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Environmental Psychology Expertise group: what motivates people to display sustainable behaviour?

What motivates people to display sustainable behaviour?

Climate change is one of the greatest threats of our time. Many people recognize that climate change is caused by our behaviour, and that action is needed to combat this. But are people willing to make a personal contribution to the cause, for example by using less energy from fossil sources and eating less meat and dairy products? And which policies can effectively encourage sustainable behaviour? The Environmental Psychology Expertise group, including Thijs Bouman, Lise Jans, Goda Perlaviciute, Linda Steg and Ellen van der Werff, are investigating this.

Expertisegroep Omgevingspsychologie

It is often thought that people only show sustainable behaviour if it directly benefits themselves. Thus, if sustainable behaviour was more attractive, people would increasingly display it. Yet the effectiveness of price incentives is often disappointing – our behaviour is not only determined by financial considerations; social and moral ones also play an important role. We behave sustainably because others expect it from us, because others do the same, or because we want to do something good.

It is therefore important to provide insight into the extent to which others behave in a sustainable way, and the extent to which various behaviour patterns have positive effects for others and the environment. In addition, people are motivated to be consistent. Emphasizing what people are doing wrong, which is now often the message, can therefore be counterproductive. By emphasizing what people are already doing to combat climate change, they will see themselves as someone who displays sustainable behaviour, which motivates them to behave even more sustainably, because that matches how they see themselves.

prof. dr. E.M. (Linda) Steg
First name
Linda
Telephone
E-mail
Room
Munting 403
Function
Professor
Expertise
Environmental psychology; understanding environmental behaviour including energy use and car use; acceptability and effectiveness of environmental policy; sustainable energy transition; cllimate change; values; intrinsic motivation
Disciplines
T. (Thijs) Bouman, PhD
First name
Thijs
Telephone
E-mail
Room
476
Function
Assistant Professor (University Lecturer and Researcher)
Expertise
Environmental psychology, group processes, human values, social identity. 

Teaching: Coordinator Economic and Consumer Psychology (Bachelor, year 3), supervisor Bachelor's and Master's theses. 

Research interests: I am interested in personal and group factors driving individuals’ responses to global crises, in particular climate change.

One research line I am currently working on focuses on personal and (perceived) group values. What values do individuals report to strongly endorse, what values do individuals think others endorse, and how do such values influence individuals’ attitudes and behaviours? For this, I collaborate with various partners in the field, such as nature organizations (e.g., WWF, Alliance for Nature, Groninger Landschap), zoos (Dutch Association of Zoos) and schools.

Another line of research focuses on the interaction between individuals and technology, particularly within the energy domain. How can we better understand and consider the preferences and motivations of people within energy systems, how can we adjust technological innovations to user preferences and motivations, and can we give people a more active role within energy systems and the decision making about energy systems? 

PhD (co-)supervision:
Lu Liu (ongoing),
Steph Johnson Zawadzki (ongoing),
Nieke Lemmen (ongoing),
Mark Verschoor (ongoing),
Wang Xiao (ongoing, joint program with Fudan University)
dr. G. (Goda) Perlaviciute
First name
Goda
Telephone
E-mail
Function
Associate professor Environmental psychology
Expertise
My key research interests lie in public evaluations and acceptability of energy sources, systems and policies, and which factors influence these evaluations and acceptability judgements. I focus on theory development and applying theory in addressing acute environmental and energy problems.
Disciplines
dr. E. (Ellen) van der Werff, PhD
First name
Ellen
Telephone
E-mail
Function
Associate professor
Expertise
I am interested in factors influencing consistent pro-environmental behaviour and strategies to change environmental actions. My main research interests are environmental self-identity and incentives to promote behavioural change. I enjoy collaborating with researchers from other disciplines and applying my research to real life problems.
dr. L. (Lise) Jans
First name
Lise
Telephone
E-mail
Room
M. 408
Function
Assistant Professor
Expertise
Group processes, Social identity, Diversity, Bottom-up initiative, Sustainability

I am interested in the interplay between individuals and groups. I examine how groups (and group identities) are formed and changed, how they become shared identities, and how they affect both individual and collective behaviours and attitudes. I use various methods ranging from surveys in the field to longitudinal group experiments. I apply this expertise to the environmental domain to examine the role of group processes in realizing sustainable change, cooperating with other disciplines and practitioners. On a meta-level, I apply my expertise to understand and promote successful multi-and interdisciplinary collaborations.
Disciplines
Last modified:16 April 2020 2.37 p.m.
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