The existential approach to place: Consequences for emotional experience

Isaac F. Young, Daniel Sullivan, Sheridan Stewart, Roman Palitsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Few theories and little empirical work has examined specific relationships between kinds of environmental experience and emotional tendencies. We present an existential approach to place that integrates the theories of phenomenological geographers – Edward Relph (1976) and David Seamon (1979) – with those of holistic psychologists – Otto Rank (1945) and Andras Angyal (1965). This synthesis suggests that: (1) people vary in their dispositional sense of person-environment mergence (PEM) with, versus ruminative separation (RS) from, their daily locations; and (2) PEM should be associated with greater guilt proneness, while RS should be associated with greater anxiety proneness. We test this account by developing measures of PEM and RS using factor analytic and scale validation approaches (Study 1); by showing predictive relationships between our measures and extant measures of guilt and anxiety proneness (Study 2); and by experimentally manipulating person-environment mergence versus separation to produce causal effects on emotional experience (Study 3).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)100-109
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Environmental Psychology
StatePublished - Dec 2018


  • Emotion
  • Existential psychology
  • Person-environment mergence
  • Place attachment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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