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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.

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Research Output

I cannot live without air conditioning! The role of identity, values and situational factors on cooling consumption patterns in India

Osunmuyiwa, O. O., Payne, S. R., Vigneswara Ilavarasan, P., Peacock, A. D. & Jenkins, D. P., 5 Jun 2020, In : Energy Research and Social Science. 69, 101634.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
  • 1 Downloads (Pure)

    Nature doesn't judge you – how urban nature supports young people's mental health and wellbeing in a diverse UK city

    Birch, J., Rishbeth, C. & Payne, S. R., Mar 2020, In : Health and Place. 62, 102296.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Open Access
  • 1 Citation (Scopus)

    The effect of indoor thermal and humidity condition on the oldest-old people’s comfort and skin condition in winter

    Jin, Y., Wang, F., Carpenter, M., Weller, R., Tabor, D. & Payne, S., May 2020, In : Building and Environment. 174, 106790.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Open Access
  • 1 Citation (Scopus)
    18 Downloads (Pure)

    DeStress: Soundscapes, quiet areas and restorative environments

    Payne, S. R. & Bruce, N., 13 May 2019, Proceedings of the Institute of Acoustics 2019. Institute of Acoustics, p. 39-46 8 p.

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

    1 Citation (Scopus)

    Editorial: Soundscape Assessment

    Axelsson, Ö., Guastavino, C. & Payne, S. R., 8 Nov 2019, In : Frontiers in Psychology. 10, 2514.

    Research output: Contribution to journalEditorial

    Open Access
    5 Downloads (Pure)


    Best Paper Award for a Special Issue in IJERPH

    Payne, Sarah R. (Recipient) & Neil Bruce (Recipient), 12 Dec 2019

    Prize: Prize (including medals and awards)

  • Best Student Paper/Young Presenter Award for Noise

    Payne, Sarah R. (Recipient), Jul 2008

    Prize: Prize (including medals and awards)

  • IAPS Young Researchers Best Paper Award

    Payne, Sarah R. (Recipient), Aug 2008

    Prize: Prize (including medals and awards)

    I-INCE Young Professional Award

    Payne, Sarah R. (Recipient), Sep 2013

    Prize: Prize (including medals and awards)

  • Activities

    Edinburgh International Science Festival

    Sarah R. Payne (Participant)

    13 Apr 2019

    Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in Festival or Exhibition

    Urban Sound Symposium

    Sarah R. Payne (Keynote/plenary speaker)

    Apr 2019

    Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in conference

    Soundscape in Practice: Overcoming traditional acoustic challenges to urban planning and development

    Sarah R. Payne (Invited speaker)

    25 Jun 2019

    Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk

    Acoustics 2019

    Sarah R. Payne (Speaker)

    13 May 201914 May 2019

    Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in conference

    EuroCities Working Group Noise

    Sarah R. Payne (Invited speaker)

    Mar 2019

    Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in workshop, seminar, course