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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 Into 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?

Before each meeting students will read a set of papers that will be discussed during the session. 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:

  • 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;

  • have learned how to 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


NOTE As of the academic year 2021-2022, you must register for all courses in uSis.
You do this twice a year: once for the courses you want to take in semester 1 and once for the courses you want to take in semester 2.
Registration for courses in the first semester is possible from early August. Registration for courses in the first semester is possible from December. The exact date on which the registration starts will be published on the website of the Student Service Center (SSC)

By registering for a course you are also automatically registered for the Brightspace module. Anyone who is not registered for a course therefore does not have access to the Brightspace module and cannot participate in the first sit of the exam of that course.
Also read the complete 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:

  • Wohlwill, J. F. (1970). The emerging discipline of environmental psychology. American Psychologist, 25(4), 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(4), 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(3), 190–211.

  • Hardin, G. (1968). The tragedy of the commons. Science, 162(3859), 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(4), 717–736.

Contact information

Dr. Niels van Doesum