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Dr Emma White


PhD Student
+44 (0)1483 686899
22 AD 04

Academic and research departments

School of Psychology.

My publications

Publications

Gatersleben Birgitta, White Emma, Abrahamse W, Jackson Timothy, Uzzell David (2010) Values and sustainable lifestyles, Architectural Science Review 53 (1) pp. 37-50 Routledge, Taylor & Francis
With ever-increasing concerns about the consequences of climate change, households are an important focus for change. There is increasing pressure on households to change lifestyles and adopt behaviours that require less energy and natural resources. At the same time, retailers and producers of consumer goods aim to persuade people to consume more through commercial advertisements. Social science research examining sustainable behaviours often fails to examine the relative influence of both environmental concern and materialism simultaneously. Moreover, most of this research focuses on explaining or promoting behaviours with pro-environmental intent, thereby ignoring many consumer behaviours that may have a significant environmental impact. This article aims to address some of these shortcomings by examining the relationships between materialistic and environmental values and different consumer behaviours. Survey data from 194 individuals from 99 households were analysed. The findings show that quite a number of people express both relatively high levels of environmental concern and relatively high levels of materialism simultaneously. Moreover, materialism and environmental concern appear to be related to different types of behaviours. This raises important questions for the promotion of sustainable lifestyles, which may need to address not only environmental concerns but also materialistic concerns.
Gatersleben Birgitta, White E, Abrahamse W, Jackson T, Uzzell D (2010) Values and sustainable lifestyles, In: Roaf S (eds.), Transforming Markets in the Built Environment pp. 37-50 Earthscan / James & James
With ever-increasing concerns about the consequences of climate change, households are an important focus for change. There is increasing pressure on households to change lifestyles and adopt behaviours that require less energy and natural resources. At the same time, retailers and producers of consumer goods aim to persuade people to consume more through commercial advertisements. Social science research examining sustainable behaviours often fails to examine the relative influence of both environmental concern and materialism simultaneously. Moreover, most of this research focuses on explaining or promoting behaviours with pro-environmental intent, thereby ignoring many consumer behaviours that may have a significant environmental impact. This article aims to address some of these shortcomings by examining the relationships between materialistic and environmental values and different consumer behaviours. Survey data from 194 individuals from 99 households were analysed. The findings show that quite a number of people express both relatively high levels of environmental concern and relatively high levels of materialism simultaneously. Moreover, materialism and environmental concern appear to be related to different types of behaviours. This raises important questions for the promotion of sustainable lifestyles, which may need to address not only environmental concerns but also materialistic concerns.
The life histories methodology is a form of oral history which involves the recording of people?s memories and experiences across their lifespan. A life history interview typically examines the interviewee?s family background, memories and experiences of childhood, school, marriage, parenthood, and retirement (if older participants are recruited), as well as present day activities. In the past it has been used as an effective tool by historians to add personal narratives to the more traditional historical content of important events and dates in time (e.g. Portelli, 1991, 1997). But it is a tool which is also beginning to generate excitement within the social sciences, given the depth of data that it can generate. In particular, the historical context which it provides enables us to understand how and when certain behaviours and attitudes may have originated or changed, in addition to information about current practices and behaviours which more traditional psychological approaches provide. The present study was therefore conducted in order to evaluate the possibilities of using the life histories methodology to examine outdoor behaviours. Specifically, the Outdoors and Health Network identified the need to understand why people use greenspace regularly, in order to find ways in which to increase the use of those who seldom utilise these psychologically and physically beneficial areas (e.g. Maas, Verheeij, Groenewegen, de Vries, & Spreeuwenberg, 2006; Ulrich, 1984). Four women aged between 40-55 years were recruited, each of whom reported to regularly carry out one of the following outdoor activities: 1) Gardening / working on allotment; 2) Walking / hiking in areas of wild or spectacular landscapes; 3) Visiting outdoor sites / gardens; 4) Running or dog walking. A variety of activities were chosen in order to test the effectiveness of the methodology at examining different types of outdoor experiences and life histories. Additionally, a woman of the same age group, who reported to use greenspace infrequently, was selected. Participants then took part in a life history interview which lasted between 1-2 hours. The present paper presents results from the study and discusses experiences and applications of using this methodology. We would suggest that this methodology has potential to add to the existing body of knowledge which examines how people interact with their environment, as well as how these interactions may be formed and changed.
White Emma V. (2019) Perceptions of naturalness.,

Examining the benefits of naturalness forms an important part of environmental psychology research, with exposure to naturalness associated with restoration and positive affective quality. But the work of this thesis shows that it is not always clear what is meant by naturalness. Study A (N = 243) revealed several elements of naturalness which cannot be explained by current research, suggesting more work is needed to examine what constitutes naturalness. An in-depth literature review of the operationalisation of naturalness in 95 papers emphasised this need, demonstrating: 1) the interchangeable use of terms for naturalness; 2) a reliance on dichotomous variables; 3) a lack of explicit definitions; and 4) a lack of distinction between perceived and ecological naturalness.

Addressing these gaps in the literature, a survey was used to develop a new conceptualisation of lay perceived naturalness. Respondents (N = 846) were asked what they thought made a place natural and inductive content analysis used to develop a theme structure to represent these. A card sort study (N = 23) was used to improve this structure. Sixteen themes and 138 subthemes summarised lay perceptions; serving to broaden the conceptualisation beyond that of current research. Some of the most frequently mentioned themes/subthemes reflected those of existing literature, including the absence of humans and their influence, and vegetation. Several novel themes/subthemes were identified (e.g. smells, touch, weather); of use in future research. Humans, their influence and things also formed part of the concept of naturalness, demonstrating the difficulty associated with pitching humanness against naturalness.

Quantitative analyses showed that various subthemes of lay perceived naturalness were perceived as restorative and of positive affective quality: including elements such as sounds, plants, and water being associated with relaxing environments; and an absence of humans being associated with perceived restoration. These form the basis of recommendations for environmental design.

White E, Uzzell D, Räthzel N, Gatersleben B (2010) Using life histories in psychology: A methodological guide, RESOLVE Working Paper Series (01-10) pp. 1-18 University of Surrey
Life histories is an extremely rich qualitative methodology which is based on a tradition of storytelling and oral history which dates back thousands of years. It involves the telling of memories and experiences from right across the lifespan, from childhood, through key life events such as marriage and parenthood, to the present day. Its ability to highlight various attitudes, values, and behaviours, as well as to chart their progress and change across the lifespan, makes it an extremely valuable tool for the social sciences. This paper examines some key principles and methodological assumptions of life histories, and suggests some ways in which these differ from those of the dominant discourse in psychology, in order to help social scientists to better understand and apply this methodology within their own research. The support of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is gratefully acknowledged. This work is part of the interdisciplinary research programme of RESOLVE - the ESRC Research Group on Lifestyles, Values and the Environment.