Exorcising the ghost of physical determinism

Karen A. Franck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


The objective of this article is to clarify the major weaknesses of the physical determinist perspective, to understand how the term “determinism” has been used in the field of environment-behavior research and to allay some of the fears that the idea of determinism seems to arouse in researchers. Four major weaknesses of the determinist perspective are discussed: (1) exaggerating the influence of the physical environment by ignoring or underestimating the influence of other factors; (2) assuming that the physical environment has only direct effects on behavior; (3) portraying people as passive in the environmentbehavior relationship by ignoring the role of human choice and goals; and (4) always assuming that the environment is a given and immutable entity and neglecting the processes of creating and modifying environments. Diagrams are used to illustrate different types of environment-behavior relationships and to distinguish between indirect and interaction effects of environment on behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)411-435
Number of pages25
JournalEnvironment and Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1984

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Environmental Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Exorcising the ghost of physical determinism'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this