Places Change Minds: Using Psychological Methods to Understand the Urbanicity Effect

Mansfield, R
(2016) Places Change Minds: Using Psychological Methods to Understand the Urbanicity Effect. Master of Philosophy thesis, University of Liverpool.

[img] Text
200781768_Dec2016.pdf - Unspecified

Download (2MB)


This thesis used diverse scientific methods to better understand the psychology that underpins the urbanicity effect, the increased prevalence of mental distress in cities. Methods explored the extent to which psychological processes known to underpin mental distress can be influenced by the interaction between physical, social and economic characteristics of urban environments and their perceived quality. Furthermore, methods aimed to capture urbanicity effects across the mental health continuum and across different life stages. Study 1 compared psychological responses of undergraduate students (N = 317) after being exposed to either urban (N = 162) or rural (N = 155) residential neighbourhood images. Alternatively, study 2 compared psychological responses of undergraduate students (N = 298) after being exposed to residential neighbourhood images selected to be the most (N = 141) and least (N = 157) desirable in a pilot study. Studies in chapter 2 found that brief contemplation of residential neighbourhood images led to participants feeling significantly less in control of their lives, anticipating more threat and considering the future less. There was no significant difference between contemplation of urban and rural residential images on changes to psychological processes, however, the least desirable neighbourhood images showed augmented effects with participants anticipating significantly more threat after controlling for gender and baseline mental distress. The study presented in chapter 3 used experience sampling 3 walking methodology to explore student participants’ (N = 47) responses to two distinct neighbourhoods and a park in Liverpool. Participants reported significantly higher levels of negative affect and anticipated threat, significantly lower levels of trust, and perceived residents as significantly less in control and less community spirited in the deprived neighbourhood. Participants were significantly more generous when making cooperative decisions, and self-reported significantly higher socio-economic status after exposure to the contrasting areas. Despite general trust and negative affect biases for participants high on measures of depression, anxiety and paranoia, there was no significant interaction between mental distress at baseline and the variability of responses across the walk. Research in chapter 4 was informed by participatory urban design processes and used qualitative methodology to provide new accounts of urban living across different life stages. The study aimed to reveal adverse physical and social characteristics of urban living, and identify assets to inform positive future thinking about urban place making. Focussed discussions with a group of mental health service users (N = 4) revealed themes around attachment to place, stigma, passivity and a loss of togetherness and trust in the respondent’s urban neighbourhoods, and a desire for natural surveillance and nurture in future neighbourhood designs. The methodology was evaluated using responses and was used to develop improved future participatory methods.

Item Type: Thesis (Master of Philosophy)
Divisions: Faculty of Health and Life Sciences > Faculty of Health and Life Sciences
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 23 Aug 2017 06:37
Last Modified: 19 Jan 2023 07:19
DOI: 10.17638/03005888
  • Corcoran, R
  • Bristow, K
  • Bentall, R