Review by Craig A. Anderson (This review appeared in "Contemporary Psychology," 1995, Vol. 40, No. 8, pp. 781-782)
Francis T. McAndrew is associate professor and chair of the Department of Psychology and director of the Environmental Studies Program at Knox College (Galesburg, Illinois). Craig A. Anderson, professor of psychology and director of graduate studies at the University of Missouri-Columbia, is past president of the Society of Southwestern Social Psychologists (1986-1987). Anderson is coauthor, with K. L. Anderson, of the chapter "Theoretical and Empirical Advances in the Effects of Temperature on Aggression" in the forthcoming R. Geen and E. Donnerstein (Eds.) Human Aggression, and, with W E. Deuser, of the chapter, The Primacy of Control in Causal Thinking and Attributional Style: An Attributional Functionalism Perspective" in G. Weary, F. Gleicher, and K. Marsh (Eds.) Control, Motivation, and Social Cognition.This textbook on environmental psychology is very good. Anyone searching for a text on this topic to use in their undergraduate class can stop looking now. The book is eminently readable, interesting, and empirically based. It does not require extensive background in psychology. Indeed, bright students with any social science courses behind them should have no difficulty with the material in this text, even if they have no background in psychology.
The book has three major strengths. First, the writing itself is clear, direct, and linear. Each chapter leads readers from Point A to Point B to Point C without major surprises, digressions, or discontinuities. There is little need for the reader to backtrack to earlier sections to understand the links to later sections. Second, the author has taken an interestingly broad perspective on what to include as a part of environmental psychology. Although this prevents in-depth discussion of any particular topic, it also results in a good overview of many topics sure to intrigue a broad array of students with different perspectives. Third, the book is not filled with fluff. There are interesting "Try It!" inserts throughout the book, designed to increase student involvement with the material. But, like the writing style in general, these inserts are simple and direct exercises that clearly illustrate some of the key conceptual and empirical points discussed in the main body of the text. There is not the overabundance of cutesy cartoons and titillating case histories of dubious relevance that has become (from my idiosyncratic perspective) standard in most undergraduate psychology textbooks. The various illustrations, diagrams, photographs, tables, and cartoons all helpfully elucidate and educate. In short, this book confirms the view that a simple, factually based textbook can be interesting and fun to read without a gaudy sideshow. Yes, even the "video generation" will enjoy this book. More important, they will enjoy it for the right reason, namely, for the ideas and intellectual content.
The 12 chapters of the book are written so that different orders of chapters can be used without undue comprehension difficulties. However, as the author points out, there is a structure to the presented order of material. The first chapter nicely introduces the domain of environmental psychology. It does so while simultaneously giving a brief history of the field and while giving an overview of the range of research methodologies used by environmental psychologists. Chapters 2, 3, and 4 discuss how environmental stimuli get from the sensory systems to more central processing systems, how they influence cognitive and affective processes, and how environmental inputs that are extreme, intense, or unusual create stresses with which people must deal. There certainly is value in presenting these chapters first, because they lay the conceptual foundation for many later topics. For instance, the concept of humans as active organisms coping with the demands of their social and physical environment makes later chapters (e.g., on spatial behaviors, crowding, and so on) more understandable.
The next set of chapters deals with the issues of personal space (Chapter 5), territoriality (Chapter 6), and crowding (Chapter 7). These chapters present the main theories and empirical phenomena from a wide range of studies, including some animal studies. The author also clearly explains the dubious relevance of most animal work on these topics but also notes that an understanding of human behavior is likely to be aided by an understanding of evolutionary forces on human development. The practical relevance of human spatial behaviors is illustrated throughout. For instance, burglary patterns are clearly related to certain kinds of territorial markings.
Chapters 8, 9, and 10 focus on the built environments in which people work, learn, and live. Research on how various architectural and structural features influence a wide array of human behaviors is presented in each chapter. Their effects on job performance and job satisfaction, socialization patterns, and learning efficiency, for instance, is described.
The final two chapters focus on how people are affected by the natural environment (Chapter 11) and on how people influence (i.e., damage) the natural environment (Chapter 12). Behavioral solutions to human-caused environmental problems are explored, as are the longterm consequences of continuing to ignore these problems.
One additional feature of almost all chapters deserves special attention. The author discusses the importance of various kinds of subject variables as moderators of many important environmental effects. For example, there appear to be gender, race, age, and culture differences in the effects of various natural environment features on reactions to the natural environment. As another example, there are individual differences in sensitivity to noise distractions. These subject variable differences are becoming increasingly recognized as important factors in many areas of psychology, including social, cognitive, industrial-organizational, and now environmental. Including discussions of such differences throughout the book should improve students' appreciation of such differences between people.
Two other features of this textbook warrant additional attention. First, the chapter summaries, at the end of each chapter, are really quite good. Students would be wise to read the chapter summary before reading the chapter, old advice but still helpful. Second, there is a glossary of key terms at the end of each chapter. This too may be usefully exploited by students. However, there is no composite glossary at the end of the book. Most of the key terms in the chapter glossaries are in the Subject Index, and that index does include the glossary page numbers. However, some of the key terms are not in the Subject Index. Thus, finding a particular key term may be somewhat difficult.
Whenever academicians review textbooks, there is a tendency to search for omissions of "clearly relevant" material. As the preceding paragraphs reveal, I think this is an excellent undergraduate textbook, if I had to come up with an area that could use more exposure (perhaps in a future edition, or in outside readings for students), it would be in the area of human factors. There is an abundance of work on human-machine interfaces, mostly concerned with performance outcomes, which is relevant to issues of concern to environmental psychologists. In addition, human factors researchers are also investigating variables that have been of interest to social and environmental psychologists as well, such as the structure of airline pilot crews and decision making during a crisis, or the fit between nuclear power workers' training and background variables and the built environment in control rooms.
Finally, it is important to note that, although this review emphasizes the relevance of this book to teaching undergraduate classes, the book could also be used in graduate classes. However, at this more advanced level, this textbook could be used only as a general introduction to the field. For instance, if one were teaching a graduate course in environmental psychology aimedat psychology graduate students not specializing in environmental psychology, this text could be assigned along with a relatively large number of original articles. In summary, Professor McAndrew has written a very good book.