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Environmental Psychology


Entry requirements

Open to Master students in Psychology and students from Industrial Ecology and Governance of Sustainability (Leiden University), Architecture and Industrial Design (Delft University of Technology).


Many of the pressing issues that confront society involve social behaviour in relation to the environment. This is the domain of environmental psychology: The study of the ways in which people influence the environment and are, in turn, influenced by the environment, often without being aware of its profound impact.

After an introductory meeting to set the scene, each meeting will be devoted to one of six specific issues within environmental psychology. For example:

  • Going to Town. The world’s population is increasingly living in cities that continue to grow larger. This makes it really important to look at the psychological characteristics of city life. We will discuss the way people evaluate and react to the presence of large crowds and situations of high density, and how environmental alterations may improve well-being.

  • Taking a Break. We will not only look at the built environment and the technology that surround people in the 21th-century, but also at nature. People generally like nature, but why, and to what extent? What effects can be expected from exposure to natural environments?

  • Spatial Planning and Design. Housing and neighbourhood characteristics may strongly influence well-being and health. What are the relevant environmental, physical, and social characteristics, and how do these interact?

  • Acting Green. Environmental problems are, ultimately, problems of human behaviour. Individual behaviour with environmental consequences will be analysed from a social psychological perspective. Specific attention will be given to the difference between individual and collective interests (social dilemmas), which plays a role in a range of environmental issues, ranging from the number of parking spots in a neighbourhood to the greenhouse effect.

  • Sustainable Interventions. What psychological mechanisms drive environmentally relevant behaviour and how can interventions be designed to change behaviour in a pro-environmental sense?

  • Greening Corporations. Organizations have a major impact on environmental quality. Sustainability has become a familiar concept for organizations as a green corporate image is something that organizations now strive for and cherish. Psychological processes at an organizational level are different from those at the individual or household level. What do we know about these processes, and how can they be influenced?

The readings offer classic and current theories and research that will be discussed and integrated in the lectures. Note that themes are subject to change. The final program will be published in the syllabus that will be made available on Brightspace shortly before the start of the course. The course is taught in English.

Course objectives

Upon completion of the course, students:

  • can use knowledge of the general domain of environmental psychology to describe its scope, important theories and possible applications;

  • can relate specialized knowledge of environmental psychological theories to behavior in social-environmental settings;

  • can use findings and insights from environmental psychology to analyse problematic environmental behaviour and develop strategies for change.


For the timetable of this course please refer to MyTimetable



Students must register themselves for all course components (lectures, tutorials and practicals) they wish to follow. You can register up to 5 days prior to the start of the course.


It is mandatory for all students to register for each exam and to confirm registration for each exam in My Studymap. This is possible up to and including 10 calendar days prior to the examination. You cannot take an exam without a valid pre-registration and confirmation in My Studymap. Carefully read all information about the procedures and deadlines for registering for courses and exams.

Exchange students and external guest students will be informed by the education administration about the current registration procedure.

Mode of instruction

The course consists of seven two-hour lectures that, depending on availability, may include presentations by guest speakers who will talk about their occupations and activities that are related to one of the six topics of environmental psychology discussed in the lecture series. This provides an impression of career perspectives in the domain of environmental psychology.

Weblectures will be made available shortly after the lecture.

Assessment method

A final written exam with open questions determines 100% of the grade. How and when an exam review will take place will be communicated on Brightspace after publication of the exam results.

The Institute of Psychology follows the policy of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences to systematically check student papers for plagiarism with the help of software. Disciplinary measures will be taken when fraud is detected. Students are expected to be familiar with and understand the implications of this fraud policy.

Reading list

A full literature list will be made available via Blackboard shortly before the start of the course. Readings may be updated for the current course. Some examples from previous years are:

  • Bansal, P., & Roth, K. (2000). Why companies go green: A model of ecological responsiveness. Academy of Management Journal, 43(4), 717–736.

  • Devlin, A. S., Andrade, C. C., & Carvalho, D. (2016). Qualities of inpatient hospital rooms: Patients’ perspectives. Health Environments Research & Design Journal, 9(3), 190–211.

  • Hardin, G. (1968). The tragedy of the commons. Science, 162(3859), 1243–1248.

  • Kuo, F. E., & Sullivan, W. C. (2001). Aggression and violence in the inner city: Effects of environment via mental fatigue. Environment and Behavior, 33(4), 543–571.

  • Milgram, S. (1970). The experience of living in cities. Science, 167, 1461-1468.

  • Schultz, P. W. (2014). Strategies for promoting proenvironmental behavior. European Psychologist, 19, 107–117.

  • Staats, H., & Groot, P. (2019). Seat choice in a crowded cafe: Effects of eye contact, distance, and anchoring. Frontiers in Psychology, 10: 331.

  • Wohlwill, J. F. (1970). The emerging discipline of environmental psychology. American Psychologist, 25(4), 303–312.

Contact information

Dr. Niels van Doesum