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Professor Linda Steg’s reaction to winning the 2020 NWO Stevin Prize

Psychologist Kurt Lewin said that there’s nothing as practical as a good theory, and I fully endorse that. Research has a greater societal impact if it is also theoretically well-founded. Theories provide insight into why things happen in the way that they do, which is important in the development of interventions and policies. Policymakers can only apply insights into policy development broadly once the answer to the ‘why’ question is clear. I therefore believe that research can be scientifically sound ánd that it can have a major societal impact and that there is no question of either-or, as is often assumed. I want to use the Stevin Prize to pursue this.

How can we motivate people

Climate change is one of the greatest societal challenges that we are facing and, although we know what needs to be done to turn the tide, we have less of an understanding of how to get society on board. People’s preferences and behaviours play an essential role in this. Government bodies, companies and interest groups are struggling with the question of how to promote sustainable behaviour. I intend to use the Stevin Prize to generate knowledge that will help them to realize their ambitions by exploring how we can motivate people to take action to halt climate change.

Combatting climate change

We can then combine this knowledge with knowledge from other disciplines in order to gain a clearer understanding of complex issues such as climate change. For example, I would like to integrate knowledge about people’s motivations and behaviours into climate models so that we can develop realistic scenarios for combatting climate change that have sufficient public support. I would like to involve relevant societal partners in my research to help to keep us on our toes in addressing important and urgent societal questions.

Sharing knowledge

In addition, I plan to use the funds to share our knowledge with companies, government bodies, interest groups and citizens and to advise and support them in taking sustainable actions. Science is teamwork, which is why I see the Stevin Prize as recognition for our entire Environmental Psychology research group. Together with my colleagues, I will make concrete plans for how to use the prize money in the coming period.

Last modified:22 June 2020 4.20 p.m.
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