The Psychology of Place Attachment: Why We Are Connected to Locations

Edited by Lina Maragha

“Home is where the heart is” a phrase repeated by many, is a quote that I find myself wondering about. As I sit at my desk and look at my computer which houses the entirety of university for me this year, I find my thoughts wondering off about somewhere else I would rather be. Not just anywhere, a place that I love, where the people are kind, my experiences have been memorable and my visits frequent. Place attachment is the connection one has to their favourite destination, home or location. It can be made meaningful through independent or group experiences. The psychological process of place attachment is driven by three factors, affect, cognition, and behaviour.  

 

The Affect

We as people can bond with our locations. There is an emotional connection that may occur between person and place when it satisfies a “human need”. These places bring feelings of “well-being” and “pride”. It works the other way as well, in places you might have had a traumatic experience in, it is likely you will be averse to it. For example, a childhood home may be of significance but it does not always have to be associated with positive feelings.

Cognition

Similar to the way music and songs bring back memories so can our location. Place attachment in response to cognition is the personal connection and meaning you can have with a given destination. These may be cottages, cities or other areas that you have frequented which is common in people and this can show “one’s self-concept”.  

Behaviour

Behaviour refers to interpersonal attachment and the closeness one remains to the location that is missed. This occurs when there is a positive bond to somewhere you have been and your efforts to return or the distance you keep in order to increase visits. Homesickness expresses the bond one may have for their homes after being away for long periods of time and their longing to return.   

We may have personal connections to locations however, it can also be the people we were there with that grow our desire to return. Positive experiences with groups of individuals can draw out intense memories when looking back. Experiences can “create meaning”. Something many of us have heard during the pandemic is “its not New York without New Yorkers,” and I think this is true of many places right now. The energy that was once there is no longer. One important location I think students are missing is campus. A large part of university is the experiences and people you meet along the way. For some who live close, they can take a walk through campus but it is not the same without the constant energy from the student body. As for others who live further from their friends and school it can bring up emotions that cause one to reflect on happy memories.

However, school is certainly not the only place we could be longing for right now. Here are some suggestions to help you feel closer to your favourite place:

Homesick Candles

This is a company that sells candles with the scents of several different states and countries that you may be in desire to return to.

Movies/TV

One of my favourite things to do while being home is to research some movies or shows that were filmed in the location I am missing. It is a lot of fun to watch and remember visiting the sights.

Reminisce

Look back on pictures you took when visiting last and FaceTime a friend to talk about the fun times and happy memories you made together.

Food

Enjoy food that brings up nostalgic feelings.

Music

Music is powerful and can have strong connections to moments in our lives. Refer back to what you were listening to when you last visited your favourite place.

 

References

Gifford, Robert, Scannell, Leila. (2008, September 22). Defining place attachment: A tripartite organizing framework.