Psychology Professor Ann Sloan Devlin took the classic "when in Rome…" proverb quite literally when she led a group of Connecticut College students on a semester-long study abroad program in Rome in the spring of 2009. Her experience gave her a new perspective on the way Americans live and provided a lens through which to view the material in the final chapters of her new book, "Americans Build and Why: Psychological Perspectives." "Spending a semester in Rome gave me an important lens to view the American landscape," Devlin said. "I was without a car and used either public transportation or my own two feet to get wherever I needed to go. When I returned to the U.S., I had a sharpened view of the need to embrace alternatives to the car."
Devlin, the May Buckley Sadowski ´19 Professor of Psychology and psychology department chair at Connecticut College, specializes in environmental psychology, particularly in the creation of more humanistic environments in healthcare settings. She also specializes in way-finding, the study of the manner in which environments (through their design and layout) and people (through their creation of maps and other tools) provide cues to help people navigate from an origin to a destination.
In "What Americans Build and Why," she examines the places Americans live their lives - and the disconnect between Americans saying they crave community while they continue to build large structures, such as "McMansions," that keep them isolated."I wanted to explore the research evidence on what we know about Americans´ reactions to their built environment and chose to focus on five different parts of our lives - housing, healthcare, education, work and retail - as reflected in the structures we have built for these different functions," Devlin said.
In the fall, Devlin plans to introduce environmental psychology students to her research, which is already garnering praise from professionals across the nation. "This book combines personal experience with current research and tells us not only who we are, but what we have to do to achieve a more satisfying relationship with our buildings and communities," Robert Sommer, Distinguished Professor of Psychology Emeritus of University of California, Davis, said in a review of the book. By Kelly Parlin ´12