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TERRY HARTIG
 
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Terry Hartig

Professor of Environmental Psychology

Institute for Housing and Urban Research and Department of Psychology

Research and Teaching

Most of my research concerns those places in which we can recover from ordinary psychological wear-and-tear. Whether an ability to focus attention or simply the energy we need to perform some task, some of the personal resources that we regularly depend on weaken or diminish in our efforts to meet the demands of everyday life. If we cannot periodically restore those resources, then we risk some negative consequences - not feeling well, performing poorly in our work, strained relations with family and friends, perhaps even a serious illness. For this reason, it becomes important to understand how we can restore rapidly and completely. Part of that work involves looking at the places available to people for restoration. While we may know intuitively that some places better serve our own restoration than do others, we have surprisingly few well-structured empirical studies on those qualities of environments that promote, and not merely permit, restoration for people in general.

The places on which I focus in my research are those which most people care about deeply and turn to frequently - home, neighborhood, and natural settings such as forests. For example, in field experiments I have compared the emotional, cognitive, and physiological changes measured in young adults who walked in either a nature preserve or some urban setting after they faced a standard set of demands. With such studies I test current theories about how environments may promote or constrain restoration. In other work I contribute to theory development in different ways, situating brief restorative experiences in the on-going flow of activity over the days, weeks and years, and relating the use of natural environments for restoration to the performance of behavior that in turn serves to protect the natural environment. The fundamental intent in all of these efforts is to inform environmental and policy measures that promote health. In much of this work I have over the years had the privilege and pleasure of collaborating with thoughtful, dedicated scholars from leading universities and research institutes throughout Europe and North America.

My teaching meshes closely with my research. For example, each academic term I give a course on ""People and Environments" to students in a 5-year Master of Science program that prepares them for certification as counselling psychologists. Referring to both classic and current research, I build my lectures around the notion that people cycle through processes of psychological stress and restoration as they move among the settings of everyday life. In doing so, I also show how our experiences of specific settings, like the workplace, carryover into other settings, such as the home, and so how the settings of everyday life stand in relation to one another. A basic practical point that I make in this class is that applied psychology goes far beyond counselling measures applied in one-on-one therapeutic encounters; psychology can help people to maintain mental and physical health by guiding changes in the environment to reduce demands and promote restoration possibilities.

 
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