Dr Eleanor Ratcliffe

Lecturer in Environmental Psychology
BSc (Hons), MSc, PhD
+44 (0)1483 684680
37 AC 05, Tuesdays 1-2pm


Areas of specialism

Environmental psychology; Restorative environments; Place attachment; Soundscapes; Connectedness to nature; Aesthetics; Consumer behaviour; User experience; Designing for wellbeing

University roles and responsibilities

  • Senior Professional Training Year (PTY) Tutor
  • School of Psychology Research Committee (Early Career representative)

    Affiliations and memberships

    British Psychological Society
    International Association of People-Environment Studies (IAPS)


    In the media

    Taking the measure of birdsong
    BBC News
    The suprising uses for birdsong
    BBC News
    Fuel Fights and Happy Birds
    BBC World Service - One Planet
    Birdsong and wellbeing
    BBC Radio 4 - All in the Mind
    Why buffaloes and crickets help us relax
    The Guardian


    Research interests

    Research collaborations

    I regularly review manuscripts for academic journals such as Journal of Environmental Psychology, Health and Place, Environment & Behavior, Landscape and Urban Planning, and Urban Forestry & Urban Greening. I am an Associate Editor of Frontiers in Psychology (Environmental Psychology subsection).


    Postgraduate research supervision

    My teaching

    My publications


    ELEANOR RATCLIFFE, Mikel Subiza Perez, Kalevi Korpela (2020)Nature as a support to mental health: Memories of favourite natural places, In: Forests for Public Healthpp. 56-78
    ELEANOR RATCLIFFE (2021)Toward a better understanding of pleasant sounds and soundscapes in urban settings, In: Cities & health5(1-2)pp. 82-85 Routledge

    Much research has focused on unwanted sound, or noise, and its links to poor health and wellbeing. In contrast, certain sounds - especially those drawn from nature - are linked to positive outcomes. There is increasing interest in identifying and protecting such sounds within cities to offer opportunities for psychological restoration or recovery. However, explanations of why certain sounds are perceived positively are limited. Theoretical development is needed in order to integrate available evidence into wider work on environment and wellbeing, and this should include attention to perceptual properties of sounds and their interpretations by listeners.

    Grant Waters, Ben Warren, Eleanor Ratcliffe, Julie Godefroy (2019)Tranquil City: identifying opportunities for urban tranquillity to promote healthy lifestyles, In: Cities & Healthpp. 1-7 Taylor & Francis (Routledge)

    A healthy, balanced life is one that cares for physical, mental and social wellbeing. Cities can offer a vibrant social life, but may also pose risks to physical and mental health, including noise, air pollution, detachment from nature and compact living conditions. Rest and recuperation, essential to a positive state of wellbeing, are generally thought of as separate to cities, but urban environments may offer unexplored opportunities for tranquil experiences that support such processes.

    Eleanor Ratcliffe, Weston Lyle Baxter, Nathalie Martin (2019)Consumption rituals relating to food and drink: A review and research agenda, In: Appetite134pp. 86-93 Elsevier

    Rituals are common in relation to consumption of food and drink, and are related to psychosocial benefits such as social bonding, affective change, and enhanced consumer perceptions. However, theoretical understanding of food and drink consumption rituals, and empirical examination of their effects and mechanisms of action, is limited. In this literature review we show a need for greater theoretical understanding of these rituals, and especially mechanisms linking ritual performance to outcomes. Such understanding would be greatly enhanced by a holistic model of consumption ritual and the development of an instrument that can be used to study different aspects of such rituals, both of which are currently lacking. We also highlight specific research questions regarding the cognitive, social, and affective outcomes of ritual consumption of food and drink, and the affective and cognitive-behavioural mechanisms that might precede them. We provide suggestions regarding the research paradigms and methods that might suit such questions, and encourage research along these lines of inquiry.

    Kalevi Korpela, Eira-Maija Savonen, Suvi Anttila, Tytti Pasanen, Eleanor Ratcliffe (2017)Enhancing wellbeing with psychological tasks along forest trails, In: Urban Forestry & Urban Greening26pp. 25-30 Elsevier

    The purpose of the study was to investigate whether deliberate psychological tasks, intended to focus people’s attention on the interaction between themselves and natural surroundings, are linked with mood enhancement and self-reported restoration. In four European countries (Finland, France, Luxembourg, Sweden), we surveyed the experiences of volunteers (N = 299) who walked forest trails and carried out psychological tasks printed on the signposts along them. We investigated the similarities and differences of the trail experiences between the countries. Via multigroup modeling, we further examined the moderating role of nature-connectedness in relationships between satisfaction with the contents of the psychological tasks, mood enhancement, and restorative benefits. The results showed that, independent of age and gender, participants were more satisfied with the trails in Sweden and Luxembourg than in Finland. We detected no reliable differences in the restorative experiences or willingness to recommend the trail for others. In the moderation model, satisfaction with the signposts’ contents was connected to positive restorative change and mood enhancement. The moderator effects of nature-connectedness were not significant for either outcome. Thus, it is likely that satisfactory tasks will work equally well for people varying in nature-connectedness. This is a promising prospect for public health promotion. The fairly high level of nature-connectedness among the participants limits the generalizability of our results. Conclusions concerning the role of nature-connectedness should be made with caution due to the limited coverage of the concept in our measure. Future studies that separate the effect of psychological tasks from the restorative effects of nature itself are needed.

    Eleanor Ratcliffe, Kalevi M. Korpela (2016)Memory and place attachment as predictors of imagined restorative perceptions of favourite places, In: Journal of Environmental Psychology48pp. 120-130 Elsevier

    Previous research linking favourite places and restorative environments hypothesises that place memory and place attachment can be implicated in restorative perceptions of place. In the present study, conducted with an online paradigm, 234 Finnish residents rated an imagined favourite place on place memory properties, place attachment, and imagined restorative perceptions. Autobiographical and positive affective properties of place memory were consistently predictive of perceived restorative potential of place. Attachment in the form of place identity and place dependence also positively predicted of restorative perceptions, and mediated certain relationships between memory properties and restorative perceptions. These findings highlight the relevance of top-down processing of restorative environments according to past experiences and individual attachments. This understudied topic may shed light on semantic values underpinning restoration in a range of settings, including favourite places.

    Kalevi Korpela, Tytti Pasanen, Eleanor Ratcliffe (2018)Biodiversity and Psychological Well-Being, In: Urban Biodiversitypp. 134-149 ROUTLEDGE in association with GSE Research

    There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that contact with natural environments can promote well-being and psychological restoration from stress and/or fatigue, especially in the short term (Hartig et al. 2014). Much uncertainty still exists regarding the types of natural environments and the environmental qualities that promote these beneficial outcomes (Hartig et al. 2014), and the role of biodiversity especially is still unclear. Given that biodiversity has been widely recognised as one of the key features that support the global ecosystem and, consequently, humanity (Cardinale et al. 2012), better understanding of the relationship between human well-being and exposure to biodiverse environments is needed. To assess the current evidence on this topic, we searched for peer-reviewed original research articles and reviews from several scientific databases. In this illustrative review, we assess and summarise the main findings with an emphasis on psychological perspectives.

    Eleanor Ratcliffe, Kalevi M. Korpela (2018)Time- and Self-Related Memories Predict Restorative Perceptions of Favorite Places Via Place Identity, In: Environment and Behavior50(6)pp. 690-720 SAGE Publications

    Top–down processing has been highlighted as a potential, but as yet understudied, aspect of restorative environmental experience. In an online study, N = 234 adults resident in Finland rated their favorite Finnish place on measures of perceived restorativeness, perceived restorative outcomes, and place attachment, and provided qualitative descriptions of the place and a positive memory associated with it. Thematic analysis of qualitative data revealed seven themes underpinning place memories: the environment itself, activities within it, cognitive responses, emotional responses, social context, self, and time. Mediated regression analyses showed positive and significant relationships between restorative perceptions and the presence of memories of self and time, as mediated via place attachment (place identity factor). These findings emphasize the contribution of the person to the perception of their restorative experiences in places, particularly in the form of personal memories that can enhance place identity.

    Eleanor Ratcliffe, Birgitta Gatersleben, Paul T. Sowden (2016)Associations with bird sounds: How do they relate to perceived restorative potential?, In: Journal of Environmental Psychology Elsevier

    Bird sounds are related to perceptions of attention restoration and stress recovery, but the role of associations in such perceptions is understudied. 174 adult residents of the United Kingdom rated 50 bird sounds on perceived restorative potential (PRP) and provided qualitative data on associations with each sound. Bird sounds were associated with imagined environments, birds and other animals, time and season, and activities within the environment. Bird sounds rated as high in PRP were associated with green spaces, spring and summer, daytime, and active behaviours in the environment. Low-PRP bird sounds were associated with exotic and marine environments, nonavian animals, and showed a non-significant trend towards associations with negative bird behaviour. These findings highlight connections between semantic values and restorative perceptions of natural stimuli. Such connections can inform top-down approaches to study of restorative environments and may benefit conservationists seeking to improve bonds between people and wildlife.

    Eleanor Ratcliffe, Birgitta Gatersleben, Paul T. Sowden (2018)Predicting the perceived restorative potential of bird sounds through acoustics and aesthetics, In: Environment and Behavior SAGE Publications

    Some, but not all, bird sounds are associated with perceptions of restoration from stress and cognitive fatigue. The perceptual properties that might underpin these differences are understudied. In this online study, ratings of perceived restorative potential (PRP) and aesthetic properties of 50 bird sounds were provided by 174 residents of the United Kingdom. These were merged with data on objectively measured acoustic properties of the sounds. Regression analyses demonstrated that sound level, harmonics, and frequency, and perceptions of complexity, familiarity, and pattern, were significant predictors of PRP and cognitive and affective appraisals of bird sounds. These findings shed light on the structural and perceptual properties that may influence restorative potential of acoustic natural stimuli. Finally, through their potential associations with meaning, these findings highlight the importance of further study of semantic or meaning-based properties within the restorative environments literature.

    Eleanor Ratcliffe, Birgitta Gatersleben, Paul T. Sowden (2013)Bird sounds and their contributions to perceived attention restoration and stress recovery, In: Journal of Environmental Psychology36pp. 221-228 Elsevier

    Natural environments, and particularly visual stimuli in nature, are usually perceived as restorative following stress and attention fatigue. Studies extending these findings to auditory natural stimuli have used soundscapes comprising multiple types of sound. Birdsong recurs as a type of sound used in such studies, but little is known about restorative perceptions of bird sounds on their own and how these may relate to existing theories of environmental restoration. Via semi-structured interviews with twenty adult participants, bird songs and calls were found to be the type of natural sound most commonly associated with perceived stress recovery and attention restoration. However, not all bird sounds were regarded as helpful for such processes. Three themes formed the basis of these perceived relationships: affective appraisals, cognitive appraisals, and relationships with nature. Sub-themes of the acoustic, aesthetic, and associative properties of bird sounds were also related to restorative perceptions. Future studies should quantitatively examine the potential of a variety of bird sounds to aid attention restoration and stress recovery, and how these might be predicted by acoustic, aesthetic, and associative properties, in order to better understand how and why sounds such as birdsong might provide restorative benefits. This work was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council [grant number ES/J500148/1]; the National Trust; and the Surrey Wildlife Trust.

    Additional publications