Understanding environmental psychology helps students with productivity


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Some people like studying at coffee shops. Nowadays, there is even websites that help replicate the sound of a coffee shop at home.

Sven Kline, Contributor

For students, cramming for final that’s less than a week away or trying to submit a difficult assignment by 11:59 p.mcan be frustratingbut environmental psychology has the answer to productively get all those things done. 

Before you take those painkillers, down that Monster energy drink and pop in those headphones to endure your psyche being torn asunder by deadlines, stop and look at your surroundings. Are you at home in bed?  Sitting at the dining room table?  Or are you at a coffee shop?  The reason you might struggle to concentrate on your work could be as easy as the environment you choose to work in.   

The term to reference why environment affects people and their work output is known as “environmental psychology,” a small field of psychology seeking to understand how and why our environment impacts us, how we can leverage that knowledge to our advantage, and what we can do to improve our relationship with the world around us” according to Courtney Ackerman of PositivePsychology.com. 

However, every person works differently and has their own unique preferences when it comes to the best place to study.  That niche environment where a person feels comfortable working in is known as the “ideal environment,” varying from place to place from person to person.  

Some work better surrounded by the aroma of fresh brewing coffee while others do their best sitting on their favorite sofa at home dressed in comfortable pajamas. Every person naturally associates different environments with productivity.   

“My preferred work environment is anywhere relatively quiet with a big table that I can sprawl my work out on,” said David Simpson, 24-year-old geological sciences major.  “I have two dedicated workspaces; one at school and one at home. My motivation to work in those spaces is constantly changing, but when I’m not getting anything done at one workspace, I’ll roll into the other and it will help keep me refreshed by changing scenery.”   

A new concept that has grown in popularity in recent years is the notion of not working while in bed, as it leads to a lack of productivity due to associating their bed with sleep and resting.  

“Because you’ve trained your body to associate your bed as a place to study or get homework done. Once you lay in bed to call it a night, your mind will continue to think,” according to an article by the American College of Healthcare SciencesStudying in bed earlier in the day can actually rob you of rest.”  

Like how everyone associates a bed with sleepit’s almost the same thing associating the smell or taste of freshbrewed coffee with productivity and concentration. Those are both examples of environmental psychology.   

“Sound in a space affects us profoundly. It changes our heart rate, breathing, hormone secretion, brain waves, it affects our emotions and our cognition,” said author and sound consultant Julian Treasure in an article titled “How the 5 senses help inspire workplace productivity.”   

Arabella Lino, 24-year-old graduate student and biology teacher at Austin High Schoolprefers a work setting that is not too quiet.   

“Somewhere lively, with lots of people, but not so loud that I can’t concentrate, like the library or Hillside Coffee & Donut. I’m there for the purpose of studying whereas at home I can get distracted by a million different tasks or chores. At a coffee shop, I can enjoy a nice coffee to help make studying more enjoyable. Being in public forces me to work.”  

Sound and sight are perhaps the most immediate senses anyone can think of when trying to obtain the ideal environment, but just as important is taste. 

“The smell of coffee and also drinking it can be really comforting which helps stressful work seem not as bad,” Lino said.  

Aside from relieving stress, taste can also be used as a helpful little tool when prepping for tests.  In an article by Psychologist World, gum can help recall memory for tests as found by researchers at the University of Northumbria in Newcastle, England.   

Seventy five participants in the study were asked to take part in a 20-minute memory test in which; one third of participants chewed gum; one third carried out the motions of chewing gum, without any actual gum; and one-third control group did not chew gum,” the article said.  Researchers found that recall was improved by 35% among participants who chewed gum, most significantly in delayed word recall tests; perhaps indicating possible benefits for students revising for, and taking exams, chewing gum.”  

Sven Kline may be reached at prospector@utep.edu