Envionmental Psychology

Shape Your Environment for Happiness!


6. Place Identity

Do you connect to your community?

Do you dance in your local park?

"Exploring place meaning by primarily examining experiences of the residence or rootedness in a community leads us to assume that those who do not have strong, positive affective bonds with their residence are placeless."    -Study at The University of New South Wales

Place, Identity and Difference - GEOH3621
School: Built Environment Geography
Course Description
Issues of place, identity, territory and representation. Case studies cover a range of axes of difference including religion, place, gender, sexuality, nationalism and popular culture. Key theories of identity. Creative and official representations of places and of peoples. The deployment and representation of cultural difference.

Creating Place Identity: It's Part of Human Nature

By Jeanette Joy Fisher

For years, environmental and social psychologists have been studying a concept known as place identity. The concept deals with the interaction between the question of who we are and where we are, and how our local environment, including geographical location, ethnic traditions, family heritage, and educational background influence our lives.

As human beings, we all have a desire to feel as if we belong to a social and cultural community. We long for a feeling of attachment, of being rooted in a particular place, and of feeling as if we have ownership of something significant in our lives. In order to achieve those feelings, our psyche connects to certain places, thereby increasing our sense of self-esteem and happiness, creating a sense of belonging that can best be termed as feeling at home.

That's one reason why the first thing most folks do when they buy a new home is make a significant change, such as painting one or more rooms or changing the color of the carpet. As humans, we feel an instinctive need to personalize the places we live...a place identity.

Of course, the need to personalize a new space isn't reserved for home buyers. Apartment dwellers also get a sense of fulfillment as they begin to fill an empty space with their belongings. They're more limited in what they can do, but they still take pride in turning a new apartment their own space. The only difference is the amount of personalization a homeowner can do.

Creating a place identity allows us to feel as if we have more control over our lives. There are many things in life that are beyond our control, but creating our immediate personal living environment is one thing we can do to feel more empowered and safe.

Although Americans move more than folks in other countries, if you're thinking about moving, examine your reasons. Are you moving just to "move up," leaving friends, family, and neighbors you may have known for a long time? If you love your current home but need more space, consider adding on. It's generally much cheaper, and your cherished sense of place will remain in tact.

If you still want to move, look for a community that you could call home for a long time, possibly forever. Drive around the area, looking for a neighborhood that speaks to something inside. It can be difficult to quantify, but you'll know it when you feel it. Something will just whisper "home" to you.

Then seek out community-building activities, such as concerts in the park. They can be wonderful ways to connect with people in your area and further strengthen your sense of place. There's also something about learning your way around town that gives you an increased sense of power and security.

No matter where you are now or where you'll be in the future, one thing is certain. You'll instinctively work to create a place identity that speaks to you. You'll always feel the need to add your own personal touches to make it feel more like home...that's what being human is all about.

For more about Place Identity, read the free report The Power of Home.

Copyright 2006 Jeanette J. Fisher

7. Architectural Psychology 

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