Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Effects of Population Density and Noise

The Effects of Population Density and Noise
     There are a variety of factors that affect an individual. Among these factors are population density and noise. When an individual’s territory, privacy, and personal space is infringed upon, the individual can feel various effects. These effects can range from annoyance to anxiety and anxiety disorders. As population density increases making territory, privacy, and personal space infringed upon, provisions should be made to avoid the effects of crowding causing anxiety and other problems.

Territoriality, Privacy, and Personal Space
     Territoriality is used to describe the link between the environment and behavior of an individual (Edney, 1974). Territoriality is also used to describe the set of behaviors an individual has in response to the physical environment. These behaviors are used exclusively by the individual. Human territoriality is related to the territoriality seen in animals. However, human territoriality is usually not about survival like human territoriality. Humans are known to be territorial over spaces owned or using. When a human feels their space is being infringed, they become protective over such spaces.
     According to Altman (1977), privacy is “the selective control of access to the self, involving dialectic, optimization, and multimodal processes” (p. 67). Privacy does not only refer to an individual alone, but also to the individual’s interactions with others. Privacy is the process where an individual can sometimes make themselves available or unavailable to others (Altman, 1977). Privacy is different for each individual and situation.
     Personal space is the distance an individual chooses to keep between themselves and others. Personal space and territoriality are both used by individuals to maintain privacy. Sommer (1969) defined personal space as “an area with invisible boundaries surrounding a person’s body into which intruders may not come” (p. 26). Personal space is also different for each individual and situation.

  Territoriality, Privacy, and Personal Space as Population Density Increases
     In a study by John Calhoun, rats were used to demonstrate living conditions and population density (Straub, 2007). This study showed that the rats behaved normally while they had sufficient space. As the population increased and space decreased, the social behavior of the rats also decreased. The rats became more territorial and defending the space they considered personal. These studies may not demonstrate a human reaction; however, the studies show that population density does affect populations.
     An effect of population density is crowding. Crowding affects individuals on making them feel confined which leads to reactions of aggression, withdrawal, and inappropriate social interactions. Privacy, personal space, and territoriality should be honored in an effort to decrease crowding. Therefore, these three should be respected as a basic need. Individuals who feel they have lost control of privacy and personal space react negatively. In order for an individual to perceive their space as adequate, a space should be designed to appear bigger than it is (Straub, 2007). This, in turn, will reduce the perception of crowding.     

The Effect of Nature on Individuals in Urban Environments
     Zoos, parks, and other green areas can help individuals have interaction with nature. These interactions aid individuals in obtaining environmental identity that lacks in urban environments. Previous theories stated that natural environments affected the health of individuals. More modern research upholds these theories. A Japanese study reported that green spaces close to residences resulted in lower mortality rates (Clayton & Myers, 2009). Residents of greener environments also had less violence, closer relationships, and more positive social reactions. 

 Noise and its Effects on Individuals
     Health psychologists have conducted studies to learn the relationship between noise and individuals. Stress is a serious condition caused by increased blood levels and cortisol levels (Straub, 2007). Therefore, chronic exposure to noise can lead to cardiovascular disease. Children exposed to noise may not learn as they should. Straub (2007) has also concluded that loud noise affects short – term memory and the ability to perform tasks. The more disturbing the noise, the more it will affect the individual. Noise also affects sleep and may cause anxiety; thus affecting the health of an individual. An individual may be more stressed over a noise they do not have control over. 

 Noise Reduction Strategies
     Two noise reduction strategies are using fabric as a reducer and masking noises. Fabric over windows and as wall d├ęcor can help eliminate noise entering from the outside. Stuffed furnishings may also help with this elimination. Insulation within the walls serves as a noise buffer. Covering windows with fabric closely simulates the insulation, by trapping sounds. Carpeting also serves as a noise reducer and is better than hard floors.
     Masking noise with other sounds can also help reduce noise. There are machines that can be purchased to mask sounds. Other simple items such as a fan can also help reduce sounds. This masking is called white noise. While this method does not eliminate the noise, it lowers an individual’s awareness of them.

      Territoriality, privacy, and personal space are personal choices and vary between individuals. The effects on an individual also vary. Studies show that limited space does negatively affect individuals. In urban environments, these effects can be aggression, violence, and poor interactions. Noise can be a simple annoyance or can cause severe health problems. In an effort to reduce the effects of noise, noise reduction strategies are used. Population density and noise affect individuals although differently.


Altman, I. (1977). Privacy regulation: culturally universal or culturally specific? Journal of Social Issues, 33(3), 66-84.

Clayton, S., & Myers, G. (2009). Conservation psychology. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell.

Edney, J. J. (1974). Human territoriality. Psychological Bulletin, 81(12), 959-975. doi:

Sommer, R. (1969). Personal space; the behavioral basis of design. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Straub, R. O. (2007). Health psychology (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Worth

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