Wednesday, February 10, 2010


During a moment of idle Googling at Starbucks, I stumbled upon an article by a researcher on the psychology of place. I emailed him and asked him to send me a pdf of the article, which appeared in a publication called The Journal of Environmental Psychology...which turned out to be a revalation. Not only was the article interesting, but it gave me the name for the discipline I've been looking for--environmental psychology--for people who study the sense of attachment and identity we get from place. Environmental Psychology. Aha!

Here, below, is a snippet of what I've been reading today, on yet another working afternoon at Starbucks...I'm especially intrigued by the notion that place-identity can change throughout your life--though of course this makes sense, too.

Aspects of identity linked to place can be described as "place-identity." The term has been in use since the late 1970s (Proshansky, 1978), and is here, as originally, typed with a hyphen. Place-identity has been described as the individual's incorporation of place into the larger concept of self (Proshansky, Fabian & Kaminoff, 1983), defined as a "potpourri of memories, conceptions, interpretations, ideas, and related feelings about specific physical settings, as well as types of settings" (1983, p. 60). Place attachment is considered a part of place-identity, but place-identity is more than attachment. Place-identity is a substructure of self-identity, much like gender and social class, and is comprised of perceptions and comprehensions regarding the environment. These perceptions and conceptions can be organized into two types of clusters; one type consists of memories, thoughts, values and settings, and the second type consists of the relationship among different settings (home, school, and neighborhood; Proshansky & Fabian, 1987).

Identity develops as children learn to differentiate themselves from people around them, and in the same way, place-identity develops as a child learns to see her or himself as distinct from, but related to, the physical environment. Among the first identity determinants are those rooted in the child's experience with toys, clothes and rooms. The home is the environment of primary importance, followed by the neighborhood and the school. Here, social and environmental skills and relationships are learned, and the "lenses" are formed through which the child later will recognize, evaluate and create places. Place-identity changes occur throughout a person's lifetime (Proshansky & Fabian, 1987). Five central functions of place-identity have been depicted; recognition, meaning, expressive-requirement, mediating change, and anxiety and defense function. Place-identity becomes a cognitive "database" against which every physical setting is experienced (Proshansky et al., 1983).

No comments: