Dr Kayleigh Wyles

Lecturer in Environmental Psychology
BSc (Plymouth), MSc (Surrey), PhD (Plymouth)
+44 (0)1483 686913
18 AC 04
Semester 1: Tuesdays 2-3 and 4-5 (in Room 16 AC 04)


Areas of specialism

Environmental Psychology; Restorative Environments; Connectedness to Nature; Childhood Upbringing; Behaviour Change; Marine Environment; Litter (marine plastics)

University roles and responsibilities

  • Year 1 Tutor (BSc Psychology Programme)
  • Personal Tutor
  • Visiting Tutor
  • Athena Swan Committee

Affiliations and memberships

United Nations' GESAMP (Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection) Working Group 40 (microplastics in the marine environment)
The European Centre for Environment and Human Health, University of Exeter
Honorary Research Fellow
School of Psychology, Plymouth University
Visiting Fellow
The Higher Education Academy
Associate Fellow


Research interests

Research projects

My teaching


Postgraduate research supervision

My publications


Walker-Springett K, Jefferson R, Bock K, Breckwoldt A, Comby E, Cottet M, Hubner G, Le Lay YF, Shaw S, Wyles KJ (2016) Ways forward for aquatic conservation: Applications of environmental psychology to support management objectives, Journal of Environmental Management 166 pp. 525-536
The success or failure of environmental management goals can be partially attributed to the support for such goals from the public. Despite this, environmental management is still dominated by a natural science approach with little input from disciplines that are concerned with the relationship between humans and the natural environment such as environmental psychology. Within the marine and freshwater environments, this is particularly concerning given the cultural and aesthetic significance of these environments to the public, coupled with the services delivered by freshwater and marine ecosystems, and the vulnerability of aquatic ecosystems to human-driven environmental perturbations. This paper documents nine case studies which use environmental psychology methods to support a range of aquatic management goals. Examples include understanding the drivers of public attitudes towards ecologically important but uncharismatic river species, impacts of marine litter on human well-being, efficacy of small-scale governance of tropical marine fisheries and the role of media in shaping attitudes towards. These case studies illustrate how environmental psychology and natural sciences can be used together to apply an interdisciplinary approach to the management of aquatic environments. Such an approach that actively takes into account the range of issues surrounding aquatic environment management is more likely to result in successful outcomes, from both human and environmental perspectives. Furthermore, the results illustrate that better understanding the societal importance of aquatic ecosystems can reduce conflict between social needs and ecological objectives, and help improve the governance of aquatic ecosystems. Thus, this paper concludes that an effective relationship between academics and practitioners requires fully utilising the skills, knowledge and experience from both sectors.
UNEP and GRID-Arendal (2016) Marine Litter Vital Graphics,
Wyles K, Pahl S, Holland M, Thompson RC (2016) Can Beach Cleans Do More Than Clean-Up Litter? Comparing Beach Cleans to Other Coastal Activities, Environment and Behavior
Coastal visits not only provide psychological benefits but can also contribute to the accumulation of rubbish. Volunteer beach cleans help address this issue, but may only have limited, local impact. Consequently, it is important to study any broader benefits associated with beach cleans. This article examines the well-being and educational value of beach cleans, as well as their impacts on individuals? behavioral intentions. We conducted an experimental study that allocated students (n = 90) to a beach cleaning, rock pooling, or walking activity. All three coastal activities were associated with positive mood and pro-environmental intentions. Beach cleaning and rock pooling were associated with higher marine awareness. The unique impacts of beach cleaning were that they were rated as most meaningful but linked to lower restorativeness ratings of the environment compared with the other activities. This research highlights the interplay between environment and activities, raising questions for future research on the complexities of person-environment interactions.
Wyles K, Hidalgo-Ruz V, Pahl S, Anderson A (2015) Social aspects of microplastics in the marine environment, In: GESAMP reports & studies series: Sources, fate and effects of microplastics in the marine environment - a global assessment 90 INTERNATIONAL MARITIME ORGANIZATION
The beneficial effects of blue environments have been well documented; however, we do not know how marine litter might modify these effects. Three studies adopted a picture-rating task to examine the influence of litter on preference, perceived restorative quality, and psychological impacts. Photographs varied the presence of marine litter (Study 1) and the type of litter (Studies 2 and 3). The influence of tide and the role of connectedness were also explored. Using both quantitative and qualitative methods, it was shown that litter can undermine the psychological benefits that the coast ordinarily provides, thus demonstrating that, in addition to environmental costs of marine litter, there are also costs to people. Litter stemming from the public had the most negative impact. This research extends our understanding of the psychological benefits from natural coastal environments and the threats to these benefits from abundant and increasing marine litter.
Marine environments provide a range of important ecosystem goods and services. To ensure the sustainability of this environment, we require an integrated understanding of the activities taking place in coastal environments that takes into account the benefits to human visitors but also the risks to the environment. This paper presents two studies on the perceived risks and benefits associated with recreational visits to rocky shores in the UK and internationally. Marine experts and recreational users of the coast responded to questionnaires that explored the marine awareness and wellbeing effects of different activities on the visitor and, in turn, the perceived harmfulness of these activities to the environment. Two studies found that a visit to a rocky shore was seen to improve visitors' awareness regarding the marine environment as well as their wellbeing (with some activities being calming such as sunbathing and relaxing, and others exciting such as rock pooling). However, this was perceived to be at a cost to the environment, as some activities were noted to have detrimental effects on the habitat. Marine experts and coastal users gave very similar answers, as did British (Study 1) and international respondents (Study 2). Using an integrative approach, the perceived impacts on both the environment and visitor were then explored together. Walking and rock pooling were seen to provide considerable wellbeing benefits but had high negative impacts on the environment. In contrast, resource focussed activities such as fishing, bait collecting and crabbing were perceived as less important for visitor wellbeing yet also had negative environmental impacts. Using this integrative approach, this analysis begins to suggest priorities for management that benefits both the environment and the recreational users.
Wyles KJ, Pahl S, White M, Morris S, Cracknell D, Thompson RC (2013) Towards a Marine Mindset: Visiting an aquarium can improve attitudes and intentions regarding marine sustainability., Visitor Studies 16 (1) pp. 95-110
The oceans are crucial for human survival, yet they are under serious threat from
humans, for example through overfishing and poor waste management. We investigated
two questions. First, does a leisure visit to an aquarium improve visitor attitudes
and intentions towards marine sustainability, specifically regarding overfishing and
pollution? Second, does an information booklet handed out in addition to the visit
have additional measurable impact? Aquarium visitors (n = 104) completed a questionnaire
on marine sustainability attitudes and behavioral intentions before and after
their visit. Half of the visitors also were given informational materials that offered
behavioral solutions to the problem of overfishing. The aquarium visit significantly
improved visitors? overall attitudes and intentions. The information booklet additionally
improved intentions significantly, but not attitudes. These findings show that a
visit to an aquarium can help individuals develop what we term a marine mindset,
a state of readiness to address marine sustainability issues. Implications, limitations,
and ideas for further research are discussed.
Kershaw PJ (2016) Marine plastic debris and microplastics ? Global lessons and research to inspire action and guide policy change,
Ten Brink P, Wyles K, Pahl S, Hong S, Seager J, Hidalgo-Ruz V (2015) Social Economic Aspects, Reports and studies - IMO/FAO/Unesco-IOC/WMO/IAEA/UN/UNEP Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP) Food and Agriculture Organization of the U. N.
This report provides an update and further assessment of the sources, fate and effects of microplastics in the marine environment, carried out by Working Group 40 (WG40) of GESAMP (The Joint Group of Experts on Scientific Aspects of Marine Protection). It follows publication of the first assessment report in this series in April 2015 (GESAMP 2015). The issue of marine plastic litter was raised during the inaugural meeting of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) in June 2014. Delegates from 160 countries adopted Resolution 1/6 on ?Marine plastic debris and microplastics? (Annex I). The resolution welcomed the work being undertaken by GESAMP on microplastics and requested the Executive Director of UNEP to carry out a study on marine plastics and microplastics. This was to be based on a combination of existing and new studies, including WG40. This provided the motivation for GESAMP to revise the original terms of reference to reflect both the request from UNEP to contribute to the UNEA study, and the key recommendations from the WG40 2015 report.
Wyles Kayleigh (2017) The Human Dimension of Marine Litter: The Impacts on Us, Field Studies Journal Field Studies Council
Marine litter, manufactured solid waste material that enters the marine environment, is a growing
environmental concern (Galgani et al., 2010). Found throughout the oceans, from the poles to the equator
and from the shoreline to the deep sea, impacts of this debris on the environment and wildlife is well
recorded. For example, rubbish items can have lethal and sub-­??lethal effects on marine dwelling organisms,
through processes such as ingestion, entanglement, and chemical contamination from eating those
materials (Gall and Thompson, 2015). Whilst the research examining the distribution, abundance, and
impacts of litter on the environment and its inhabitants is ever growing, it is important to recognise the
human dimension of this problem. Humans are unquestionably the source of the problem; optimistically,
we are also the solution, but an often overlooked aspect is that we too are also impacted by marine litter.
Here, this short article will briefly overview the impact litter has on individuals, the psychological value of
doing something about it, and why this is important when trying to address this global and growing issue.
Pahl Sabine, Wyles Kayleigh, Thompson Richard C. (2017) Channelling passion for the ocean towards plastic pollution, Nature Human Behaviour 1 (10) pp. 697-699 Nature Publishing Group
Plastic pollution is caused exclusively by humans. It poses growing global threats to both the ocean and society, and
requires urgent action. Using psychological principles can motivate and implement change by connecting symptoms and
Wyles Kayleigh, White Mathew P., Hattam Caroline, Pahl Sabine, King Haney, Austen Melanie (2017) Are Some Natural Environments More Psychologically Beneficial Than Others? The Importance of Type and Quality on Connectedness to Nature and Psychological Restoration, Environment and Behavior SAGE Publications
Exposure to nature can strengthen an individual?s sense of connectedness (i.e., emotional/cognitive bonds to the natural world) and enhance psychological restoration (e.g., feeling relaxed/refreshed). To date, there have been few large studies looking at the role that type and quality of natural environments may have on these outcomes. The present study used data from a large survey in England (sample analyzed = 4,515), which asked participants to recall a recent visit to nature. After controlling for covariates, respondents recalled greater connectedness to nature and restoration following visits to rural and coastal locations compared with urban green space, and to sites of higher environmental quality (operationalized by protected/designated area status, for example, nature reserves). A series of structural equation analyses provided evidence for a bidirectional association between connectedness and restoration. Consideration of the psychological benefits associated with different types and quality of environment has implications for human health, environmental management, and conservation.
Anderson AG, Grose J, Pahl S, Thompson RC, Wyles Kayleigh (2016) Microplastics in personal care products: Exploring perceptions of environmentalists, beauticians and students, Marine Pollution Bulletin 113 (1-2) pp. 454-460
Microplastics enter the environment as a result of larger plastic items breaking down (?secondary?) and from particles originally manufactured at that size (?primary?). Personal care productsare an important contributor of secondary microplastics (typically referred to as ?microbeads?), for example in toothpaste, facial scrubs and soaps. Consumers play an important role in influencing the demand for these products and therefore any associated environmental consequences. Hence we need to understand public perceptions in order to help reduce emissions of microplastics. This study explored awareness of plastic microbeads in personal care products in three groups: environmental activists, trainee beauticians and university students in South West England. Focus groups were run, where participants were shown the quantity of microbeads found in individual high-street personal care products. Qualitative analysis showed that while the environmentalists were originally aware of the issue, it lacked visibility and immediacy for the beauticians and students. Yet when shown the amount of plastic in a range of familiar everyday personal care products, all participants expressed considerable surprise and concern at the quantities and potential impact. Regardless of any perceived level of harm in the environment, the consensus was that their use was unnatural and unnecessary. This research could inform future communications with the public and industry as well as policy initiatives to phase out the use of microbeads.
Pahl S, Wyles Kayleigh (2016) The human dimension: how social and behavioural research methods can help address microplastics in the environment, Analytical Methods: advancing methods and applications 9 pp. 1404-1411 The Royal Society of Chemistry
The present paper illustrates the breadth of research methods in the Social and Behavioural Sciences and how these may be applied to the issue of environmental microplastics. Microplastics are a human-caused problem and we need to understand the human dimension in order to address it. Nine key points are emphasised in this paper and follow from the key observation that humans, through their perceptions, decisions and actions, are pivotal to the issue of primary and secondary microplastics in the environment: (1) human perception and behaviour can be subject to systematic and rigorous scientific study, using theory-based hypothesis testing, measurement and statistical analysis; (2) qualitative methods can explore new areas of research and provide novel, in-depth insights; (3) best practice and recommendations exist for measuring social data; (4) quantitative cross-sectional approaches can test how important social factors are for key outcomes (e.g., the role of perceived risk, values, social norms for behaviour); (5) experimental quantitative approaches can compare randomised groups and study cause?effect relations; (6) certain limitations and challenges are unique to research with people; (7) communications and interventions (e.g., change campaigns, new regulation, education programmes) should be developed based on scientific insights into human thought and behaviour and then evaluated systematically; (8) social researchers should work towards developing standardised tools and protocols; and (9) social research on microplastics and its determinants is in its infancy and a number of important research questions remain to be addressed.