Social ecology and environmental psychology described @dstokols @Social_Ecology , interviewed by @katiepatrick . References #WilliamsJames on attention. Book on Social Ecology in the Digital Age released in 2018.
[01:02 Katie Patrick] Can you explain what social ecology is, and also what environmental psychology is, and how they’re different and how they fit together.
[01:11 Dan Stokols] Well, social ecology grew out of the field of ecology which started in biology back in the 1800s and it’s basically looking at the interrelationships between organisms and their environments — their living environments, other species as well as abiotic features of the environment, climate topography, and that kind of thing.
[01:29]And those biological principles were applied to human communities in the early 1900’s. And that field became known as human ecology. But it was almost a literal translation of Darwinian assumptions about how different kinds of organisms adapt to their environments, only applied to human communities.
[01:46] So, the economic system was seen as the engine of adaptation, and social ecology has provided a broader view based not just on biological principles and economic principles, but also law, ethics, sociological views, how people react to their physical environments, architecture.
[02:05] So it’s a really a transdisciplinary view of how people interact with their everyday large scale and smaller scale environments.
[02:13] And now environmental psychology is a part of that. It looks more at individuals and small groups, they perceive the environment, how they learn to behave in certain ways toward the environment, how they’re influenced by communication and persuasive efforts to get them to change their behavior, how they’re affected by exposure to nature natural environment.
[02:32] So it’s very much at the kind of personal and small group level. Social ecology extends from that individual level all the way up to the global sphere.
[02:41] So how is global climate change affecting the quality of our natural environment? How is it affecting public health? Those kinds of issues.
An ecological perspective relates to attention.
[35:52 Dan Stokol] There’s research suggesting that ocean shorelines and seascapes are particularly restorative to people they help people kind of recover their attentional energy.
[36:09] So, voluntary attention is where you rivet your attention on some tasks. You’re studying for an exam, you don’t want to be distracted, you’re screening out distractions, and you engage in that kind of behavior long enough, you start to get mentally fatigued. Your attention gets fragmented you get tired mentally.
[36:24] What James suggested is, if you can give people opportunities to engage in spontaneous attention — put them in an environment where their attention is drawn to whatever is interesting to them — And the more you have that opportunity for spontaneous attention, the more you can recharge your batteries and resume more of a focused attention
[36:41] So, what nature does, according to Steve and Rachel Kaplan — they’ve developed this theory they call it attention restoration theory of nature — when you put people in natural settings, it gives them a lot of these opportunities to be fascinated by the waves of the ocean, or the sound of birds, when you go on a nature hike. It allows you to get away from your usual routines. If you’re living in the city core or if you’re engaging and very mentally taxing work throughout the week, it gives you a break from that. So that’s one of the ways in which nature seems to work in terms of restoring our attentional faculties. But there are also several studies suggesting that it has direct physiological benefits. It calms us down. It’s associated with better physical health outcome,s as well as psychological.
Source: Dan Stokols, “Social Ecology, Systems Thinking, & Psychology” | October 9, 2018 | How to Save the World Podcast, web video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0OX2eqA8XE ; MP3 audio at https://podtail.com/en/podcast/how-to-save-the-world-1/social-ecology-systems-thinking-psychology-with-pr/
Social Ecology in the Digital Age: Solving Complex Problems in a Globalized World (2018), at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/book/9780128141885 and https://www.elsevier.com/books/social-ecology-in-the-digital-age/stokols/978-0-12-803113-1