The Integration of Psychology-driven Constructs Within the Environment-behaviour Urban Paradigm, A Different Perspective


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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Awarding Institution
Award date10 Sep 2021


The unprecedented growth of populations living in urban areas predicted by the United Nations is heavily urging more integration of health-related outcomes into global urban agendas. Understanding how urban environments can potentially benefit psychological health and wellbeing constitutes a fundamental step in need of deeper exploration when facing the complexity of hyper-dense urban settings. Environment-behaviour relationships have been addressed for decades in an attempt to establish good foundations for further research, already stretching the frontiers of the disciplines involved.

At the moment of this research development, the World Health Organization officially declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. The repercussions of this global emergency are mining, among others, the psychological stability of urban populations, and the scars this scenario is leaving on the way we perceive any urban experience appear to be long lasting, if not permanent, stressing the urge to furtherly break disciplines’ boundaries to improve psychological health and wellbeing. In fact, the pandemic magnified the effects of psychological distress on urban dynamics, however inspiring this research premises: determinants of behaviour rooted in psychology-driven constructs majorly affect intentions and actions towards and within urban environments.

This dissertation aimed at exploring new frontiers towards a deeper integration of behavioural sciences and health psychology within the field of urban studies to enrich the current vision of the duality-based Man-Environment relationship, targeting hyper dense urban streets in Hong Kong as potential third places of density capable of supporting psychological restoration. Following a twofold direction, specific determinants of behaviour were examined at first through a theoretical analysis to understand the connectivity between perception, intention, and action directly connected to spatial settings, urban activities’ operationalisation, and conceptions of places, attempting to set the foundation for a more comprehensive interdisciplinary approach. Thereafter, transitions of perceptions and active uses of selected urban streets in Hong Kong were explored and observed through spatial variation patterns analysis under pandemic induced psychological distress as a major influent on determinants of behaviour.

The outcomes of the data observation positively supported this research premises and concurrently set the foundation of an Inferential Interaction Dynamics Framework. The framework components integrate into the Environment-Behaviour urban paradigm determinants of behaviour rooted in psychology-driven constructs, contemporary proposing a variant operationalisation for urban activities typologies and modes based on cognitive and affective factors.

The new perspective this research is setting foresees the foundation for future interdisciplinary research directions towards the understanding of complex hyper dense urban streets settings. Additionally, the development of the proposed framework expects to significantly enrich the Environment-Behaviour urban paradigm beyond context-based approaches, impacting on future urban agendas in terms of research and design solutions in response to psychological dimensions and determinants of behaviour, potentially minimising on another side the impact of psychological distress.