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PSYCHOLOGY AND LIFE
In the previous two chapters, you read about some topics related to social behaviour and groups. We will now reflect on a set of social concerns with a wider scope, which are linked to each other and involve psychological aspects. These issues have to be understood and resolved at the level of the community rather than the individual. It is now known that besides affecting our physical health, the environment also influences our psychological processes and behaviour. Human beings also influence the environment through their behaviour, and some of these effects are demonstrated in stress-producing environmental conditions, such as noise, pollution and crowding.
At the same time, environmental stressors such as natural disasters are not under human control. Many damaging environmental effects can be reduced with the help of environment-friendly behaviour and a state of preparedness. You will read about the causes and consequences of some social problems such as aggression and violence, health, and poverty and discrimination. You will also get a glimpse of how poverty and deprivation can make people victims of discrimination and social exclusion. An environment of poverty and deprivation has far-reaching implications for developing human potential, social harmony and mental health. Some ways of reducing poverty are also described.
In addition, psychological aspects of health, and the impact of television viewing on violence as well as other forms of behaviour are explained. This chapter will show you how psychological understanding can be applied practically to aspects such as pro-environmental behaviour, the reduction of violence and discrimination, and promotion of positive health attitudes.
Take a moment and try to answer these questions : Can a tree be your ‘best friend’? When it gets hot, or when it is crowded, do people become more aggressive? If rivers are said to be holy, why do people make them dirty? How can one remedy the traumatic effects of a natural disaster such as an earthquake or tsunami, or of a manmade disaster such as a poisonous gas leak in a factory? Compare two children who grow up in different physical environments, one in an environment filled with colourful toys, pictures and books, and the other in an environment that contains only the bare necessities of life. Will the two children develop the same kind of cognitive skills? People might give different answers to these questions.
A common idea that comes out of these questions is that the relationship between human behaviour and the environment plays a special role in our lives. These days, there is a growing awareness that environmental problems such as noise, air, water and soil pollution, and unsatisfactory ways of garbage disposal have damaging effects on physical health. Less known is the fact that these forms of pollution, along with many other hidden factors in the environment, influence psychological health and functioning as well. A branch of psychology called environmental psychology deals with various psychological issues pertaining to the human-environment interaction in a very broad sense of the term.
ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS ON HUMAN BEHAVIOUR
The human-environment relationship can be appreciated fully by understanding that the two influence each other, and depend on each other for their survival and maintenance. When we focus our attention on the effects of the natural environment on human beings, we find a variety of environmental influences, ranging from physical effects such as a change of clothing in response to climate changes to severe psychological effects such as serious depression after a natural disaster. Some of the effects pointed out by psychologists are described below.
• Environmental influences on perception : Some aspects of the environment influence humanperception. For example, as you have studied in Class XI, a tribal society of Africa lives in circular huts, that is, in houses without angular walls. They show less error in a geometric illusion (the Muller-Lyer illusion) than people from cities, who live in houses with angular walls.
• Environmental influences on emotions : The environment affects our emotional reactions as well. Watching nature in any form, whether it is a quietly flowing river, a smiling flower, or a tranquil mountain top, provides a kind of joy that cannot be matched by any other experience. Natural disasters, such as floods, droughts, landslides, quakes on the earth or under the ocean, can affect people’s emotions to such an extent that they experience deep depression and sorrow, a sense of complete helplessness and lack of control over their lives.
1. What do you understand by the term ‘environment’? Explain the different perspectives to understand the human-environment relationship.
2. “Human beings affect and are affected by the environment”. Explain this statement with the help of examples.
3. What is noise? Discuss the effects of noise on human behaviour.
4. What are the salient features of crowding? Explain the major psychological consequences of crowding.
5. Why is the concept of ‘personal space’ important for human beings? Justify your answer with the help of an example.
6. What do you understand by the term ‘disaster’? List the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. How can it be remedied?
7. What is pro-environmental behaviour? How can the environment be protected from pollution? Suggest some strategies.
8. How is ‘poverty’ related to ‘discrimination’? Explain the major psychological effects of poverty and deprivation.
9. Distinguish between ‘instrumental aggression’ and ‘hostile aggression’. Suggest some strategies to reduce aggression and violence.
10. Discuss the psychological impact of television viewing on human behaviour. How can its adverse consequences be reduced? Explain.
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