I define environmental psychology as how people relate to and define spaces and places, and how spaces and places relate to and define people. I take as my starting point Lefebvre’s argument that “[social] space is [socially] produced.” We produce space / space produces us; this falls under an interactionist approach to human-environment relations whereby what is of interest to the researcher is the interaction between humans and environments. The field was founded in 1968 with the first program at The Graduate Center, City University of New York.
Geography is the study of spaces, places, and the people, groups, cultures, societies, systems, institutions, and political economies within them. Since Eratosthenes defined the discipline some time around 200 BCE, geography has historically been divided–primarily by Anglo-Westerners–into four interrelated trends: maps and what they are about, characterizing a place, tracing the interaction between humans and the environment, and the study of natural processes regarding physical objects (Pattison 1964). As a geographer, I consider myself a
- human geographer – studying human-environment interactions
- feminist geographer – studying the spaces of women, issues of gender and space, and using feminist theories and methodologies to create more encompassing ideas of scale, power, and authority
- queer geographer – studying the spaces/lives of queers & using queer theory to upend harmful spatial binaries
- economic geographer – studying the connections and breakdowns between economies and spaces and the mutual production of each
- cartographer – studying and producing maps
That’s all well and good but still you wonder: what’s the difference between environmental psychology and geography? The former does its best to consider humans and their environments with equal interest, while the latter makes space primary in its study. I tend to move between the two frameworks because I see a great importance in placing people and/or the spaces first according to demands of the research, but I identify foremost as a geographer.