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Environmental Psychology


Important Note

  • All Semester II bachelor and master psychology courses and examinations (2020-2021) will be offered in an on-line format.

  • If it is safe and possible to do so, supplementary course meetings may be planned on-campus. However, attendance at these meetings will not be required to successfully complete Semester II courses.

  • All obligatory work groups and examinations will be offered on-line during Central European Time, which is local time in the Netherlands.

  • Information on the mode of instruction and the assessment method per course will be offered in Brightspace, considering the possibilities that are available at that moment. The information in Brightspace is leading during the Corona crisis, even if this does not match the information in the Prospectus.

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 the six specific issue within environmental psychology. For example:

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

  • Taking a Break: We will not only look at the built environment and the technology that surrounds 21th-century man, 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 characteristics, physical and social, 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 places 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 of 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?

For each meeting students will read a set of papers in advance, to be discussed during the session.

Course objectives

Upon completion of the course, students:

  • have been introduced to the domain of environmental psychology, its scope, important theories and possible applications

  • have obtained specialized knowledge of environmental psychological theories about behavior in social-environmental settings; and

  • have learned how to make use of findings and insights in environmental psychology to analyse problematic environmental behaviour and develop strategies for change.


For the timetables of your lectures, work group sessions, and exams, see the timetables page of your study programme. You will also find the enrolment codes here. Psychology timetables



Students need to enroll for lectures. Master’s course registration


Students are not automatically enrolled for an examination. They can register via uSis from 100 to 10 calendar days before the date. Students who are not registered will not be permitted to take the examination. Registering for exams

Mode of instruction

Seven two-hour lectures, including presentations by guest speakers who will talk about their occupations and activities that are related to one of the six topic of environmental psychology discussed in the lecture series. This gives you an impression of career perspectives in the domain of environmental psychology and is, most of all, meant to inspire you!

Weblectures will be made available shortly after the lecture.

Assessment method

Final written exam with open-ended questions.

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

The reading list will be updated in the Summer period.

Literature will be made available via Blackboard. Exemplary literature includes:

  • Wohlwill, J. F. (1970). The emerging discipline of environmental psychology. American Psychologist, 25, 303-312.
    Kuo, F. E., & Sullivan, W. C. (2001). Aggression and violence in the inner city: Effects of environment via mental fatigue. Environment and Behavior, 33, 543-571.

  • Van der Wal, A. J., Schade, H. M., Krabbendam, L., & Van Vugt, M. (2013). Do natural landscapes reduce future discounting in humans? Proceedings of the Royal Society, Series B, 280: 1773 20132295.

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

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

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

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

Contact information

Dr. Niels van Doesum