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Psychology and the Environment
Residents of Nova Scotia near the Sydney Tar Ponds show particularly high rates of cancer
One of the world’s most hazardous toxic sites
Adolescents reported worrying about their health and their families more than students
who lived away
The adolescents who worried showed the highest levels of depression
Even students who lived away could be affected by this depression
The Environment as a Source of Stress
6 billion people on earth (more than the total number of humans that have ever lived before us)
Increasing at a rate of 250,000 people a day
Will double by 2025, and double again at shorter intervals
When animals are crowded, they reproduce more slowly, take inadequate care of young and are
more prone to disease
Crowding in prisons: Disciplinary problems, suicides and overall death rates increase
Students in crowded dorms are more likely to be socially withdrawn and likely to show signs of
learned helplessness
Elderly people suffering from dementia taken to a new less crowded unit showed beneficial
Density: The number of people who occupy a given space
Crowding: Subjective feeling of unpleasantness that results from the presence of others (stress
we feel when density becomes unpleasant)
Crowding and Perceived Control
Crowding depends on how people interpret the presence of others (how much control they feel
they have)
If the presence reduces feelings of control, we are likely to experience a crowd as stressful
If we feel we have control of the situation, then we are unlikely to experience it as stressful
Study: High school students asked to work on some problems in a jam-packed room with others.
Condition 1: Students told that they were free to leave at any point
Condition 2: Worked under identical crowded conditions but were not given the choice to
Condition 3: Students worked in uncrowded conditions (control)
After the first set, everyone moved into uncrowded rooms with hard puzzles
At first, crowded students (1,2) solved as many puzzles as the uncrowded
For students not given the choice to leave (2), crowding eventually took its toll
Result: No control students (2) attempted the least number of questions (2), Students
with control (1) attempted almost as many as students with no crowding (3)
Conclusion: It is not crowding itself that causes stress but the feeling that you cannot
control or escape
Norms develop to protect people`s privacy in highly dense areas
Japan and slums of Mexico: Visiting people in their homes is very rare (instead, invite
people to restaurants)
Crowding and Expectations
Likely to feel crowded when an environment contains more people than we`d expect
Example: Icefields in National Park (if more people there than expected, visitors felt
Crowding and Attribution
The presence of others makes people physiologically aroused (which can lead to different
If arousal is attributed to the presence of others, it will be interpreted as uncomfortable
and crowded
If attributed to another source, they will not feel crowded
Ex: Student in large lecture, If she attributes arousal to the interesting lecture, she won`t feel
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