Psychological benefits of place attachment

This mixed-methods environmental psychology PhD project examines why place attachment leads to psychological benefits, including cognitive and affective restoration; how this relationship occurs over time; and whether it can be experimentally manipulated through reflection on memories of place.

Start date
1 July 2021
3 years
Application deadline
Funding source
The University of Surrey, Project-led Studentship Award
Funding information
  • Full UK/EU tuition fee covered
  • Stipend at £15,285 p.a. (2021/22)
  • RTSG of £1,000 p.a.
  • Personal Computer (provided by the department).


Access to positive natural and built environments can significantly improve wellbeing, and is especially related to psychological restoration from stress and fatigue. Attachment to personally important or favourite places is also related to wellbeing, but research that links this topic with psychological restoration is limited. This PhD project extends these findings through a mixed-methods set of three studies, in order to better understand why place attachment may be linked to psychological benefits, including mood and psychological restoration; how this relationship occurs over time in the context of population-level data on wellbeing; and whether this relationship can be experimentally manipulated through reflection on memories of place during psychological restoration.

Study 1 qualitatively explores the nature of the wellbeing-attachment relationship by studying types of wellbeing outcomes achieved in local favourite places; any communalities in the characteristics of these places; and potential mechanisms such as place identity, memory, and self-continuity. Study 2 involves analysis of secondary data on self-reported neighbourhood belonging and health/wellbeing, drawn from the UK Household Longitudinal Study. Study 3 experimentally examines effects of place attachment on psychological restoration from stress.

The student will be supervised by two staff members from Surrey’s Environmental Psychology Research Group (EPRG):

First supervisor: Dr. Eleanor Ratcliffe is a Lecturer in Environmental Psychology at University of Surrey. She is an expert in restorative environments research, and particularly in intersections between restorative environments and place attachment/identity.

Second supervisor: Dr. Birgitta Gatersleben is a Reader in Environmental Psychology at University of Surrey. Her work focuses on understanding the health benefits of engagement with natural environments.

The project involves collaboration with academic partners at Tampere University, Finland, and Zurich University of Applied Sciences, Switzerland.

Related links
Environmental Psychology research group
Additional notes

For reading around the topic, please consult the following key references:

Korpela, K., Korhonen, M., Nummi, T., Martos, T., Sallay, V. (2020). Environmental self-regulation in favourite places of Finnish and Hungarian adults. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 67, 101384.

Ratcliffe, E., & Korpela, K. M. (2016). Memory and place attachment as predictors of restorative perceptions of favourite places. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 48, 120-130.

Scannell, L., & Gifford, R. (2017). Place attachment enhances psychological need satisfaction. Environment & Behavior, 49, 359-389.

Informal enquiries about the project can be directed to Dr. Eleanor Ratcliffe.

Eligibility criteria

Applicants are expected to hold a minimum of an upper second-class honours degree (65 per cent or above) in psychology (or a related discipline) and a master’s degree in a relevant subject with a pass of 65 per cent or above.

The application is open to UK and EU students.

IELTS requirements: 6.5 or above (or equivalent) with 6.0 in each individual category.

How to apply

To apply for this studentship:

  1. Firstly apply for the Psychology PhD programme, July 2021 entry.  
  2. During your application, please mention your desire to apply for the project ‘Psychological benefits of place attachment’ in order to be considered.
  3. When the system asks you to add your ‘Research Project’ please copy and paste the description of this project.

Application deadline

Contact details

Eleanor Ratcliffe
37 AC 05
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 684680

Your research will be carried out in the Environmental Psychology research group which is part of Surrey’s School of Psychology


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