one and It’s exam time here at Surrey uni! The library, academic blocks, restaurants are all bustling with students preparing for it in full swing! You can follow the University of Surrey, Univerity of Surrey Library, and University of Surrey Student Union’s Facebook and Instagram profiles, for a peek into the innovative support they are providing the students to ease the exams stress! I don’t have to give exams this semester. Others tell me I’m lucky, but let’s not rule out the coursework I’ve to do throughout the semester!! But, I’m fairly relaxed now and planning for the busy semester ahead! I’ve received a few emails and messages asking about my course in particular, mostly the architects, and I’ve decided to blog about it so you can get a general idea of what and how it is.
As you know, I’m Studying MSc Environmental Psychology. The two words ‘Environmental’ and ‘Psychology’ is not something that you usually hear together. People often mistake it as study of Psychology in association with Environment in terms of sustainability – I think, cause most people react saying “wow, we really need to study about how to take care of our environment” and that “it must be lucrative” considering how much of a gain studying sustainability is, in the context of global warming. This is partly true, but not just it. Environmental Psychology is extremely diverse, multi-disciplinary and still evolving. It has in it, Psychology, Design, Planning, Policymaking and lot other disciplines that I haven’t come across yet.
So, What is Environmental Psychology? I’m sure Books and Google will help you get an overview of the field. I cannot tell you how much I’ve struggled to explain to everyone that asks me what it is that I’m studying. But, I’ll try and simplify it for you. Environmental Psychology is basically a field of study of human behaviour in their environments. AND how these environments, in turn, affect human actions and behaviours in it. As Wikipedia says it ‘interplay between individuals and their surroundings’. Something like studying if an individual is happy, confused or stressed (and much more) in a given environment. When I say environment, I mean it in the broadest sense of the Physical environment that you can imagine. It deals with both the natural environment and the built environment. The built would be work environments (offices and other workspaces), living environments (homes – apartments, flats, villas so on), Study Environments (Schools, Institutions and Universities) and other settings in general where people live, eat, socialise and so on.
So, people ask me how it is at all related to what I’ve studied before and How I intend to make use of what I learn here? I don’t know how much you already know about behavioural architecture, but this is somewhat similar. Studying how people behave in space (let’s say an office space for the sake of this blog) will guide my design development in a way that best suits the intended behaviour in the given space. For eg. I would study how individuals and groups behave in a given office space, and I would probably evaluate the good and the not so good attributes of the office space, and use this information I’ve collected to design an office space that works best for the user-group considered. Here, I would probably design to make the space less stressful and more relaxing, and not to forget more enabling to carry out tasks efficiently.
And how would I do that? If you haven’t studied psychology for your undergrad, you wouldn’t be very familiar with the entire idea of a research. The process is driven by research. We read about the psychological theories, we use the methodologies to collect data, analyse the data and use it for whatever purposes. Again, to give you a clue, I’d probably study a theory on ‘Stress-Reduction’ and see how I can apply it to office spaces, devise a questionnaire survey perhaps and find out what the users of this space feel about it. Use the data collected to evaluate the space and make inferences that will guide me through my process of designing. For eg, I might find out that the hue of the walls the employees sit against is too warm which stresses/distracts them, or that, the employees prefer a much ‘greener’ space to spend their tea and lunch breaks at. I might then conduct more research to find out if this is the same in other office spaces and see if the employees of other office spaces feel the same. If they do, I could use this bit of information I’ve collected for most office spaces I henceforth design.
Architecture students and Architects are kind of familiar with this process. We call it case studies and literature studies. We try to use examples to evaluate how spaces have been designed to function or designed to fail, to base our concepts and design ideas on. This is the same here, except we would now do an in-depth study, question the reliability of the information being collected and use a whole plethora of theories and methodologies psychologists have developed for us all along. But mind you, you cannot talk in the air, you cannot call your google search as research and you will be studying psychology and not design.
That brings me to my next point. However fascinating it may seem, to be adding a whole new dimension to the world of design and creative thinking, I have to remind you that the course is largely psychological. We’ve had exercises on design, we’ve discussed theories and methods revolving around design, but you would still be studying theories and methods of Environmental Psychology. The course does not teach me that the glass facades are good for houses, but it teaches us how to find out if glass facades or even an open kitchen for.eg is right for a house. The course offers to help us develop knowledge, skills and confidence to be taking up any kind of research in environmental psychology in the future. Considering that this field of study is comparatively new and niche there is a ton of ongoing research, and a great wide-open door for us to take up research in various subsects of the field. We would not only be helping ourselves with the information we find out, but we would be contributing to the existing knowledge-bank of Environmental Psychology.
Phew! I would love to talk more about this, but wouldn’t bore the rest. Let me know if this made sense or if you’d like to know anything in specific. And do have a look at the university website about the course. It gives a brief description of the course, why study it, opportunities, funding and modules – do check out the modules and the description.
I will simply not accept it if you come ask me if I can read your mind in a given environment (LOL). It’s simply not possible, is it? That is not what psychologists study and not what architects would want to study.
Hope this helped those who wanted to know a bit more about my love of a course!
I promise to add pictures to my next post 😛