Facts That Matter
The environment influences individuals Physical health, Psychological processes and behaviour, and some of these effects are demonstrated in stress producing environmental conditions such as noise pollution and crowding.
Social problems like aggression, violence health and poverty are also major concern for present-day Psychologists.
The Psychological understanding of these issues can be applied practically to aspects such as pro-environment behaviour, reduction of violence and discrimination and promotion of positive, health, positive attitudes and well-being of people.
(a) Natural environment: That part of nature which remains untouched by human hand is the ‘natural environment’.
(b) On the other hand, whatever has been created by human beings within the natural environment is the built environment. Cities, houses, offices, factories, bridges, shopping malls, railway tracks, road, dams, and even artificial created parks and ponds are some examples of the built environment which show how human beings have made changes in the environment given by nature.
The built environment usually involves the concept of environment design. The idea of‘design’ contains some psychological features, such as:
Different Views of the Human-Environment Relationship:
1. A psychologist named Stokols (1990) describes three approaches that may be adopted to describe the human-environment relationship.
(a) The minimalist perspective assumes that the physical environment has minimal or negligible influence on human behaviour, health and well-being. The physical environment and human being exist as parallel components.
(b) The instrumental perspective suggests that the physical environment exists mainly for use by human beings for their comfort and well-being. Most of the human influences on the environment reflect the instrumental perspective.
(c) The spiritual perspective refers to the view of the environment as something to be respected and valued rather than exploited. It implies that human beings will exist and will be happy only as long as the environment is kept healthy and natural.
2. Traditional Indian view about the environment supports the spiritual perspective, e.g.; the customs of the Bishnoi community of Rajasthan, and the Chipko movement in the Uttarakhand region. By contrast, we also find examples of people damaging or destroying the environment, which is a negative instance of the instrumental, which is a negative instance of the instrumental perspective.
Environmental Effects of Human Behaviour:
Some of the effects pointed out by psychologists are described below:
Human Influence on the Environment:
-> Refrigerators and air-conditioners that generate CFS that pollute the air.
-> Smoking is known to pollute the air around us, and the carbon-cycle and the water- cycle.
-> Industries that discharge effluents, and pump this untreated sewage into rivers, seem to be unconcerned about the dangerous physical and psychological consequences of this kind of pollution.
(a) Any sound that is annoying or irritating, and felt to be unpleasant is said to be noise.
(b) Noise, especially for long periods of time, is uncomfortable and puts people in an unpleasant mood.
(c) It may lead to hearing loss.
(d) It reduces concentration.
Three characteristics of noise have been found to determine its effect on task performance, namely, intensity, predictability, and controllability of noise.
Effects of Noise: Systematic research on the effects of noise on human beings shows the following:
There are some researches or studies that have shown direct or indirect psychological effects of these forms of pollution as well.
Effects of Air pollution: Specific psychological effects of air-pollution have been reported by some researchers. For example,
(i) In one part of Kolkata, the psychological reactions to air-pollution. Those living in the industrial area reported greater tension and anxiety than those living in a non-industrial residential area.
(ii) In study conducted in Germany, the presence of pollution such as sulphur dioxide in the air was found to decrease the ability to concentrate on a task, and lowering performance efficiency.
(iii) Pollution caused by leaks of dangerous chemical substances can cause other kinds of harm. For example, Bhopal gas tragedy of December 1984, also left behind psychological effects because of the gas disturbances in memory, attention and alertness.
(iv) Tobacco smoke pollution, that is, pollution through cigarette, cigar or beedi-smoking, can also cause psychological effects e.g., increase the aggression level of individuals.
(v) The presence of specific chemicals such as lead can cause mental retardation by affecting brain development.
(vi) Waste are plastics, tin or any metal container. This kind of waste material should be destroyed or burned through special techniques, and the smoke should not be allowed to escape into the air that people breathe.
Features of crowding: The experience of crowding has the following features:
1. Intimate Distance (up to 18 inches): The distance you maintain when you are talking privately to someone or interacting with a very close friend relative.
2. Personal Distance (18 inches to 4 feet): The distance you maintain when you are interacting one-to-one with a close friend, relative, or even with someone not very close to you in a work setting or other social situation.
3. Social Distance (4 to 10 feet): The distance you maintain when the interaction is formal, and not close.
4. Public Distance (10 feet to infinity): The distance you maintain in a formal setting, where there is a large number of persons. For example, the distance of an audience from a public speaker, or a teacher in a classroom.
It may be noted that these distances are maintained voluntarily, keeping in mind the comfort experienced by the persons involved in the interaction.
The concept of personal space is important for the following reasons:
What are the effects of natural disasters?
First, they leave people poverty-stricken, homeless, without any resources, usually along with a loss of everything they owned.
Second, the sudden loss of all their belongings as well as their dear ones leaves people shocked and stunned.
This is sufficient to create a deep-seated psychological disorder. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a severe psychological problem that results from traumatic events such as natural disasters.
Features of Natural Disasters: This disorder has the following features:
The immediate reaction to a disaster is commonly one of disorientation. People take some time to understand the full meaning of what the disaster has done to them. They may actually deny to themselves that something terrible has happened. Following the immediate reaction are the physical reactions.
Physical reactions, such as bodily exhaustion even without physical activity, difficulty in sleeping, change in the eating pattern, increased heartbeat and blood pressure.
Emotional reactions, such as grief and fear, irritability, anger, helplessness, hopelessness, depression, something absolute lack of emotion.
Cognitive reactions, such as worry, difficulty in concentration, reduced span of attention, confusion, loss of memory, or vivid memories, that are unwanted (or nightmares of the event). Social reactions, such as withdrawal from others, getting into conflict with others, having frequent arguments with even loved ones, and feeling rejected or left out.
These reactions may last for a long time, in some cases throughout life, with proper counselling and psychiatric treatment, PTSD can be remedied at least up to level where the victims can be motivated, and helped to start life afresh.
In general, the intensity, if reaction, is affected by:
Treatment of psychological disorders: This includes self-help approaches as well as professional treatment. Counselling at the individual and group level is the next step.
(i) Includes both actions that are meant to protect the environment from problems, and to promote a healthy environment.
Some promotive actions to protect the environment from pollution are:
Reducing air pollution by keeping vehicles in good condition, or changing to non-fuel driven vehicles, stopping the practice of smoking.
Reducing noise pollution (noise) by ensuring that noise levels are now. For example, discouraging needless honking on the road, or making rules regarding noisy music at certain hours.
Managing disposal of garbage sensible. For example, by encouraging separation of biodegradable garbage from non-biodegradable waste, or composting of kitchen waste. Planting trees and ensuring their care, keeping in mind that those plants and trees should not be planted that have adverse health effects.
Saying ‘no’ to plastic in any form, thus reducing toxic wastes that pollute water, air and the soil.
Reducing the non-biodegradable packaging of consumer goods.
Laws related to construction (especially in urban areas) that violates optimal environment design.
Poverty and violence are two main problems in our society. Both of these phenomena have noticeable effects on the physical as well psychological health of people.
Poverty is not nearly an economic problem. It has social, emotional, Psychological perspectives also.
Violence is also not simply a question of breaking the law. It is related to societal conditions Psychological perspective and economic conditions also. Psychologists have actively exploring these issue to explain causes, consequences and strategies to deal with these phenomena effectively.