Psychology professor to take part in APA panel

College of Wooster Professor of Psychology Sarah Clayton was one of 10 people selected to work on an American Psychological Association (APA) Task Force on the Interface Between Psychology and Global Climate Change.

While it is not news that the environment has psychological impacts on people and vice versa, it has not been a topic that most people try to respond actively to. This task force is groundbreaking in that they are actually focusing all energies on the subject matter and coming up with solutions to related problems.

Clayton explained that task forces are created on an as-needed basis and work for one year, but with long-term goals. Her task force is comprised of people from all across the United States, as well as Canada and Australia. She was able to work out of Wooster because the project was conducted electronically. She explains that their primary tasks were to spread information and “organize interest groups within the society” as well as communicate their information to the outside world, such as the APA and journalists.

Clayton was chosen because of her interest and expertise regarding interactions between psychology and nature and the effects these things have on each other. Clayton says, “I am interested in the way ordinary people encounter nature in their daily lives, e.g. in parks, gardens and zoos.” For example, she has done studies of people at zoos and gardens that showed these places “promote positive mood, social interaction and relaxation.”

Within the task force, Clayton says they will try to cover the relationships between psychological factors and climate change on a fairly broad scale, with subgroups focusing on different points. “For example, one group might look at ways to encourage behavior change, another group might look at psychological impacts of global warming,” she said.

Clayton also promotes awareness of the psychology-and-nature interactions on campus. She has taught a conservation course with Professor of Biology Lyn Loveless, and worked with Loveless and the Philosophy department to put together a series of lectures on “Environmental Action and Analysis.” She has also collaborated with “many faculty members, but particularly with [Assistant Professor of Biology] Rick Lehtinen, [Assistant Professor of Chemistry] Melissa Shultz, [Professors of Geology] Greg Wiles and Mark Wilson, to develop and establish the Environmental Studies program.”