Rachel Kaplan

Professor Emerita


PhD, Psychology, 1962, University of Michigan
BA, Philosophy, 1958, Oberlin College

(734) 763-1061


Rachel Kaplan, Ph.D., Samuel Trask Dana Professor of Environment and Behavior, professor of natural resources, School for Environment and Sustainability, and professor of psychology, College of Literature, Sciences, and the Arts, retired from active faculty status on May 31, 2015. She joined the University of Michigan faculty as a lecturer in the Department of Psychology in 1964, and was promoted to associate professor in 1977, and professor in 1987. In the School for Environment and Sustainability she was appointed associate professor in 1973, professor in 1978, and the Samuel Trask Dana Professor of Environment and Behavior in 2000.

A leader in the field of environmental psychology, Professor Kaplan sought to understand the role the environment plays in helping people become more reasonable, effective, and psychologically healthy. Central to her research program is a conceptual framework, the Reasonable Person Model, that enabled the exploration of issues related to environmental preference, restorative opportunities, and expertise and engagement. Professor Kaplan's more recent work focused on the psychological dimensions of sprawl, the local planning process, the view from the window, and patterns of involvement. Her extensive list of scholarly publications includes The Experience of Nature: A Psychological Perspective (1989), With People in Mind: Design and Management of Everyday Nature (1998), and Fostering Reasonableness: Supportive Environments for Bringing Out Our Best (in press). An outstanding teacher and unflagging mentor, Professor Kaplan taught a wide range of courses, served on 73 doctoral committees and 52 master's committees, and received the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies' Distinguished Faculty Mentoring Award in 2012.

  • 2014-2015: Stuck in the muck: Comparing how experts and local communities see beach muck in the Great Lakes. (Avik Basu, Jason Duvall, and Donna Kashian, Co-PIs). Funded by UM Water Center.

  • 2011-2013: Exploring the benefits of outdoor experience on veterans. Funded by Sierra Club Military Families Outdoors.

  • 2008-2011: Participatory design tools for envisioning nearby nature at the workplace. 

  • 2002-2006: Making metropolitan areas more livable: Recognizing and enhancing underappreciated natural resources. 

  • 2001-2005: Natural resources and decision-making for local planning.



Rackham Distinguished Faculty Mentoring Award (2012).

EDRA/Places Research Award (1999).

Bracken Fellow, Pennsylvania State University (1999).

Elected Distinguished Member of Sigma Lambda Alpha, international landscape architecture honor society (1993).

Career Award, Environmental Design Research Association (1992).

Sinclair Award for Distinguished Contribution to the Honors Program, College of LS&A (1969).

Select publications: 
  • R. Kaplan, S. Kaplan, and E. L. Walker (1960) Individual differences in learning as a function of shock level. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 60(6), 404-407.

  • S. Kaplan and R. Kaplan (1962) Skin resistance recording in the unrestrained rat. Science, 138, 3548, 1403-1404.

  • R. Kaplan (1963) Rat basal resistance level under stress and nonstress conditions. Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 56(4), 775-777.

  • S. Kaplan and R. Kaplan (1968) Arousal and memory: A comment. Psychonomic Science, 10(8), 291-292.

  • S. Kaplan, R. Kaplan, and J. R. Sampson (1968) Encoding and arousal factors in free recall of verbal and visual material. Psychonomic Science, 12(2), 73-74.

Read more publications here.


Consultant to Logan Simpson Design Inc. on Scenic/visual perception study for the Lake Tahoe Basin, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) (2003-2004).

National Advisory Board, NSF Multi-Institutional Research Project (MIRP) Zoo and Aquarium project (2004).

Consultant to Toledo Museum of Art (1990).

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