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PSYC 405:  Environmental Psychology & The Wilderness Experience

(Fall 2016)

This class uses an online format so there is no meeting time or place. We will interact via HSU's Moodle site.


Catalog Course Description: Exploration of behavior-environment relationships. Ecopsychology, wilderness experience, and appraisal of our natural environment. Analysis of the social environment (privacy, territoriality, crowding).  Evaluation of the built environment (home, workplace, community).

Instructor: David Campbell

Office:             444 BSS

Phone:              826-3721

Office Hours:   Continuous (by e-mail) and usually 8:30-11:30 Wed in my office.


Web site:


Text:  (Be sure to purchase the correct edition.)
Scott, B. A., Amel, E. L., Koger, S. M., & Manning, C. M. (2016).  Psychology for sustainability. (4th edition).
New York, NY: Routledge. (Required)


NOTE: You must have your textbooks at the beginning of the semester. Reading assignments and homework typically begin in the first week. If you cannot afford the required texts, ask about the emergency loan program at our Financial Aid Office.


Additional Readings will be placed online.

Course Overview:

Psychology is the scientific study of human behavior and experience. While it is obvious that all behavior has to occur somewhere, the importance of setting often gets limited attention in psychology courses.  After all, psychology’s primary concern is with the person, not the place.  In this course, we adopt a different viewpoint: we start with the mindset that where behavior takes place is not trivial.  In fact, no explanation of behavior and experience is complete without explicit attention to the environmental context.  We will take an ecological approach in addressing human experience and move towards the development of a behavioral ecology.

Our outlook will be scientific, not humanistic, as we explore the significance of the environment in our lives.  We will inquire into the meaning of personal space, territoriality, crowding, and privacy. Review of the relevant research literature may be combined with mini-research projects as we work through this material.  We will also address the built environment and critique the behavioral basis of environmental design.  Architects say, "Form follows function." We'll discuss how well their constructed forms actually function and what they mean to us, the human occupants.  We will review psychological assessments of environments intended for living, learning, working, and playing.  If time permits, you will have the opportunity to prepare a post-occupancy evaluation of a built environment of your choice.

A primary theme throughout this course is that human activity has altered global processes to such an extent that our very existence may be threatened.  We will examine evidence in support of this statement and explore ways in which an understanding of human behavior and thought processes can be applied to programs aimed at global restoration and balance.


Course Objectives:

·  To explore the nature of our relationship with the environment (both natural and human-made) through a review of relevant research from the behavioral and social sciences.
·  To understand the complexity of destructive ecological trends and role of behavioral science in addressing these trends.

The work in this course facilitates the attainment of the Psychology Departments goals to: (1) demonstrate knowledge in the social and interpersonal processes area of psychological science, (2) demonstrate effective communication skills, effective interpersonal skills, increased self-understanding, and insight into the behavior of others, (3) apply your knowledge and skills in psychology to improve your own life and the lives of others.

The assignments in this course also help in the attainment of three basic HSU learning objectives: (1) effective communication through written and oral modes, (2) critical and creative thinking skills in acquiring a broad base of knowledge and applying it to complex issues, and (3) competence in a major area of study.

Course Procedure:

This is not a straight lecture course; rather it will be run as an online seminar focusing on discussion of the assigned reading.  Accompanying each reading assignment there will be a set of questions intended to provoke thought, stimulate discussion, and review key points.  Your weekly homework involves listening to the online lectures, completing the required reading, posting to the weekly discussion forum, and completing the quiz over the reading.


This course will require a fair amount of your time. As a rough guide, you can expect to spend 9 hours/week in work associated with this course (an application of the "2 for 1 rule").


30% -- Your homework in this course will consist of contributions to our discussion forum. This task is broken down into the following components. Late work will not be graded.

1.     Comments on the online lecture due Monday night.

2.     Comments on the reading assignment due Thursday night.

3.   Replies to three fellow students due Saturday night.

If you provide a solid response to the lecture and a reasonably long and detailed discussion of points in the reading (or reactions to the suggested "homework questions"), and if you posted at least 3 "replies" then you should see full credit each week. If you skip anything or provide a very brief submission on the reading assignment, then you get partial credit.


30% -- Short quizzes (multiple choice) will be given associated with each chapter assignment. These quizzes will be due on Saturday at midnight. There will be no make-up quizzes.


20% -- Term Paper: You must prepare a brief term paper on a topic related to psychology and the environment. Details will be provided on our course website.


20% -- A comprehensive Online Final Exam will be scheduled for Wednesday of finals week.


Extra Credit:
You can earn extra credit in this course by participating in one or two hours of research as a participant (subject).  To sign up for experiments, you need to first create an account in the participation pool system.  Instructions are available at  Extra credit in this course does not carry a specific point value but it will be considered if your end-of-semester calculated course grade places you at the lower side of the border between two course grades.

Course Grade Calculation: At the end of the semester you will have earned a letter grade for each type of assignment.
   Weekly forum homework posts. 10 pts each, 130 total. Grade based on percentage of total pts: A=93%, B=87%, C=80%, D=73%.
   Weekly quizzes. 12 pts each. Grade based on quiz average (rounded to integer): A=10-12, B=8-9, C=6-7, D=4-5.
   Term paper. Assigned a letter grade.
   Final Exam. 55 pts total. A=49-55, B=44-48, C=38-43, D=33-37.
Your assignment letter grades will be weighted as indicated above to get a weighted grade point. This will be converted to your course grade: A=3.3-4.0, B=2.3-3.2, C=1.4-2.2, D=1.0-1.3
Amount of extra credit will be considered for those at grade borders.
Plus and minus grades are applied for point totals just below or above a grade border on assignments and for weighted course GP just below or above a grade border.

Student Responsibilities:

You are expected to tackle this course in a constructive and mature manner.  Your instructor expects you to make your work in this course a high priority, keeping up with reading, and completing all assignments on time.  Quizzes and exams, in particular, must be taken when scheduled. There are no make-up exams in this course. Also, be sure to review the HSU policy on academic honesty.  You need to be aware of what constitutes cheating and plagiarism (e.g., is it OK to turn in essentially the same paper in two classes with similar assignments, or is it OK to make use of quizzes provided by your roommate from the same class last semester?).


Schedule of Topics and Reading Assignments:


(Note that initial homework submission is due at midnight Monday on the week it is assigned)

Wk #





Aug 22-27

Orientation & personal introductions



Aug 28-Sept 3

The problem: Psychology & the environment

Ch 1 (Scott text), Dragons of inaction (online article)


Sept 4-10

Nature & Western thought

Ch 2, Search for the lost arrow, Chief Seattle speech


Sept 11-17

An ecological worldview & a Freudian perspective

Ch 3, two articles addressing attachment & denial


Sept 18-24

Research methods & Iron Eyes Cody

Ch 4


Sept 25-Oct 1

Personal space, crowding, territoriality, & privacy

Four articles on the social environment


Oct 2-8

Behavioral technology & the environment

Ch 5, three awesome articles


Oct 9-15

Cognitive psychology & environmental risk assessment

Ch 6, readings on Darwinian ecology & home fires


Oct 16-22

Environmental beliefs, attitudes, & personality

Ch 7, article on eating


Oct 23-29

Environmental motivation

Ch 8, two articles on urban stress


Oct 30-Nov 5

Some personal reflections

Three thoughtful articles


Nov 6-12

Neuropsychology & environmental toxins

Ch 9, two related articles


Nov 13-19


Ch 10, biophilia article


Nov 27-Dec 3

A path to sustainability

Ch 11, submit shower data


Dec 4-10

Term papers



Dec 14

FINAL EXAM Comprehensive online final: Must be taken on Wednesday of finals week.



Please review the Campus Policies and Resources for all students:

Fall 2016 final exam schedule (list on all syllabi):

Additional tutorials, checklists, and other resources (CSU Accessible Technology Initiative site):