Behavior and the Natural Environment

Volume 6 of the series Human Behavior and Environment pp 5-37

The Concept of Nature

A Psychologist’s View
  • Joachim F. WohlwillAffiliated withCollege of Human Development, Pennsylvania State University

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For all the debate and philosophizing and frequently polemical argument concerning nature and its relationship to man,1 the concept of nature does not seem to have proved a very natural one for psychologists. As noted in the introduction to this volume, the individual’s response to the natural environment has not been at the forefront of problems chosen for psychological investigation—not even among environmental psychologists. A perusal of the index of Psychological Abstracts reveals that Nature serves as an indexing term only in its adjectival form, and then only in reference to two very limited topics: Natural Childbirth (i.e., a process unaided by external intervention) and Natural Disasters. The prominent place of the latter as a subject of behavioral science research (though better represented within geography than psychology) may hark back to the historical fear of nature as a dangerous and potentially evil force in the affairs of man. But it is apparent from any discussion of environmental problems and treatments of the relationship between human activity and the physical environment that nature is a much more salient concept, for the lay person and the scientist alike, than one would suppose from the classification schemes of psychologists or from the subject matter of their research.