Dr Birgitta Gatersleben

Research Interests

Natural environments can help reduce stress and improve cognitive functioning. However, much of our consumer behaviour alters and sometimes destroys such natural environments and depletes the natural resources it is dependent upon. Environmental Psychologists specifically study the relationship between people and their physical environment.

Sustainable lifestyles

Around 20% of the world population uses around 80% of the world’s non-renewable resources (Dürr, 1994). To support the high-consumption lifestyles of Western households for the whole world population the continuous use of about twice the total land surface of earth is needed (Goodland et al, 1994). It seems useful therefore to examine the factors that drive consumption and to determine potential options for change. Such research is interdisciplinary in nature and has been the focus of much of my work to date.

Examples of research projects to date are:

  • 2016-2021: CUSP (Center for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity). ESRC funded. Led by Prof Tim Jackson
  • 2010-2013: ELICIT (Exploring lifestyle changes in transition). Three year multidisciplinary project funded by DEFRA, ESRC and Scottish Government (www.sustainablelifestyles.ac.uk)
  • 2010-2013: REDUCE (Reshaping Energy Demand of Users by Communication Technology and Economic Incentives). Three year multidisciplinary project funded by EPSRC
  • 2006 - 2011: RESOLVE (Understanding the links between lifestyles values and the environment). This 5-year cross disciplinary research program funded by ESRC ((www.sustainablelifestyles.ac.uk) 
  • 2008 - 2011. BARENERGY (Barriers towards energy use in the home). Funded under the EC Framework 7 programme, Theme 5 (Energy).
  • 2000-2003: Developing Tools for the Sustainable Households in the City of Tomorrow (ToolSust: www.toolsust.org). This three year EC funded.
  • 1994- 1998. Household Metabolism Effectively Sustainable (HOMES). NWO.


The car is the main mode of transport for 63% of all UK trips and more than 70% of UK commuters travel to work by car (DfT, 2005). The use of private transport is one of the most energy consuming activities in modern households. My work has concentrated on examining why people use different travel modes and how they might be persuaded to use non-car modes more often. 

Examples of research projects conducted are:

  • 2012: when it comes to how I travel, who am I? (part of RESOLVE work)
  • 2011: The car as a material possession.
  • 2009: Hoody, goody, buddy (with Cadence Works). Examines how the use of different transport modes influences people’s perceptions of their social and physical environment. Funded by Joseph Rowntree foundation
  • 2004: Cycling stereotypes and identities
  • 2003: Instrumental, affective and symbolic aspects of the journey to work.
  • 1999 and 2002: The impact of the Jubilee Line extension in London on travel behaviour, place attachment and neighbourhood quality. Funded by Transport for London
  • 1998-2001: The risk perceptions of transport generated air pollution.
  • 2001: Walking buses and Croco cycles: safe walking and cycling routes to school.
  • 2000-2001: promoting cycling to work: attitudes and perceptions in different stages of change.
  • 2000: Comparing perceptions of transport problems and travel demand management between residents, policy makers and organisations.

Restorative environments

Research in environmental psychology has shown that natural scenes, particularly unspectacular scenes such as parks, can reduce stress, and improve mood, concentration and task performance. This interesting area of Environmental Psychology was the focus of my Masters dissertation which I conducted in 1994. More recently I have become involved again in various studies examining the restorative effects of natural environments, mainly through the supervision of dissertation projects.

Some examples of research projects are:

  • 2012 -: How exposure to natural environments affects creative performance.
  • 2011 - :The psychological effects of exposure to bird song.
  • 2007 and 2008: Greenery on and around residential buildings.
  • 2005 - : The impact of fear on the restorative potential and perceived quality or urban and natural environments.
  • 2005: The effect of outdoor experiences on the mood and confidence of adolescents.
  • 2004-2005: Blind people’s perceptions of natural environments.
  • 1996: Mood change as a function of environmental design: arousal and pleasure on a simulated forest hike.


Since 2000 I have been Course Director of the Modular MSc programme in Environmental Psychology (http://www.surrey.ac.uk/postgraduate/environmental-psychology). I convene two modules on this course: ‘Key Questions in Environmental Psychology’, ‘The Psychology of Sustainable Development’ as well as two general MSc modules, ‘Preparation for Academic Research in Psychology’ and ‘The Dissertation’. In addition I teach on several other MSc modules including: ‘Inquiry and Design’, ‘Ergonomics and Human Factors’, ‘Self and Identity in Context’, ‘Social Change and Influence’ and an intensive statistics course.

I am module convenor of the Level 3 module ‘Environmental Psychology’.

At the moment I supervise three PhD students: Eleanor Ratcliffe studies the restorative potential of bird song; Emma White examines the meaning of naturalness in environmental restoration research and Laura Cowen looks at people’s understanding of energy. I am also involved in supervising two PsychD students: Alison Greenwood looks at nature experiences among teenagers and Michael Eko looks at environmental restoration for people with depression.


Birgitta was board member of the International Association of People Environment studies. An International association gathering all those disciplines which share a fundamental interest in environment and behaviour studies.

More information about IAPS can be found here: http://www.iaps-association.org/

Birgitta is member and cofounder of the Virtual Centre for Transport and Psychology. The CTP is a centre of excellence bringing together expertise in psychology and transport planning to work towards sustainable travel.

Birgitta is coordinator and panel member of the Jonathan Sime Award for best UK undergraduate dissertation in people environment studies. More information about this award can be found here.

Contact Me

Phone: 01483 68 9306

Find me on campus
Room: 21A AD 04

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My office hours

Wednesday 12 - 2 during term time.

For other times or if I am not here, please email me to make an appointment (b.gatersleben@surrey.ac.uk)


Gillis, K. & Gatersleben, B. (2015). A Review of Psychological Literature on the Health and Wellbeing Benefits of Biophilic Design. Buildings 2015, 5(3), 948-963; doi:10.3390/buildings5030948

Murtagh, N., Gatersleben, B., Cowen, L & Uzzell, D (2015). Does perception of automation undermine pro-environmental behaviour? Findings from three everyday settings. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 04/2015; 45. DOI:10.1016/j.jenvp.2015.04.002

Shaw, B., Coyle, A., Gatersleben, B. & Ungar, S. (2015). Exploring nature experiences of people with visual impairments / Vivir la naturaleza con una discapacidad visual. Psyecology: Revista Bilingüe de Psicología Ambiental / Bilingual Journal of Environmental Psychology. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/21711976.2015.1026086

Burningham, K., Venn, S., Christie, I, Jackson, T. & Gatersleben, B (2014). New Motherhood: a moment of change in everyday shopping practices? Young Consumers. 15, 3, 211- 226

Murtagh, N., Gatersleben, B. & Uzzell, D (2014). A qualitative study of perspectives on household and societal impacts of demand response. Technology Analysis and Strategic Management, 11/2014; DOI:10.1080/09537325.2014.974529

Murtagh, N., Gatersleben, B. & Uzzell, D. (2014). 20:60:20-Differences in Energy Behaviour and Conservation between and within Households with Electricity Monitors. PLoS ONE, 03/2014; 9(3):e92019. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0092019

Davis, N. & Gatersleben, B. (2013).Transcendent Experiences in Wild and Manicured Settings: The Influence of the Trait Connectedness to Nature. Ecopsychology, 5, 2, 92-102.

Gatersleben, B. & Andrews, M (2013). When walking in nature is not restorative; The role of prospect and refuge. Health and Place, 20, 91-101.

Gatersleben, B. Murtagh, N. & White, E. (2013). Hoody, goody or buddy? How travel mode affects social perceptions in urban neighbourhoods Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour, 21, 219-230.

Murtagh, N., Nati, M, Headley, W., Gatersleben, B., Gluhak, A, Imran, M., Uzzell, D. (2013). Individual energy use and feedback in an office setting: a field trial. Energy Policy, 62, 717-728.

Ratcliffe, E., Gatersleben, B., Sowden, P. (2013). Bird sounds and their contributions to perceived attention restoration and stress recovery , Journal of Environmental Psychology, 36, 221-228.

Gatersleben, B. (2012). The Psychology of Sustainable Transport. The Psychologist, 25, 9, 676-679

Gatersleben, B (2012). Measuring pro-environmental behaviour. In: L. Steg, A. Van den Berg, J. de Groot (eds). Environmental Psychology, an Introduction, Chapter 13, 132-140.

Gatersleben, B. C. M., Murtagh, N. & Abrahamse, W. (2012). Values, identity and pro-environmental behaviour, Contemporary Social Science: Journal of the Academy of Social Sciences, 1-19. doi:10.1080/21582041.2012.682086

Gatersleben, B and Steg, L. (2012). Affective and symbolic aspects of environmental behaviour. In: L. Steg, A. Van den Berg, J. de Groot (eds). Environmental Psychology, an Introduction, Chapter 16, 166-174.

Murtagh N, Gatersleben B, Uzzell D. (2012) 'Self-identity Threat and Resistance to Change: Evidence from Regular Travel Behaviour'. Elsevier Journal of Environmental Psychology, 32 (4), pp. 318-326. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvp.2012.05.008

Murtagh N, Gatersleben B, Uzzell D. (2012) 'Multiple identities and travel mode choice for regular journeys'. Elsevier Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour, 15 (5), pp. 514-524. doi: 10.1016/j.trf.2012.05.002. Full text is available at: http://epubs.surrey.ac.uk/533331/

Gatersleben, B. (2011). The car as a material possession. Exploring the link between materialism and car ownership and use. In: K. Lucas, E. Blumenberg and R. Weinberger (eds). Auto Motives. Understanding Car Use Behaviours. Emerald.Andrews, M. and Gatersleben, B. (2010). Variations in perception of danger, fear and preference in a simulated natural environment. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 30, 4, 473-481.

Gatersleben, B. White, E. Abrahamse, W. Jackson, T. & Uzzell, D. (2010) Values and sustainable lifestyles. In: Roaf, S. (Ed) (2010). Transforming Markets in the Built Environment: Adapting for Climate Change, Earthscan Publications Ltd. April.

Gatersleben, B. White, E. Abrahamse, W. Jackson, T. & Uzzell, D. (2010) Values and sustainable lifestyles, Architectural Science Review, 53, 2010, 1–14

Gatersleben, B. and Haddad, H. (2010). Who is the typical bicyclist? Transportation Research, Part F, 13, 41-48.

White, E. and Gatersleben, B. (2010). Greenery on residential buildings, does it affect preferences and perceptions of beauty? Journal of Environmental Psychology, 31, 89-98.

Gatersleben, B. (2008). Humans and nature; Ten useful findings from Environmental Psychology research, Counselling Psychology Review, 23,2, 24-34.

Gatersleben, B. and Appleton, K. (2007). Contemplating cycling to work; attitudes and perceptions in different stages of change. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, 41, 302-312.

Gatersleben, B., Clark, C., Reeve, A. and Uzzell, D. (2007). The influence of a new transport link on residential communities in London, UK. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 27, 145-153.

Gatersleben, B. and Uzzell, D. (2007). The journey to work: exploring commuter mood among driver, cyclists, walkers and users of public transport. Environment and Behavior, 39, 416-431.

Gatersleben, B. (2007). Affective and symbolic aspects of car use: a review. In: T. Gärling and L. Steg (eds). Threats to the Quality of Urban Life from Car Traffic: Problems, Causes, and Solutions, Elsevier, Amsterdam, Chapter 12, 219-234.

Meader, N., Uzzell, D. & Gatersleben, B. (2006). Cultural theory and quality of life. European Review of Applied Psychology, 56, 61-69.

Anable, J. and Gatersleben, B. (2005). All work and no play? The positive utility of travel for work compared to leisure journeys. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Volume 39, p. 163-181

Gatersleben, B. and Uzzell, D. (2004). Perceptions of car users and policy makers on the effectiveness and acceptability of car travel reduction measures: an attribution theory approach. In: Rothengatter, T. and Huguenin, R. (eds). Traffic and Transport Psychology; Theory and Practice, p 469-480.

Gatersleben, B. and Uzzell, D. (2003). Local transport problems and possible solutions. Comparing perceptions of residents, councillors, officers and organisations. Local Environment, Volume 8, no 4, 387-406.

Gatersleben, B., Steg, L. and Vlek, C. (2002). The measurement and determinants of Environmentally significant consumer behaviour. Environment and Behaviour. 34, 3, 335-362.

Gatersleben, B. (2001). Sustainable household consumption and quality of life: The acceptability of sustainable consumption patterns and consumer policy strategies. International Journal of Environment and Pollution, 15, 2, 200-216.

Gatersleben, B. and Uzzell, D. (2000). The risk perception of transport-generated air-pollution. Journal of the International Association of Traffic and Safety Science, 24, 1, 23-33.

Gatersleben, B. and Vlek, Ch. (1998). Household consumption, quality of life and environmental impacts: a psychological perspective and empirical study. In: Noorman, K.J. and Schoot-Uiterkamp, A.J.M. (eds). Green households? Domestic Consumers Environment and Sustainability. London: Earthscan Publications Ltd.

Gatersleben, B., and Vlek, Ch. (1997). Understanding household metabolism in view of environmental quality and sustainable development. In: Antonides, G., and Van Raaij, W.F., and Maital, S. (eds). Advances in Economic Psychology, Chichester: John Wiley and Sons, Ltd.

Staats, H., Gatersleben, B., and Hartig, T. (1997). Change in mood as a function of environmental design: arousal and pleasure on a simulated forest hike. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 17 283-300.

Staats, H., Gatersleben, B., and Kips, J. (1994). A walk in a future forest. Research on emotional quality in design. Topos: European Landscape Magazine, 6, 103-109.

Vlek, Ch., Skolnik, M., and Gatersleben, B. (1998). Sustainable development and quality of life: expected effects of projected changes in economic and environmental conditions. Zeitschrift für Experimentele Psychologie, 45, 4, 319-333.


Unpublished reports

Abrahamse, W., B. Gatersleben and D. Uzzell (2009) Encouraging Sustainable Food Consumption: The Role of (Threatened) Identity, RESOLVE Working Paper Series, 04-09, University of Surrey, June 2009.

White, E., D. Uzzell, N. Ratzhel and B. Gatersleben (2010), Using Life Histories in Psychology: A Methodological Guide, RESOLVE Working Paper Series, 01-10, Guildford: University of Surrey.

Gatersleben, B., E. White, W. Abrahamse, T. Jackson and D. Uzzell (2009) Materialism and Environmental Concern. Examining Values and Lifestyle Choices among Participants of the 21st Century Living Project., RESOLVE Working Paper Series, 01-09, University of Surrey, June 2009.

Gatersleben, B., Meadows, J. Abrahamse, W. and Jackson, T. (2008). Materialistic and environmental values among young people volunteering in nature conservation projects. RESOLVE working Paer Series 07-08, University of Surrey

Carlsson-Kanyama, A., Dreborg, K, Eenkhorn, B., Engström, R., Falkena, H., Gatersleben, B., Henriksson, V., Kok, R., Moll, H., Padovan, D., Rigoni, F., Stø, E., Throne-Holst, H., Tite, L., and Vittersø, G. (2003). Images of everyday life in the future sustainable city:Experiences of back-casting with stakeholders in five European cities, Toolsust Deliverable No. 19

Gatersleben, B. and Clark, C. (2003). Public Participation and Environmental Decision making Toolsust Deliverable No. 14 c. University of Surrey, Guildford

Gatersleben, B., Uzzell, DL. and Clark, C. (2003). Jubilee Line Extension: LTR Perception Study, Phase II Report, Jubilee Line Extension Impact Study Unit, University of Westminster

Tite, L. and Gatersleben, B. (2003). Possibilities for long-term changes of city life: Experiences of backcasting with stakeholders Toolsust Deliverable No. 18 University of Surrey, Guildford

Gatersleben, B., Uzzell, DL. and Clark, C. (2002). Jubilee Line Extension Impact Study Unit. Perception Study, Baseline Report, Working Paper No. 25, Jubilee Line Extension Impact Study Unit, University of Westminster

Gatersleben, B., Leach, R., and Uzzell, D. (2002). Walking Buses and Croco-Cycles: Implementing and Evaluating a Safe Walking and Cycle Routes to School Programme. University of Surrey.

Gatersleben, B. (2001). Stakeholders and consumption in the five cities. UK National Report - Guildford. ToolSust Deliverable No 6. Guildford: Department of Psychology, University of Surrey, UK

Gatersleben, B., Leach, R. and Uzzell, D. (2001). Travel to school; Studying and promoting walking and cycling to school in four junior schools and one secondary school in Ash, Guildford. University of Surrey, Guildford, UK.

Gatersleben, B. and Uzzell, D. (2000). Residents’ perceptions of transport problems and sustainable solutions in Guildford. GBCRS Report 1. University of Surrey, Guildford.

Gatersleben, B. and Uzzell, D. (2000). Perceptions of transport problems and sustainable solutions in Guildford; the view of local organisations. GBCRS Report 2. University of Surrey, Guildford.

Gatersleben, B. and Uzzell, D. (2000). Perceptions of transport problems and sustainable solutions in Guildford; the view of Guildford Borough Councillors and officers. GBCRS Report 3. University of Surrey, Guildford.

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