Dr Emma White

Visiting Research Fellow in Environmental Psychology
Dip (Hons) Garden Design, BSc (Hons) Psychology, MSc Environmental Psychology, PhD Environmental Psychology


Areas of specialism

Natural environments; Green roofs; Biodiversity; Gardens; Environmental psychology; Restoration; Wellbeing; Perceptions of naturalness

My qualifications

PhD Environmental Psychology
University of Surrey
Dip (Hons) in Garden Design
KLC School of Design
MSc Environmental Psychology
University of Surrey
BSc (Hons) Psychology (Biological Sciences)
University of Edinburgh

Business, industry and community links

Energy Transitions Ltd.
Emma heads the environmental psychology work for Energy Transitions Ltd., a leading renewable energy research and governance company based in the UK.


In the media

Five ways to use your garden to support your wellbeing
The Conversation
Why Gen Y have become obsessed with plants
CNBC Healthy Horizons - "Tackling Cities' Environmental Problems"


White, E. (2014) Gardens for wellbeing. Garden Design Journal, 50.
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.

When travelling through a new environment people can and do make very quick judgements about the local conditions. This paper explores the idea that such judgements are affected by the travel mode they use. We hypothesise that drivers generate a more superficial impression of the things they observe than those who walk because they are exposed to less information. This prediction is based on social psychological research that demonstrates that information that becomes available in “thin slices” affects superficial judgements. A survey study (n = 644) demonstrated that perceptions of a less affluent area are indeed negatively related to more driving and positively related to more walking, but only for those who do not live there. Perceptions of a neighbouring affluent area are positively related to more driving. Two experimental studies (n = 245 and n = 91) demonstrated that explicit (but not implicit) attitudes towards a group of young people in an ambiguous social situation are more negative when they are viewed from the perspective of a car user in particular in relation to a pedestrian perspective. These findings suggest that mode use may affect communities by influencing social judgements.

White, E. V. & Gatersleben, B. (2011) Greenery on residential buildings: Does it affect preferences and perceptions of beauty? Journal of Environmental Psychology, 31, 89-98.

Recently there has been a surge in the number of green roofs and façades (vegetation on the roofs & walls of a building) installed in the UK, with advocation of their use by policy-makers and claims that they are aesthetically pleasing and promote restoration. But these claims rely on generalisations from different landscapes, raising concerns about validity. The present study examined whether houses with vegetation would be more preferred than those without, be perceived as more beautiful and restorative, and have a more positive affective quality. Differences between types of building-integrated vegetation were also examined. Two studies were conducted: an online survey in which participants (N = 188) rated photographs of houses with and without vegetation on each of these measures, and interviews (N = 8) which examined preference and installation concerns. Results showed that houses with (some types of) building-integrated vegetation were significantly more preferred, beautiful, restorative, and had a more positive affective quality than those without. The ivy façade and meadow roof rated highest on each. These findings are consistent with other areas of landscape research and the claims of those in the industry, and suggest that building-integrated vegetation would be a valuable addition to the urban environment.

Gatersleben, B., White, E., Abrahamse, W., Jackson, T., & Uzzell, D. (2010) Values and sustainable lifestyles. Architectural Science Review, 53, 37-50.

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.