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Personal profile

Research interests

As an Environmental Psychologist Sarah is interested in people's cognitive and emotional responses to/from their interaction with the environment, be that natural, urban or healthcare specific environments.  Sarah has expertise in studying people's multi-sensorial perception of the environment, as well as physical and social affordances. Her research has involved urban parks, skate parks, hospitals, electric vehicles, soundscapes, restorative environments and experiences. Broader interests include creating sustainable liveable cities, fatigue in the workplace, energy attitudes and behaviours, fear of crime and how the environment can enhance or decrease this emotive response, as well as methodological and measurement considerations in people-environment research.


Sarah Payne became Assistant Professor of Health in the Built Environment at Heriot-Watt University in 2014, and then Associate Professor in 2018. She completed a BSc in Psychology at the University of Sheffield, MSc in Environmental Psychology at the University of Surrey, and a PhD in Architecture at the University of Manchester.  During her PhD and subsequent Post-Doctoral Research Fellow position at McGill University, Canada, she researched the role of cafe and urban park soundscapes on individual's psychological restoration. She also worked as a Research Assistant at Salford University, to develop a report for Defra on the soundscape concept and its practical and policy applications. Sarah Payne was a Research Fellow on the Participation in Healthcare Environment Engineering programme at the University of Warwick.

Roles & Responsibilities

Sarah is the course leader for 'Urban Design for Health and Wellbeing' (MSc and 4th yr BSc), 'Environment and Behaviour' (2nd yr BEng and BSc), and the 'Laboratory Project' (4th yr BEng) for which she runs a Soundscape study. She previously ran 'Human Factors' (MSc and MEng) and helped with 'Environmental Design' (MSc)

She currently supervisers five PhD students at Heriot-Watt University; Lisa Lavia who is interested in stakeholder engagement activities relating to soundscape planning and management; Mina Sufineyestani who is exploring the role of nature in the immediate environments for residential wellbeing; Debbie McCracken who is researching the benefit of nearby urban green space for primary school children; Stacey Marko who is reseraching childrens play environments in rural and urban areas; and Yi Jin who is interested in the role of humidity on older people's wellbeing in care homes.

Previously Sarah supervised Dr Sneha Singh at the University of Warwick to the completion of her PhD, and Dr Caroline Wilson, in the final year of her PhD at DeMontfort University.

In 2018 she became a board member and treasurer for the International Association for People-Environment Studies (IAPS). Previously she was convenor of the Restorative Environments Network (2012-2018) and the Sensory Environments Network (2016-2018) which are part of the IAPS.

Sarah is a Chartered Psychologist and member of the British Psychological Society and a Fellow of the Higher Education Authority.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


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