Taking an ecological perspective: Museums, corporate
office spaces, disaster sites, schools, parks, hospitals, even the
halls of Congress — these are just a few of the settings where
members of Div. 34 (Society for Environmental, Population
and Conservation Psychology) study, practice and advocate for
healthier relationships between people and their natural and
“built,” or human-made, environments.
Many of the division’s approximately 400 members
are psychologists who fit traditional images of scientists
working on environmental concerns — ecopsychologists and
conservation psychologists, for example. Others apply their
psychological expertise and interest in the environment as
industrial-organizational psychologists, clinical psychologists,
addiction psychologists, cognitive psychologists and more.
Because of this diversity, Div. 34 members’ research includes
such diverse topics as finding the best ways to deliver messages
about climate change to the public and designing hospitals to
minimize patients’ recovery time.
“When I say I’m a professor of psychology and a director
of environmental studies, people cock their heads and go,
‘Wha-a-a-a-t?’” says Div. 34 President-elect Elise Amel, PhD,
an industrial-organizational psychologist and professor at the
University of St. Thomas. “But when we talk about how so-
called environmental problems are really problems related to
human behavior, they get it.”
Projects and collaboration: The origins of the group’s
diversity lie partly in its history, says Div. 34 President Britain
Scott, PhD, also a professor at the University of St. Thomas and
author of the instructor resource, “Teaching Psychology for
Sustainability” (see teachgreenpsych.com). The division was
launched in 1977 as a marriage of two areas of psychological
inquiry with the initially distinct foci of population growth and
human-environment interactions (see http://psycnet.apa.org/
This eclecticism means that Div. 34 members are often
engaged in cross-disciplinary collaborations, Scott says.
Members work together on research studies and other projects
with the public as well as scientists in conservation biology,
design and architecture. They also partner frequently with other
APA divisions — in fact, 10 of the 17 sessions featured in Div.
34’s 2015 conference at the APA Annual Convention reflect such
collaborations. Panels included discussions of how consumers
in different cultures perceive and categorize energy-saving
products, how to use social media to promote sustainability,
and the effects of bringing images of nature to prisoners in
solitary confinement, to name a few.
“The fun piece about all of this is that once you start to get
into it, there are so many interesting applications,” says Div.
34 Past-president Thomas J. Doherty, PsyD, who co-founded
and directs the Ecopsychology Certificate Program at Lewis
& Clark Graduate School. Because of this, the division is an
A closer look at
Div. 34 (Society for Environmental,
Population and Conservation Psychology)
To learn more, visit the Div. 34 website at www.
To join Div. 34, visit www.apadivisions.org/
For an overview of Environmental, Population
and Conservation Psychology, watch these
four short You Tube videos ( 10 minutes in all)
featuring Div. 34 Past-president Thomas J.
Doherty, PsyD, at http://bit.ly/psychnature.