Person In Environment- What is it?

Person In Environment - What is it?


It is very important to consume and be in the right environment. Our life is highly affected by what we see and what we listen to. The fallouts of our life is a consequence of a series of thoughts and decisions we take. Person in the environment is based on a theory of social work. This key concept is mainly used to explain the behavior of a person being largely influenced by his environment including his past environment. And seeks to address the challenge of an individual in that particular environment. 

This approach is used to change the behavior of an individual. The elements of this theory are explained in much detail below. 

Person In Environment—With an equation

By quoting the theory and explanation would help in deciphering the theory in detail. 

      Let us first dust off Lewin’s Equation, which says that ‘behavior’ is the function of the ‘person’ combined with the ‘environment’. To put that in terms of the equation, B=f(P, E).

In 1936, Kurt Lewin wrote this simple equation that has changed the way we as human beings think about habits and human behavior. 

Famous authors as James Clear, use this tiny equation to impact and change their lives. The author also has to say how to apply this equation in a certain way to master the habits that shape our health, happiness, and wealth.  

Before understanding the theory in brief with examples let us drive through the elements of the theory to understand in detail.

What is behavior?

Most of the famous and successful personalities believed that a person’s habits and actions were a result of the type of person they were before the success of Kurt Lewin. 

Then the theory and equation of Kurt Lewin have changed the view of the people on how behavior works. 

The author of the book ‘Atomic Habits’ James Clear has given the perfect example when it comes to the driving force of our behavior.

He says that, if a person struggles to maintain a diet might have to say, “I just don’t have any willpower.” Or, if a person is unable to seem to finish a big project like writing a book or a college assignment, they might say, “I’m a great starter, but a terrible finisher.”

These statements indicate that our habits and actions are differentiated by some set of factors that we are born with; that our habits are fixed based on who we are. 

However, according to James Clear, Kurt Lewin has said something differently. 

He said that it does not matter what factors that an individual is born with, it is not about personal characteristics, it is about the personal environment that drives one behavior. The habits of an individual are highly subjective and depend upon the context. 

Most of us are driven by the environment but not by personality. In most cases, our behavior is driven by the environment we are in but not by the personality we are born with. 

The solution to the above-mentioned problems in the examples could be related to the above context given by Kurt Lewin. 

Hence, it is not that you don’t have the willpower to maintain a diet, perhaps it could be that you are surrounded by a bad or unhealthy environment. 

We have seen a lot about the environment and personality in the above paragraphs. But how do they contribute in terms of one’s behavior and habit-building? To find out, read further.

Let us deconstruct the elements of personality first:

  • We are living in times where we have more consciousness and awareness about our habits and character.
  • We know more about our characteristics today than we did know around Lewin’s times.
  • Our abilities can change with time and not necessarily have to bottle up for a long time.
  • We can alter, change and improve our abilities. The same goes for a personality.

     “Stanford professor, Carol Dweck, was popular for his work differentiating between the beliefs of a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.”

Fixed mindset beliefs that our abilities are fixed in a particular environment whereas a growth mindset beliefs that our abilities can change, can improve, and we can learn and be built upon our existing capacities.

A highly effective habit can build a highly effective personality. Our beliefs and identity play a vital role in forming habits. 

The combination of habits and personality build skills and one can improve their abilities and skills through intense practice.

Now, the elements of the environment:

We often keep hearing that the environment is something that is not in our control and we do not have to think about the things which are not in our control. To some extent, we do feel the environment is hard to take control of. 

For instance, it is difficult to change the people you are surrounded by while working in an organization or the place you work.

Author James Clear further has to say that it is not that hard to adjust our environment and build new better habits. 

James Clear in regards to elements of the environment has said that the physical space we live in and the arrangements of the things we come across can alter our behavior by citing an example of Richard Thaler from his book, Nudge about how he talked that the grocery items kept on the eye-level get purchased more rather than those kept down by the floor level.

He also cited a similar experiment conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston wherein they discovered how people could instantly increase the amount of water intake and decrease the amount of soda that people drank simply by transferring the drinks displayed in the cafeteria. This concept was popularly known as ‘close architecture.’ 

The above is an example of a traditional environmental behavioral change, how one can change the way they intake something or a habit by a slight change in the environment.

We also have a digital environment. We get triggered easily when a notification from the Instagram app pops on our screen. We then get urged to look at what it is. 

We are easily prompted to log back into our Instagram account. These are examples of digital triggers of building habit-forming behaviors in online products and services.

90% of the people can agree that these triggers can become extremely distracting at some point. They eat up a lot of our time and energy that could be used for other important things. 

These distractions can be fought by approaching simplifying and eliminating unimportant things.

Behavior, the Person, and the Environment—all three combined

Behavior, person, and environment are the elements of the expression of “person-in-environment.” 

The above equation of Kurt Lewin can be used to get rid of bad habits and build new productive habits. 

When you understand that Behavior is a function of the person in their environment. You also understand that you can solve your bad habits and free them from your life.

“As they say when you are not sure of doing something and are bored, clean your environment so that when you figure it out you will have a clean environment to work on.”

A healthy environment helps us to improve ourselves and adjust to make good habits easier and bad habits harder. 

Here, the environment doesn’t mean the nature of the trees and birds. Instead, it could be a room, a place, or anything, the term here is broad.

Person In Environment (PIE)- The history

Mary Richmond was well-known as the mother of social casework in the 20th century and who had believed in the concept that individual problems are highly influenced by their environment. 

In 1917, Richmond wrote a book called Social Diagnosis, in which she has to say that social workers are not only meant to look up to the mental health of the clients but also their environment. 

In her book, she also argued that social workers have to take a macro approach while looking at the people suffering from one, rather than focusing only on the individuals. 

Some Theory Functions Of Person-in-environment

The functions of this theory serve and help an individual and society as a whole. Specific roles of the theory are:

  • An all-inclusive method for assessing clients. It helps a social worker to assess a wide range of environmental variables such as religious and political beliefs as well as family and community dynamics as well as socioeconomic and educational factors.
  • Assisting a social worker in identifying environmental factors that may be contributing to the client’s issues. Depending on their role, the social worker may choose to intervene in problematic environmental systems.
  • To begin macro-level changes in society, such as social workers, advocating for the improvement of certain environments that hurt the people who live there.

How Does An Environment Impact A Person’s Life?

Even though it’s easy to think you know what you’d do in a given situation, the truth is you’ll only know once you’re in it. You have no idea how what you bring to the table will interact with the situation at hand.

To be healthy, a person’s personality must be flexible and adaptable to the environment. Morality and ability are examples of reasonable limits. However, Putting yourself in a nuclear physics class doesn’t mean you can function in it.

Adding or subtracting elements from a system can modify the system of a person reciprocally. Some people can brighten or darken a room, annoy everyone, etc. We’ve all seen them. There’s almost a spiritual element to it, and it may be influencing our thoughts and actions. 

Why Is Person-in-environment Theory Important?

When we say “the person in the environment” in social work, we’re referring to the individual we’re looking at and how that individual is situated in his or her environment, as well as how well that individual transacts with his or her environment and vice versa. 

Everyone in a person’s life has an environment, including friends, family, co-workers, and anyone else with whom he or she interacts in any way, not just financially.

As long as an individual and his or her environment are compatible, the transactions between them will be fair and the individual will be able to get what he or she needs to live a healthy life, while the environment will benefit from his or her contributions. Several transactions could take a mutually beneficial place.

Illustration 1:  

Think about a person and their job. As a result of this, they receive a paycheck from their employer, who is pleased with their work. There is a mutually beneficial transaction taking place. As a result, this particular relationship is a match made in heaven.

Illustration 2:

To begin the lengthy college experience, a college freshman moves from home into a dorm (environment).

One of the roommates is very strict about having quiet study time between the hours of 10 pm and 12 am. First-year students are taught to respect and observe study time very quickly. The first-year student finds out at midterm that they have an “A” average in the majority of their classes because they showed respect for their roommate’s study time.

In the above example, we can see the positive outcome he had on his learnings by shifting his environment. 

But in some cases, this can badly affect some people by way of addictions( bad friends, drinking, and smoking habits). 

Choosing an environment is entirely different from choosing a circle.

“You can choose a good circle but still end up in a bad environment but not vice versa.”

At the bottom line, the person-in-environment theory can be useful for analyzing a person’s way of addressing problems and what kind of approach one is taking at that particular moment. 


An environment helps you in molding the person you want to become. No one is born with great abilities but one has to adjust along and take advantage of their surroundings to change their fate. And the environment holds high proficiency in it. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is an example of person-in-environment theory?

Social work, school, home, or general work are examples of the PIE theory. A typical family, peers, or colleagues are other examples.

  1. What is the importance of person-in-environment theory?

It helps in analyzing difficult situations and clients to deal with day-to-day lives by providing comprehensive methods.

  1. What is the concept of person-in-environment theory?

The concept is related to understanding a person’s behavior in light of a certain environment context.

Person In Environment- What is it?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to top