When it comes to performance and arousal, the source of stress and how people perceive stress can be subjective. Some people excel under high levels of pressure and some don’t. However, applying the principles of The Yerkes — Dodson Law, too high or too low of arousal are detrimental to performance. The right amount of arousal is what influences optimal level of performance. Finding this balance can be difficult most especially in the varying demands of our daily tasks as well as those that are unexpected. When exposure to high arousal is prolonged, we experience overload which can have behavioral aftereffects even after the stimulus is no longer present.
The relationship between humans and the environment is truly a fascinating topic. How we are connected to our surroundings, the nature, our environment is something that is worth discovering and understanding. Not only are we affected by our environment, we play a huge role in any change that occurs in our environment. Environmental psychology is a subfield of psychology that explores this relationship between humans and the environment. When we speak of psychology, human behavior and cognition are the first things that come to mind. Environment, on the other hand, includes both natural and manmade surroundings. Environmental psychology, then, according to Bell et al., deals with environment at two different levels: (1) environment as a determinant or influence on behavior and mood and (2) human behavior affects the changes in the environment (2001, p. 2-4).
How does the environment affect human behavior and cognition? This question can be answered in various ways by looking at it through different related and non-related disciplines. Architects, engineers, and urban planners design our surroundings based on functionality and how built structures will affect the day-to-day tasks of people. For example, roads are designed and built for commuters and easy transportation. Neighborhoods are built in a manner that facilitates a sense of community or privacy. Artists and interior designers, on the other hand, may consider the aesthetic and hedonic aspects of structures and forms. The color of a room and its lighting will be based on how they affect people’s moods and behaviors or maybe learning. Artworks on display can affect an ambiance that is not originally part of the room, such as photos or paintings of the mountains or the sea. Of course, the concept of nature and nurture is something not to miss. Both nature (genetic disposition) and nurture (environment and social experiences) contribute to who we are as a person. This phenomenon shows the interdependence between humans and the environment as well as their nonlinear, almost cyclical relationship. The environment influences our attitudes. Our attitudes determine our behavior towards our environment, which then affects the changes that occur in the environment. Such changes in the environment, then, affects our future attitudes and behaviors. This simply illustrates the cycle of how the environment affects humans and how humans affect the environment.
It is evident that the environment can affect humans in various ways. The experience can be universal but also subjective. How our environment affects us mentally, physically, and emotionally is based on our perceptions or the meaning we give to our experiences of the environment. One person can have a strong affinity to the wild and find such environment enjoyable, while another may prefer an urban setting and find the wild as dangerous, therefore, terrifying. Such appraisal can be attributed to past experiences of similar settings or if encountered the first time, the present experience itself. Such differences in experience is called phenomenological, or based on people’s subjective description of their experiences (Bell et al., 2001, p.51). However, one effect of the environment or nature stands out — the positive affect it brings humans. It is as if, despite evolution, our connection to the natural environment is something that has not been lost. Regardless of our desire for industrial and technological evolution, we always come back to the comforts of the natural environment to ease any stress and tension brought about by the urban life that we built for ourselves. In return, how do we treat the environment for its benefits to humans? This question can be answered in different ways based on how people regard nature. For anthropocentric or homocentric, the value of nature is based on how humans can utilize its resources. Anthropocentrism views humans as superior above all species and can be inimical to how the nature and environment are exploited. Preservationists, on the other hand, advocates the maintenance of intact ecosystems, therefore, making it as a responsibility for humans to preserve nature and wildlife. Finally, econcentrism or biocentrism views natural ecosystems as independent of human support and will thrive on its own. These views and ethics present vital points on how we, as human beings, can positively influence our own environment. After all, the human-environment relationship is a cycle. As the saying goes, “what comes around goes around”. How we treat our environment and non-human species will eventually affect us. How we exploit our natural resources have its consequences. I personally believe that the nature and our environment will thrive without humans and that humans will have a hard time surviving without the resources that the nature and the environment can provide. Humans, on the other hand, are powerful enough to destroy them.
Technological, industrial, and modern advancements are great — they are part of our progress as species. However, we must learn and find the balance between our human evolutionary interests and those of the nature and environment. The field of environmental psychology and its studies can truly help us understand our relationship with our environment and surroundings — both natural and manmade. I consider the field of environmental psychology as a vital source of information and knowledge that can harmonize the relationship between humans and the environment. As we experience continuous changes in our world, predictable (caused by humans) or inevitable (natural process) events, being equipped with the knowledge and understanding of how these events occur will benefit us and the generations to come.
Bell, P.A., Greene, T.C., Fisher, J.D., & Baum, A. (2001). Environmental Psychology, 5th Edition. NY, USA: Psychology Press by Taylor & Francis Group.