Dr Amy Isham

Research Fellow
BSc Psychology, MSc Psychology of Advertising, PhD Psychology
9:30 - 6:00, Monday to Friday.


Amy is an Environmental Psychologist with an interest in the impact of consumer culture upon personal and societal well-being. Her research aims to find more rewarding, sustainable ways of living that do not rely on having ever more income and every more stuff. Amy's PhD research examined the relevance of psychological 'flow' to the relationship between materialism and reduced personal well-being.

Prior to starting her PhD, Amy completed an undergraduate degree of the University of Warwick in 2015 before moving straight on to begin her master’s at Lancaster University. Up to this point her research had focused on the area of consumer psychology, and in particular she conducted research projects examining the factors that led people to buy impulsively online. When completing her master’s course Amy's interests altered slightly and this is when she became interested in the negative impacts of advertising, and consumer culture in general, on society.

My qualifications

PhD Psychology
University of Surrey
MSc Psychology of Advertising
Lancaster University
BSc Psychology
University of Warwick

Research projects

My teaching

My publications


Isham, A., Gatersleben, B., & Jackson, T. (2018). Flow Activities as a Route to Living Well With Less.
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Research suggests that the excessive focus on the acquisition of material goods promoted by our consumer society may be detrimental to well-being. Current Western lifestyles, which promote unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, therefore risk failing to bring citizens the happiness they seek. Csikszentmihalyi suggested that engaging in challenging, flow-conducive activities is a means by which individuals can improve well-being without substantially affecting the environment. In this article, we test this proposal by examining data concerning the daily experiences and well-being of 500 U.S. families. We show that individuals who experience stronger characteristics of flow in their leisure activities tend to have greater momentary well-being, whereas those experiencing flow more frequently report greater retrospective well-being. Moreover, a small negative relationship was found between an activity’s flow score and its environmental impact. The analysis allows us to identify a specific group of high-flow, low–environmental impact activities.
Isham, A., Mair, S., & Jackson, T. (2020). Wellbeing and Productivity: A Review of the Literature
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The UK is currently facing two inter-related socio-economic challenges. One is the now well-documented ‘productivity puzzle’; the crisis of persistent low productivity growth across the economy. The other is low levels in the mental and physical health of the working population, in particular. Wellbeing has been considered as a driver of higher levels of productivity and thus a means of solving the productivity puzzle. However, the relationship between productivity growth and wellbeing is complex and involves many moderating or mediating factors. This report reviews the relationships between the different aspects of wellbeing, productivity, and productivity growth. It is the culmination of a desk-based evidence review, survey, and a mapping workshop held with experts from backgrounds including psychology, sociology, economics, and design. The focus is on wellbeing and labour productivity, although resource productivity and multi-factor productivity are also touched upon at relevant points within the report.
Isham, A., Gatersleben, B., & Jackson, T. (2020). Materialism and the Experience of Flow
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The need to locate ways of living that can be both beneficial to personal well-being and ecologically sustainable is becoming increasingly important. Flow experiences show promise for the achievement of personal and ecological well-being. However, it is not yet understood how the materialistic values promoted by our consumer cultures may impact our ability to experience flow. A cross-sectional survey of 451 people demonstrated that materialistic values and an individual’s tendency to experience flow were negatively correlated (Study 1). Next we showed that experimentally priming a materialistic mind-set led to poorer quality flow experiences in a sample of students (Study 2) and British adults (Study 3). Our findings add to current understandings of the detrimental consequences of materialistic values and suggest that it is crucial to challenge the materialistic values present within our consumer societies if we are to provide opportunities for experiencing flow.
Elf, P., Isham, A., & Gatersleben, B. (2020). Above and beyond? How businesses can drive sustainable development by promoting lasting pro-environmental behaviour change: An examination of the IKEA Live Lagom project
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Current global changes require new business approaches driving sustainable development on all fronts. To date, most business approaches have focused on sustainable marketing and corporate social responsibility initiatives. In this field study, we examine IKEA's Live Lagom project, a 3-year behaviour change initiative that aimed to explore how to go above and beyond conventional approaches demonstrating how businesses could support sustainable development by supporting their customers' attempts to live more sustainable lifestyles. We examined the effectiveness of the project involving multifaceted behaviour change interventions, testing for behavioural changes both during and after the project period. In addition, we explored changes in participants' attitudes towards the company. Findings show that the extensive set of interventions led to changes in pro-environmental behaviours across all three participant groups with potentially positive impacts on the customer-company relationship. The article thus provides a call for further businesses to engage in similar behaviour change projects that would allow citizens to engage in more sustainable lifestyles and behaviours across contexts.
Isham, A., Mair, S., & Jackson, T. (2021). Worker wellbeing and productivity in advanced economies: Re-examining the link
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Labour productivity is a key concept for understanding the way modern economies use resources and features prominently in ecological economics. Ecological economists have questioned the desirability of labour productivity growth on both environmental and social grounds. In this paper we aim to contribute to ongoing debates by focusing on the link between labour productivity and worker wellbeing. First, we review the evidence for the happy-productive worker thesis, which suggests labour productivity could be improved by increasing worker wellbeing. Second, we review the evidence on ways that productivity growth may undermine worker wellbeing. We find there is experimental evidence demonstrating a causal effect of worker wellbeing on productivity, but that the relationship can also sometimes involve resource-intensive mediators. Taken together with the evidence of a negative impact on worker wellbeing from productivity growth, we conclude that a relentless pursuit of productivity growth is potentially counterproductive, not only in terms of worker wellbeing, but even in terms of long-term productivity.
Isham, A., Gatersleben, B., & Jackson, T. (2021). Why do materialistic values undermine flow experiences? The role of self-regulatory resources.
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 Research has shown that the possession of materialistic values can lead individuals to be less likely to experience flow, an important component of well-being. In this research, we test whether a lack of self-regulatory resources, and a tendency to use self regulatory resources for avoidance purposes, can mediate this relationship. : A representative sample of 2000 adults in the UK completed an online survey. Results were analysed using structural equation modelling.  Materialistic values were related to a heightened tendency to dedicate self-regulatory resources towards the avoidance of negative states, which in turn was linked to lower levels of self-regulatory strength. Low levels of self-regulatory strength were related to a reduced tendency to experience flow.  The findings provide new insights surrounding the factors and processes that hinder and enhance the creation of flow experiences. In doing so, they suggest suitable routes to promoting flow experiences in materialistic individuals, which in turn should improve their well-being. : Reducing the desire to avoid negative experiences could encourage flow experiences by enhancing self-regulatory resources. Future research is needed to test the causal nature of these relationships.
Isham, A., Elf, P., & Jackson, T. (2022). Self-transcendent experiences and sustainable prosperity
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The achievement of sustainable prosperity requires the enhancement of human wellbeing alongside increased care for the environment. In recent years, much has been written on the role of different mental states and their potential to influence our way of thinking and, perhaps more importantly, the way we act. In this working paper, we explore the emerging potential of a type of mental state known as Self-Transcendent Experiences (STEs) to deliver beneficial effects on human wellbeing and sustainable attitudes and behaviours. Self-transcendent experiences can be facilitated by experiences of flow, awe and meditation, as well as psychedelic experiences. Some of these experiences can occur naturally, through sometimes unexpected encounters with nature or during immersion in every-day activities that one intrinsically enjoys, as well as through more intentional practices such as meditation or the use of psychedelics. We demonstrate how each of the four alternative types of STEs share some similar neurological underpinnings and review their links to improvements in human wellbeing and sustainable attitudes and behaviours. We also highlight potential risks across the different varieties of STEs and consider factors that need to be considered if they are to be employed as a practical means of supporting sustainable prosperity.
Isham, A., & Jackson, T. (2022). Finding flow: exploring the potential for sustainable fulfilment
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Materialistic values and lifestyles have been associated with detrimental effects on both personal and planetary health. Therefore, there is a pressing need to identify activities and lifestyles that both promote human wellbeing and protect ecological wellbeing. In this Personal View, we explore the dynamics of a psychological state known as flow, in which people are shown to experience high levels of wellbeing through involvement in challenging activities that require some level of skill, and can often involve less materially intensive activities. By synthesising the results of a series of experience sampling, survey, and experimental studies, we identify optimal activities that are shown to have low environmental costs and high levels of human wellbeing. We also confirm that materialistic values tend to undermine people's ability to experience a flow state. In seeking to understand the reasons for this negative association between materialism and flow experiences, we are drawn towards a key role for what psychologists call self-regulation. We show, in particular, that the tendency to experience a flow state can be limited when self-regulatory strength is low and when people evade rather than confront negative or undesirable thoughts and situations. We reflect on the implications of these findings for the prospect of sustainable and fulfilling lifestyles.