The Jonathan Sime award

In memory of Jonathan Sime, this is an award to recognise a significant contribution to the field of people-environment research in an undergraduate dissertation.

About the Jonathan Sime Award

This prestigious annual award is open to all undergraduates attending a British University.

The Award Panel welcomes applications which clearly exhibit originality of thought, quality of research and reflects Jonathan’s interests in people-environment relationships.

It is required that dissertation tutors or heads of departments nominate dissertations for this award which includes a cash prize of £150 for the winner and £50 for a runner up / special commendation. The annual closing date for applications is 1st July.

This Jonathan Sime Dissertation Award is given in memory of Jonathan Sime who died suddenly in January 2001, aged just 50. The award is funded by a friend of Jonathan from his teenage years.

Jonathan combined the roles of scholar and consultant in the field of environmental psychology and was highly regarded as a researcher and teacher within the environment-behaviour field. He made a significant contribution to the literature in this field, especially with his work on conceptual and practical aspects of human behaviour in fires. He always sought to bridge the frequently mutually exclusive emphasis on people and built environments (Shields, 2003). He worked on the social dynamics of environmental risk perception and he wanted to develop an approach of transdisciplinarity which would link scholarship and practice, as well as different disciplines. More recently he had returned to exploring an earlier fascination, i.e. the complex issues of place attachment and sense of place. No listing of his achievements could do justice to his memory but the following will provide a brief summary:

Having graduated in Psychology from London University in 1972, Jonathan revealed his early interest in architecture and people-environment relations by working first as an interior designer/constructor at a photographic studios in Hamburg, and then as a Research Assistant in the Sociological Research Branch of the Housing Development Directorate of the Department of the Environment. This early experience persuaded him that the newly emerging field of environmental psychology in the UK was where he wanted to be. Jonathan Sime came to the University of Surrey in 1974 and was in the second cohort of students to join the MSc in Environmental Psychology. Having successfully completed the MSc, he began his PhD work (awarded 1984) and a career of research for which he was most widely known. The title of his thesis was “Escape behaviour in fires: panic or affiliation”. He was supervised by David Canter and worked with David on various fire-related research contracts. From 1981 he held a number of Research Fellow positions (Portsmouth Polytechnic; University of Surrey) and visiting lectureships (Kingston Polytechnic; Portsmouth Polytechnic - where he was Director of the Building Use and Safety Research Unit; University of Surrey; Fire Service College; Instituto Superior de Psicologia Aplicada, Lisbon). In 1999, he was appointed Visiting Professor in the School of the Built Environment at the University of Ulster and just before his death he had accepted a visiting faculty position in Environment & Behaviour at the University of Utah.

Jonathan’s work included over 70 publications and more than 100 conference presentations, mostly to international audiences. He carried out research and compiled reports for 31 organisations including the Railtrack Safety & Standards Directorate; the Fire Research Station; The Royal Institute of British Architects; London Underground; London Buses Ltd.; the Forestry Commission; British Airport Authority; Channel Tunnel Safety Authority and the Department of the Environment. Since 1972 he lectured at seventeen different universities, research institutions and government departments in the UK and at twenty outside the UK. The breadth and depth of his professional experience was considerable. Environment-behaviour research and teaching was his life and joy.

His enthusiasm for the subject was also reflected in the many organisations to which he belonged and made an active and invaluable contribution. In addition to being IAPS Secretary, he was a member of the British Psychological Society, EDRA, the International Association for Fire Safety Science, and PAPER, the last of which he had served on the Board. He was Book Review Editor of the Journal of Risk Research and on the Editorial Boards of Environments by Design, Corporate Communications and Journal of Architectural and Planning Research.

Jonathan was, above all, a sincere and fun-loving person. He was a keen musician and played the guitar and harmonica as a visiting soloist with amateur music groups. He loved many sports, especially skiing. He was a gentle person. He was deeply thoughtful and gave willingly of his time to students, colleagues and friends. He had an unshakeable belief in the concept of fairness and always respected and gave credence to the opinions of others. The environment-behaviour research world is a small and close community but scattered over five continents and Jonathan had very many friends in each of them. He is sadly missed.

It is a great privilege to be given an award which bears his name.


Shields, T.J. (2003). Obituary: Professor Jonathan Sime. In David D. Evans (ed) “Fire Safety Science – Proceedings of the Seventh International Symposium”, pp. xv-xvi.

A selection of Jonathan Sime’s publications

Sime, J.D. (1999).  What is environmental psychology?  Texts, content and context.  Journal of Environmental Psychology, 19(2), pp. 191-206.

Sime, J.D. (1999).  Crowd facilities, management and communications in disasters.  Facilities, 17(9-10), pp.313-324.

Sime, J.D. (1998).  Visual access configurations: spatial analysis and occupant response inputs to architectural design and fire engineering.  In M. Teklenburg, J. van Andel, J. Smeets and A. Seidel (Eds) Shifting Balances, Changing Roles in Policy Research and Design.  IAPS 15, Eindhoven: European Institute of Retailing and Services (EIRASS), pp. 140-151.

Sime, J.D. (1997).  Informative flood warnings: occupant response to risk, threat and loss of place.  In J. Handmer (Ed.) Flood Warning: Issues and Practice in Total System Design.  Flood Hazard Research Centre.  London: Middlesex University, pp.155-175.

Sime, J.D. (1995).  Creating places or designing spaces?  In L. Groat (Ed.) Giving Places Meaning.  Readings in Environmental Psychology, Vol 4.  London: Academic Press, pp.27-41 (reprint).

Horlick-Jones, T. and Sime, J.D. (2004). ‘Living on the border: knowledge, risk and transdisciplinarity’ Futures, 36, pp. 441-456.

Environmental psychology explores the transactions between people – both individuals and groups – and their physical setting; it gives a prominent place to environmental perceptions, attitudes, evaluations and representations and accompanying behaviour. Environmental psychology focuses on both the effects of environmental conditions on behaviour and how the individual perceives and acts on the environment.  As psychologists our focus is on people’s perceptions, attitudes and actions, but as environmental psychologists we believe that these psychological processes are always situated, that is, they are invariably place-related and place-dependent.

Many problems we face in society are a product of the breakdown of the relationship either between people and people in an environmental context, or between people and the physical environment itself – leading to serious and damaging environmental, individual and social consequences. Society invests enormous resources into the planning, design, construction, management and use of the physical environment. This investment ensures that we are not only fed, clothed, housed, employed and made secure, but that the quality of our lives is enhanced as much as possible.

Dissertations will be considered if they describe a piece of empirical work in the field of people-environment studies.  The field includes subjects such as environmental perception and cognition, environmental stress, personal space, territoriality, crowding, work- learning or residential environments, the natural environment, sustainability, resource management, environmental disaster, environmental problems and behavioural solutions, children and the environment, crime and the environment, etc. This can include, but is not limited to, dissertations from Psychology, Sociology, Architecture, and Geography. Both qualitative and quantitative pieces of work will be considered, but the dissertation must be an empirical study (i.e. literature reviews are not sufficient). Examples of methods reported include laboratory studies, questionnaires, observational work, interviews, and spatial analysis.

The Jonathan Sime Dissertation Award is available to students who have completed an undergraduate degree and produced a dissertation in a subject area related to the field of people-environment studies at a British University.

It will be for dissertation tutors or heads of departments to nominate dissertations for this award by submitting nomination form that includes an abstract of the dissertation to a panel of assessors. This will include an extended abstract, up to a maximum of 500 words , prepared by the student for the Panel. This should include 3-5 key references (with the full references at the end, not included in the word count). A second sheet of illustrations may be added, if appropriate. An electronic copy of the abstract must be submitted by July 1.

The Panel of Assessors will select from the submitted abstracts three-four dissertations for further consideration and the chosen candidates will be notified by July 15th of the need to submit a full dissertation. Unsuccessful candidates will also be informed by July 15.

Electronic copies of the full dissertations are to be submitted by July 31. They should be sent to Professor Birgitta Gatersleben for the attention of the Jonathan Sime Award Panel. The Panel of Assessors comprises national and international Environmental Psychologists.

The Panel will, inter alia, be looking for:

  • A strong clear link between the introduction, methods, results and discussion
  • A clear and engaging introduction which identifies the major points to be covered including clearly presented aims, research questions and/or hypotheses
  • A clear description of the study design and the analytical procedures used
  • Results which are clearly presented with good use of illustrative material as appropriate
  • A clear discussion in terms of the theoretical, methodological and practical implications of the findings
  • A conclusion which summarises the main findings for each of the research questions or hypotheses and the recommendations for future research
  • References which are complete and correctly cited throughout

The winner of the award and the institution will be notified by September 15, when submitted dissertations will be returned.

The winner may be offered the opportunity for a short paper based on their entry to be published in the Bulletin of the International Association for People-Environment Studies (IAPS). Publication decisions will be the responsibility of the editor of the IAPS Bulletin. The abstracts of the three finalists will be published on the website of the Jonathan Sime Award.

How to submit 

Nomination form

Download our nomination form (docx) (including the extended abstract).

Dissertations should be sent by email to:

Download nomination form (PDF)

Key dates

  • 1 July: Submission of abstracts
  • 15 July: Notification of decision on need for submission of full dissertation
  • 31 July: Submission of full dissertation
  • 15 September: Notification of winner of the award

Award winners


How special is Environmental Collective Action? – A case study of Extinction Rebellion in the UK

  • Friederike Lurken
  • School of Psychology, Cardiff University


After the recent emergence of environmental movements around the globe, there have been calls for psychological research with a specific focus on environmental collective action (ECA) (e.g. Bamberg, Rhees, & Schulte, 2018). However, ECA is related to two areas of psychological research that have mostly been kept separate: collective action and pro-environmental behaviour. The Social Identity Model of Collective Action (SIMCA; van Zomeren, Postmes, & Spears, 2012) suggests that moral conviction, politicised identification, group-based anger, and collective efficacy beliefs should be the strongest psychological predictors of an individual’s intentions to engage in collective action. In contrast, research on pro-environmental behaviour which often includes ECA activities, e.g. going on a climate march, tends to focus on different theoretical frameworks (e.g. Norm Activation Model; Schwartz, 1977) and causal factors (e.g. fear; O’Neill & Nicholson-Cole, 2009). Thus, the purpose of this study was to investigate how well the SIMCA applied to the British ECA movement Extinction Rebellion (XR) whilst also considering some frameworks of pro-environmental behaviour.

Interview data of 15 XR activists (7F/8M) was thematically analysed, resulting in thematic clusters around participants’ personal contexts, their opportunities, emotions, and their experience of volunteering with XR. Subsequently, 139 XR activists (82F/56M/1other) filled in a questionnaire which included measures of all the SIMCA factors. Since the qualitative analysis highlighted the importance of a sense of community to participants, the role of a wide variety of emotions in their involvement in XR, as well as variations in their emotional expressions through time, the Brief Sense of Community Index (BSCI; Long & Perkins, 2003), and measures for six different emotions (enjoyment, excitement, anxiety, anger, awe, love) at different points in time were included in the questionnaire.

Statistical analyses revealed that when participants retrieved memories of moments that impacted their decision to join XR, they reported having experienced negative emotions (i.e. anxiety and anger) more intensely. In contrast, positive emotions (i.e. awe, excitement, enjoyment, and love) were experienced more intensely in participants’ meaningful memories from after they joined XR. Participants’ sense of community and their anxiety experienced before joining XR were significant predictors of their intention to take part in future XR actions. However, neither collective efficacy beliefs nor moral convictions, politicised identity or any other emotions significantly predicted future action intentions in contrast to what the SIMCA suggests. These findings pose the question whether the SIMCA is as applicable to ECA movements like XR as it is to collective action movements with a social justice focus. Implications and limitations of the study were discussed.


Bamberg, S., Rees, J. H., & Schulte, M. (2018). Environmental protection through societal change: What psychology knows about collective climate action—and what it needs to find out. In S. Clayton & C. Manning (Eds.), Psychology and Climate Change: Human Perceptions, Impacts, and Responses (pp. 185-213). London: Academic Press.

Long, D. A., & Perkins, D. D. (2003). Confirmatory factor analysis of the sense of community index and development of a brief SCI. Journal of Community Psychology31(3), 279-296.

O'Neill, S., & Nicholson-Cole, S. (2009). “Fear won't do it” promoting positive engagement with climate change through visual and iconic representations. Science Communication30(3), 355-379.

Schwartz, S. H. (1977). Normative influences on altruism. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology10(1), 221-279.

Van Zomeren, M., Postmes, T., & Spears, R. (2012). On conviction's collective  consequences: Integrating moral conviction with the social identity model of collective action. British Journal of Social Psychology51(1), 52-71.

Special commendation

Manipulating the psychological distance of climate change: key dimensions and their effects on various mitigation behaviours

  • Charlotte Victoria Wharton
  • School of Psychology, University of Warwick


Engaging the public in pro-environmental behaviour is increasingly important as the global emergency of climate change is ever worsening (IPCC, 2018). Yet, despite the clear and consistent urgency in the scientific community, there has long been a persistent lack of public engagement as climate change is psychologically distant—temporally, geographically, and socially (Spence, Poortinga & Pidgeon, 2012). Previous studies have successfully manipulated perceived “psychological distance” of climate change, but these studies also failed to promote positive climate action, suggesting further finetuning of this manipulation is needed (Brügger et al., 2015).

Further, “individual” and “collective” behaviours are often focused on in the literature, but these two behaviour categories alone may not effectively represent all aspects of climate change action (Kenis & Mathijs, 2012). Adding a new behaviour type in the present study aims to address this: behaviours that involve an individual responsibility to affect the collective, e.g., partaking in climate change protests to influence policy changes. Going beyond the “individual” and “collective” categories, this represents a deeper and wider reaching level of engagement where people take on the responsibility of changing the behaviours of others in wider society.

In the present study, Brügger et al.’s (2015) suggestions were used to manipulate the psychological distance of climate change to influence a) individual, b) collective, and c) individual-on-collective behaviours. In an online survey, 152 UK adults were randomly assigned to a reduced psychological distance or an increased psychological distance condition. Text and images were carefully designed to illustrate climate change effects and manipulate the psychological distance of climate change between groups. For example, those in the reduced group were shown stimuli illustrating climate change effects in the UK and to UK families now and in the near future, whereas the increased group were shown similar effects but far away geographically and to people in the future. Belief in climate change (e.g., “Climate change is warming the planet”), and intentions for various mitigation behaviours (e.g., “I intend to limit my electricity use”) were measured by Likert-scales.  Lastly, participants rated which aspects of the stimuli had the most effect on their responses to see any standout dimensions of psychological distance.

Following statistical analysis, those in the reduced psychological distance group reported both more belief in climate change and more intentions for mitigation behaviour of all 3 types. Novel support was found for the importance of the social dimension of psychological distance (i.e., who will be affected) and the information about the positive impact that mitigation behaviours can have. These findings show the importance of highlighting the effects of climate change that are psychologically close (i.e., in near future, for the ingroup), and the importance of reducing scepticism about the impact of mitigation behaviours, respectively. Recommendations for framing the communication of climate change effects in line with these findings are promising for the reduction of psychological distance and to subsequently promote mitigation, in a variety of behaviours.

Addressing the mixed body of research, the present study finetunes the manipulation of the psychological distance of climate change and establishes generalisable methods to promote widespread mitigation.


Brügger, A., Dessai, S., Devine-Wright, P., Morton, T. A., & Pidgeon, N. F. (2015). Psychological responses to the proximity of climate change. Nature Climate Change, 5, 1031.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). (2018). Global Warming of 1.5°C. Retrieved from:

Kenis, A., & Mathijs, E. (2012). Beyond individual behaviour change: the role of power, knowledge and strategy in tackling climate change. Environmental Education Research, 18, 45-65. 

Spence, A., Poortinga, W., & Pidgeon, N. (2012). The psychological distance of climate change. Risk Analysis: An International Journal, 32, 957-972.

Shortlisted abstracts

The role of perceived inconvenience as a predictor of intentions to engage in high and low impact pro-environmental behaviours

  • Rosie Ridge
  • School of Psychology, University of Sussex


Our planet is facing a climate emergency and individuals must alter their behaviour and reduce their consumption (Ripple, Wolf, Newsome, Barnard, & Moomaw, 2020). It is sometimes argued that individuals are motivated by self-interest (e.g., Low & Ridley, 1993) and are willing to act pro-environmentally if it incurs little cost to themselves. Evidence has demonstrated that perceived inconvenience is one barrier preventing engagement in pro-environmental behaviour. However, research regarding pro-environmental action has focused on intentions to engage in low to moderate impact pro-environmental behaviours (Wynes & Nicholas, 2017); although engagement in such action is beneficial, Ripple et al. (2020) attribute the climate emergency to the effects of more high impact activities. 

Wynes and Nicholas (2017) recommend four high impact actions that have the potential to contribute to a substantial reduction in personal emissions: having one fewer child, living car free, avoiding airplane travel and eating a plant-based diet. Based on these recommendations, the present research intended to overcome the limitation of previous literature by assessing intentions to engage in eight high and low-moderate impact pro-environmental behaviours. Despite research indicating perceived inconvenience as a barrier to engagement in pro-environmental action, there is minimal research assessing perceived inconvenience as a predictor of intentions or behaviour. Thus, the present study explored whether perceived inconvenience predicted intentions to engage in a range of pro-environmental behaviours, independently of other well-established (Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB); Ajzen, 1991) predictors of intentions. Based on previous research, it was predicted that perceived inconvenience would, significantly, negatively predict intentions to engage in pro-environmental behaviours. 

The pro-environmental literature indicates that environmental concern influences engagement in pro-environmental behaviour. Schultz and Oskamp (1996) found that when a behaviour is perceived to be inconvenient (requires high effort), only those with high environmental concern were likely to engage. Thus, the second aim of the study was to assess whether environmental concern moderated the expected relationship between perceived inconvenience and intentions to engage in pro-environmental actions. It was predicted that the expected negative relationship between inconvenience and intentions would be attenuated by environmental concern. 

A questionnaire design online was used to measure participants’ (N = 284) (211F/73M; 33% students) self-reported attitudes and intentions towards eight pro-environmental behaviours. Consistent with our first prediction, following statistical analyses, the findings showed that perceived inconvenience significantly predicted intentions to engage in seven (of the eight) pro-environmental behaviours. Environmental concern was found to moderate the relationship between perceived inconvenience and intentions to (i) recycle when possible,  and (ii) eat a meat-free diet. 

Our findings add to the existing literature in three ways: first, by confirming the role of perceived inconvenience as a predictor of intentions to engage in pro-environmental behaviour (independently of perceived behavioural control and other TPB predictors); second, by including a wide range of pro-environmental behaviours; and third, by exploring the moderating effect of environmental concern. The research suggests that policymakers should take the influence of perceived inconvenience on intentions into account when designing policies to successfully encourage pro-environmental action.


Ajzen, I. (1991). The theory of planned behaviour. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 50(2), 179-211. doi: 10.1016/0749-5978(91)90020-T

Low, B. S., & Ridley, M. (1993). Can selfishness save the environment? Retrieved from…

Ripple, W. J., Wolf, C., Newsome, T. M., Barnard, P., & Moomaw, W. R. (2020). World scientists’ warning of a climate emergency. BioScience, 70(1), 8-12. doi: 10.1093/biosci/biz088

Schultz, P. W., & Oskamp, S. (1996). Effort as a moderator of the attitude-behaviour relationship: General environmental concern and recycling. Social Psychology Quarterly, 59(4), 375-383. doi: 10.2307/2787078

Wynes, S., & Nicholas, K. A. (2017). The climate mitigation gap: Education and government recommendations miss the most effective individual actions. Environmental Research Letters, 12. doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/aa7541

Negative Emotional Appeals: The Effectiveness of Fear and Guilt Communicative Appeals on Individuals Pro-Environmental Behavior and Environmental Concern to Microplastic Pollution

  • Gavin Miller
  • School of Psychology, University of Plymouth


In an ever-growing ‘throwaway’ society, the world’s oceans are coming under new and persistent pressures from anthropogenic activity. Marine plastic pollution is caused exclusively by human behaviours and decisions. Plastics, which accumulate in the ocean and degrade into brittle and ever-smaller fragments called ‘microplastics’, have the potential to compromise human food security and have been found in a range of items for human consumption. Microplastics also enter the marine environment directly as a result of human activity; Napper and Thompson (2016) demonstrated that as many as 700,000 microplastic fibres can enter waterways every laundry cycle. Despite this however, general microplastic awareness and concern still appears low (Jacobs et al., 2015).

While policies and regulation can provide an important framework for change, psychological interventions are needed to reduce negative behaviours and help protect the marine environment. Communicative appeals are one such psychological strategy that have been used for decades within health, political and environmental campaigns with varying degrees of success. Communicative appeals often intend to evoke emotion in order to motivate specific behavioural actions. Witte (1992) and Wonneberger (2018), respectively, have provided evidence for the effectiveness of fear and guilt appeals in the context of behaviour change. These studies have suggested that negative emotions can provide positive behavioural outcomes, and that guilt appeals may be more effective in motivating behavioural change due to a desire to escape feelings of personal-responsibility (Basil, Ridgeway & Basil, 2006).

The present study used a between-subjects design with two experimental conditions, Fear and Guilt, to measure the effect of Negative Emotional Appeals (NEA) on individual levels of Pro-Environmental Behaviour (PEB) and Environmental Concern (EC) towards microplastic pollution. Specifically, the study used immersive virtual technology, paired with the different emotion messages, to have participants experience the pathways and impacts of microplastics from laundry.

 Fifty-four student participants (11F/43M) from the University of Plymouth completed the study. Using Virtual Reality (VR), information surrounding microplastics and the human food chain was framed with a communicative narrative to either induce fear or guilt.  The study measured individual likelihood of adopting PEB’s, as well as individual levels of EC, before and after exposure to a NEA. Self-reported emotional state was also measured using the PANAS mood-scale (Watson, Clark & Tellegen, 1988) to ensure experimental manipulation was met in each condition.

Following statistical analyses, results indicated a significant increase in participants’ self-reported PEB intention and EC across a number of response items, after viewing the negative emotional VR appeals (across fear and guilt). There was also some evidence suggesting that guilt appeals may be more effective in increasing individual PEB intention and EC shown towards microplastic, but this finding was only approaching significance. We conclude that NEA, especially shown in a novel, immersive VR medium, has potential to increase PEB and EC related to microplastic pollution. Further, some evidence supports guilt appeals being more effective than their fear counterparts. However, more research must be done to replicate these findings. Novel virtual reality technology combined with careful messaging holds great potential to help us address emerging environmental challenges that lack visibility.


Basil, D. Z., Ridgway, N. M., & Basil, M. D. (2006). Guilt appeals: The mediating effect of responsibility. Psychology & Marketing23(12), 1035-1054.

Jacobs, S., Sioen, I., De Henauw, S., Rosseel, Y., Calis, T., Tediosi, A., ... & Verbeke, W. (2015). Marine environmental contamination: public awareness, concern and perceived effectiveness in five European countries. Environmental Research143, 4-10.

Napper, I. E., & Thompson, R. C. (2016). Release of synthetic microplastic plastic fibres from domestic washing machines: Effects of fabric type and washing conditions. Marine Pollution Bulletin112(1-2), 39-45.

Watson, D., Clark, L. A., & Tellegen, A. (1988). Development and validation of brief measures of positive and negative affect: the PANAS scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 54(6) 1063

Witte, K. (1992). Putting the fear back into fear appeals: The extended parallel process model. Communications Monographs59(4), 329-349.

Wonneberger, A. (2018). Environmentalism—a question of guilt? Testing a model of guilt arousal and effects for environmental campaigns. Journal of Nonprofit Public-Sector Marketing30(2), 168-186.

Special Commendations

The Effect of Priming Altruistic Values on Implicit Attitudes towards Meat and Vegetables

  • Emily Jones
  • School of Psychology, Cardiff University


Reducing our meat consumption is vital to reduce our negative impact on the environment, human health, and animal welfare. Yet, meat consumption continues to rise annually with the growing human population. Therefore, persuading the public towards more sustainable food choices is imperative. Persuasion presumes that changing our attitudes can lead to a change in behaviour. It comes as no surprise, given the difference in diet, that vegetarians hold more negative attitudes towards meat than omnivores. Individuals hold attitudes for the psychological functions that they serve. Katz (1960) proposed four functions: utility, knowledge, ego-defence, and value-expression. Attitudes with a value-expressive function allow an individual to express their personal values and their self-concept; such as an individual recycling because they value the environment. Katz argued that the conditions required to change an attitude vary depending on these functions, and empirical evidence supports that the most effective persuasive interventions are those that address the function underlying an individual’s attitude and match this function by emphasising that particular need (Maio & Haddock, 2014).

Shavitt (1990) found that attitudes towards certain objects are likely to serve particular functions. Utilising this, the current research proposed that attitudes toward meat products, and not wanting to consume them, likely serve a value-expressive function. These attitudes are therefore most likely to be changed by a value-expressive appeal. It has been argued that the specific values the attitude is serving also need to be known to target a persuasive intervention effectively. This has been achieved in studies by exposing participants to messages that activate particular values and then observing potential changes in attitude. If change occurred, the attitude is not only considered value-expressive, but is also considered to serve that particular value. There is ample evidence that those who abstain from meat place importance on altruistic values: universalism and benevolence (Ruby, 2012).

Applying the functional theory of attitude change, seventy undergraduate students were allocated to either a prime condition, where they read a persuasive appeal activating altruistic values (verified using a pilot study) to make the attitude function salient, or a control condition where they read a neutral resource material. Participants then completed an Implicit Association Test (IAT), closely based on the version used by De Houwer and De Bruycker (2007), to measure their implicit attitudes towards meat and vegetable products. It was hypothesised that after being primed with altruistic values, participants’ negative implicit attitudes towards meat would increase relative to attitudes towards vegetables, compared to the control group.

Consistent with this prediction, the IAT effect scores towards meat products in the prime group were more negative (relative to attitudes towards vegetables) than in the control group, which was statistically significant (p <.0025). These findings suggest that attitudes towards meat products can be considered value-expressive in their function, serving altruistic values specifically, and are therefore most likely to be changed by value-based interventions. This has important applications at a societal level for improving the effectiveness of persuasive interventions by making them function-relevant to help reduce meat consumption and its negative consequences.


De Houwer, J., & De Bruycker, E. (2007). Implicit attitudes towards meat and vegetables in vegetarians and nonvegetarians. International Journal of Psychology42(3), 158-165.

Katz, D. (1960). The functional approach to the study of attitudes. Public Opinion Quarterly24(2), 163-204.

Maio, G., & Haddock, G. (2014). The Psychology of Attitudes and Attitude Change. SAGE.

Ruby, M. B. (2012). Vegetarianism. A blossoming field of study. Appetite58(1), 141-150.

Shavitt, S. (1990). The role of attitude objects in attitude functions. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology26(2), 124-148.

Soaring in Nature: The Effect of Bird Wildlife within Natural Environments on Feelings of Restoration and Well-being

  • Jessica Green
  • School of Psychology, University of Surrey


The beneficial impact of biodiverse natural environments on psychological well-being and restoration is established across research. Current understanding suggests that they promote well-being through a number of means, including stimulation of positive emotions, and offering restorative experiences (Hartig, 2004).

The concept of restoration has been explained theoretically through Attention Restoration Theory (Kaplan & Kaplan, 1989). This suggests that restorative experiences evoke indirect attention, enabling us to restore and replenish our depleted cognitive resources, and resulting in beneficial impacts on our overall well-being. ART identifies four qualities required for restorative experiences; being away, fascination, extent, and compatibility. Biodiverse natural environments are proposed to have great restoration potential as they rank highly in these factors (Wyles, Pahl, Thomas & Thompson, 2016), with research identifying this trend across a multitude of natural environments (White, Weeks, Hooper, Bleakley, Cracknell & Lovell, 2017). Yet, it is important to recognise that these environments are characteristically diverse, and there is still much to explore regarding what features may aid or hinder a restorative experience.

Research has explored what it is about biodiverse natural environments that evokes restoration benefits, with suggestion that increased levels of biodiversity, such as species richness and availability, can have beneficial impacts (Fuller, Irvine, Devine-Wright, Warren & Gaston, 2007). Some research has also looked specifically at bird wildlife, with some suggestion that environments high in bird species diversity are perceived as having greater restorative potential (White et al., 2017). Yet, this has received relatively little exploration. Is our proximity to bird wildlife important for these restorative benefits? The present research aims to explore this question and establish the importance of proximity to bird wildlife within natural environments for the experience of restorative benefits.

Following a repeated measures design, two studies take a complementary approach, concentrating on how benefits may vary with proximity, looking specifically at native UK owl species. A laboratory study (Study 1) used a photograph-rating task with an undergraduate sample (= 40), whereby images of natural environments, with birds at varying degrees of closeness, were rated on scales for both perceived restoration and well-being. In a subsequent field study (Study 2) with a diverse sample (n = 51), an immersive bird display, and time spent in nature passively observing birds in the distance, were rated on identical scales to Study 1, with an additional meaningfulness scale, to examine the role of proximity in situ.

In both studies, no effect of proximity was found on perceived restoration. In terms of well-being, contradictory findings were seen. In Study 1, the no-bird images were rated most positively, yet in Study 2, improvements in well-being were seen following the immersive bird display. The contradictory nature of these findings are explored, with the suggestion that they may be explained through context and the differing degrees of immersion in laboratory versus field settings.

Although further research is recommended to clarify these effects, from these considerations the present research concludes that time spent in natural environments with bird wildlife can have beneficial impacts on well-being and restoration. This research extends understanding of the role of bird wildlife and the psychological benefits that can be yielded from spending time in natural environments characterised by this type of biodiversity.


Fuller, R. A., Irvine, K. N., Devine-Wright, P., Warren, P. H., & Gaston, K. J. (2007). Psychological benefits of greenspace increase with biodiversity. Biology Letters3(4), 390-394.

Hartig, T. (2004). Restorative environments. Encyclopedia of Applied Psychology3, 273-279.

Kaplan, R., & Kaplan, S. (1989). The Experience of Nature: A Psychological Perspective. CUP Archive.

White, M. P., Weeks, A., Hooper, T., Bleakley, L., Cracknell, D., Lovell, R., & Jefferson, R. L. (2017). Marine wildlife as an important component of coastal visits: The role of perceived biodiversity and species behaviour. Marine Policy, 78, 80-89.

Wyles, K. J., Pahl, S., Thomas, K., & Thompson, R. C. (2016). Factors that can undermine the psychological benefits of coastal environments: exploring the effect of tidal state, presence, and type of litter. Environment and Behavior48(9), 1095-1126.

Shortlisted abstracts 2019

Effects of Environmental Labelling and Social Observability on Environmental Self-Identity and Behavioural Spillover

  • Imogen Hopkins
  • School of Psychology, Cardiff University


Few individuals appear motivated to engage beyond relatively easy pro-environmental behaviours (PEBs) leading to research into interventions to increase PEBs. One proposed method to expand engagement with PEBs is through behavioural spillover; a process where undertaking a pro-environmental action leads to other subsequent PEBs (Thøgersen, 1999).

Self-perception is thought to underlie positive behavioural spillover effects (Bem, 1972). People make inferences about themselves based on observations of their behaviour, and this can then lead to other behaviours that match these self-perceptions. In line with this, studies have found that environmental-identity labelling interventions increase pro-environmental product choices (Cornelissen et al., 2007) and leads to greater environmental policy support (Lacasse, 2016).

Previous research on behavioural spillover has overlooked the impact of social observability of PEBs. Public behaviours may fail to activate a pro-environmental identity due to them being externally motivated, and may therefore be less likely to lead to behavioural spillover. With the internet creating new public PEBs, such as online petition signing, researching spillover effects of these behaviours was needed and investigating whether they would benefit from an intervention targeting environmental identity.

In this pre-registered experiment (, with a 2x2 between-subjects experimental design, 125 participants (Mage=19.51) signed a public or private petition (the social observability manipulation). They subsequently received a ‘thank you’ message labelling them as “environmental friendly” or a generic message with no label (the environmental-identity manipulation). An additional control group did not sign a petition nor received a message. Participants in all five conditions completed a survey containing measures of environmental self-identity and of pro-environmental behavioural intentions. The study also included an observational paper disposal measure of participants discarding an envelope in a recycling or general waste bin.

It was predicted that both signing a private petition and environmental-identity labelling is associated with greater environmental self-identity and behavioural spillover. Furthermore, an interaction was expected, with environmental-identity labelling having the greatest effect for signing of a public petition. Lastly, petition signing was expected to lead to greater environmental self-identity and spillover as compared to the control condition.

Environmental self-identity was found to be significantly higher among participants who signed the private petition, which suggested encouragement of private PEBs could be an effective method of increasing individual’s pro-environmental self-identity. Although signing a private petition was not associated with greater behavioural spillover, potentially because the difference in environmental identity between public and private conditions was too small to cause behaviour differences. There was no effect of labelling on environmental self-identity or for spillover, questioning the suitability of environmental labelling as an intervention. Additionally, no interaction effect for identity or behavioural spillover was found. Potentially because public petition signing did not activate extrinsic motivation enough for the labelling intervention to be more beneficial for these conditions. Future research could investigate more socially observable online behaviours e.g. Facebook petitions. Lastly, although petition signing did not increase environmental self-identity or promote positive spillover, there was no evidence for negative spillover either.


Bem, D. J. (1972). Self-perception theory. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 6, 1-62.

Cornelissen, G., Dewitte, S., Warlop, L., & Yzerbyt, V. (2007). Whatever people say I am, that's what I am: Social labeling as a social marketing tool. International Journal of Research in Marketing, 24, 278-288.

Lacasse, K. (2016). Don't be satisfied, identify! Strengthening positive spillover by connecting pro-environmental behaviors to an “environmentalist” label. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 48, 149-158.

Thøgersen, J. (1999). Spillover processes in the development of a sustainable consumption pattern. Journal of Economic Psychology, 20, 53-81.

An Investigation into Compensatory Green Beliefs:
applying theory from the health domain to the environmental domain

  • Katie Barisnikov-Dent
  • School of Psychology, University of Surrey


Background - Encouraging sustainable, pro-environmental behaviour is key to preventing further climate change and damage to the environment. It is well known that people are inconsistent in their environmental behaviour (Nilsson, Bergquist, & Schultz, 2017). Furthering our understanding of how and why these inconsistencies arise is crucial to encouraging consistent and widespread pro-environmental action. One proposed explanation for inconsistent environmental behaviour are Compensatory Green Beliefs (CGBs) (Kaklamanou, Jones, Webb, & Walker, 2015): beliefs that pro-environmental behaviours can compensate for environmentally detrimental behaviours. For example, a person may balance their regular use of public transport against their use of air travel to reach holiday destinations. Kaklamanou et al. (2015) propose that people use CGBs to reduce the psychological discomfort or dissonance they feel when engaging in environmentally detrimental behaviours. However, few studies have investigated the mechanisms behind compensatory beliefs in an environmental context.

In this study, we investigated if the motivation component of the Compensatory Health Beliefs model (Rabiau, Knäuper, & Miquelon, 2006), which is based on Self-Determination Theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985), could be applied to better understand CGBs.

Methods - Participants in our study (N = 176) were from universities in three European countries (Italy, Portugal and the UK) and covered a broad range of ages, from 18 to 77 years, with mean age 35 years and 7 months. We used an experimental, between-subjects design to compare the effects of participants’ motivation for engaging in pro-environmental behaviour across three conditions (pride, guilt and control) on their endorsement of CGBs. We aimed to induce feelings of pride or guilt by asking participants to write about a recent time they engaged in a pro-environmental or environmentally detrimental behaviour.

Results and Discussion - Consistent with previous research, we found generally low levels of CGB endorsement. Our manipulation of guilt was unsuccessful as participants in both the pride and guilt conditions reported feeling more guilty than those in the control condition. This finding is consistent with previous qualitative studies but has not, to our knowledge, been replicated in previous quantitative research. We then focused the analysis on studying the interaction between pro-environmental motivation (internalised vs. introjected/external) and guilt (i.e. combined pride and guilt conditions vs. control). Results showed that those who had an internalised motivation did not endorse many CGBs and did not differ in their endorsement of CGBs when induced to feel guilt (vs. control). Counter to our predictions, those with an introjected motivation were found to endorse fewer CGBs when made to feel guilty (vs. control). We had hypothesised (based upon health beliefs literature) that if CGBs were a guilt resolution mechanism for those with a more external/introjected environmental identity, that there would have been a peak in endorsement in this condition. One explanation for this finding is that environmental behaviour, unlike health behaviour, is typically more pro-social than self-interested. Overall, our study contributes to the small amount of literature on CGBs and suggests that the psychological mechanisms underpinning use of compensatory beliefs may differ between health and environmental domains.


Deci, E., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic Motivation and Self-Determination in Human Behavior. New York, NY: Plenum.

Kaklamanou, D., Jones, C. R., Webb, T. L., & Walker, S. R. (2015). Using Public Transport Can Make Up for Flying Abroad on Holiday: Compensatory Green Beliefs and Environmentally Significant Behavior. Environment and Behavior47(2), 184-204.

Nilsson, A., Bergquist, M., & Schultz, W. P. (2017). Spillover effects in environmental behaviors, across time and context: a review and research agenda. Environmental Education Research23(4), 573-589.

Rabiau, M., Knäuper, B., & Miquelon, P. (2006). The eternal quest for optimal balance between maximizing pleasure and minimizing harm: The compensatory health beliefs model. British Journal of Health Psychology11(1), 139-153.                 

Note – This study was part of a joint project with other students but the data analysis and the dissertation write-up is the student’s individual work.


#TwitterBots #ClimateChange 
Investigating the effects of source credibility training on climate change attitudes

  • Lorna Smith
  • School of Experimental Psychology, University of Bristol


Information, whether truthful or misleading, can propagate through social media at a formidable pace. Twitter allows for the large-scale cascade of misinformation spreading through the exclusion of conventional ‘gatekeeping mechanisms’, allowing users to generate tweets without the need for independent verification. Automated Twitter accounts, or “bots”, can be inexpensively utilised for malicious misinformation campaigns; these are considered professionally-directed and automated accounts often designed to mimic genuine human behaviour (Haustein et al., 2016). The over-supply of misinformation can have debilitating societal consequences.

In regards to anthropogenic climate change, scepticism arises from a number of sources, particularly conservative think tanks that have a vested commercial or ideological interest in undermining well documented scientific research (Lewandowsky & Oberauer, 2016). The media employs several contrarian scientists to portray an aura of credibility in favour of climate science denial, leading to a highly polarised field (Dunlap & McCright, 2010). The continued effort of climate science denial campaigns has resulted in compromised public understanding of the issue, and have delayed or prevented environmental mitigation policies from gaining traction.

Previous research has found that people assess the truthfulness of a statement by relying on cognitive heuristics such as source credibility (Schwarz, Newman & Leach, 2016). For example, highly credible sources are deemed more trustworthy than sources with low credibility (Hovland & Weiss, 1951). Based on this, the present study aimed to investigate the relative impact of source credibility training on subsequent endorsement of anthropogenic climate change. Training involved watching an instructional video that explained typical Twitter bot characteristics such as an inflated following and non-personalised profile pictures, facilitating bot detection. A Twitter conversation involving credible climate scientists and less credible denialists (bots) was presented to investigate the differences between three conditions: the training condition, a generic-warning condition and a control condition in which people were not given any information about bots. Subsequent scientific endorsement was assessed through the measurement of climate change attitudes, as well as source identification accuracy. Based on existing evidence, three hypotheses were tested: 1) training increases source identification accuracy, 2) training increases climate science endorsement, and 3) a warning induces a sense of scepticism towards incoming information.

Following a series of statistical analyses, results revealed that the study was able to train participants (n = 121) to correctly identify sources differing in their legitimacy, thus supporting hypothesis 1. Despite its success, the training did not engender an attitudinal change across conditions. This attitudinal homogeneity could be attributed to the possibility that prior climate change attitudes were already strongly held, and remained unchanged. In populations demonstrating greater climate change scepticism, this training could have the desired effect – an interesting avenue for future research. Contradicting the existing literature, a warning was not sufficient to increase scepticism towards automated accounts. This suggests that it is the training, and not a simple warning, that inoculates individuals against potential misinformation.

These results have implications for misinformation-containment policies. Social media outlets could issue source credibility alerts during periods of substantial bot activity, such as political elections or government policy changes. The promotion of credibility training is a promising approach to reducing the effects of rumour propagation.


Dunlap, R. E., & McCright, A. M. (2010). 14 Climate change denial: sources, actors and strategies. Routledge handbook of climate change and society, 240.

Haustein, S., Bowman, T. D., Holmberg, K., Tsou, A., Sugimoto, C. R., & Larivière, V. (2016). Tweets as impact indicators: Examining the implications of automated “bot” accounts on Twitter. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 67(1), 232-238.

Hovland, C. I., & Weiss, W. (1951). The influence of source credibility on communication effectiveness. Public opinion quarterly, 15(4), 635-650.

Lewandowsky, S., & Oberauer, K. (2016). Motivated rejection of science. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 25(4), 217-222.

Schwarz, N., Newman, E., & Leach, W. (2016). Making the truth stick & the myths fade: Lessons from cognitive psychology. Behavioral Science & Policy, 2(1), 85-95.

Note – This study was part of a joint project with another student but the data analysis and the dissertation write-up is the student’s individual work.

Second prize winner

Investigating framing effects of climate change outcomes on pro-environmental behaviour and policy support

  • Talia Longthorne
  • Psychology with Professional Placement, Cardiff University


System justification is the tendency to rationalize the existing socio-economic system, which is particularly strong in the face of threat (Jost, Nosik & Gosling, 2008). Climate change has arisen largely due to the practices of the socio-economic system. Thus by admitting that the prevailing practices are unsustainable causes a conflict between system-justification needs, such as fairness, and engaging in pro-environmental behaviours. As such, people who engage in more system justification are more likely to deny environmental problems (Feygina, Jost & Goldsmith, 2010) and engage less in pro-environmental action. Additionally, political values influence environmental practices whereby conservative individuals tend to rationalize the status quo more than those with liberal values. Similarly, liberal values are associated with more support for pro-environmental regulation and behaviours, and conservative beliefs with less (Allen, Castano & Allen, 2007, Jost et al., 2008).

Narratives that align system-justifying needs and pro-environmental action have shown to reduce the negative association between defending the existing socio-economic practices and supporting environmental protection (Feygina et al., 2010). Specifically, highlighting that engaging in pro-environmental action helps preserve the status quo, eliminates the resistance to engage in these actions. Building on this, the current online survey study recruited 196 students to test the effect of two narratives (and a control) on pro-environmental behaviour intentions and policy support as a function of political values (conservative-liberal) and system justification tendencies. Participants were randomly assigned to either the control, ‘preserving’ or ‘challenging’ narrative condition. The control merely encountered an introductory paragraph about climate change. The two narratives included identical information, however, the “preserving” narrative highlighted environmental action as an opportunity to preserve the status quo whilst the “challenging” called for more radical change and challenges to current practices.

It was hypothesized that different narratives would be effective in eliciting higher pro-environmental policy support and behavioural intentions depending on the extent to which individuals held conservative values or system-justification tendencies. Specifically, the “preserving” narrative was predicted to elicit higher policy support and behavioural intentions in conservatives and individuals engaging in system-justification compared to the “challenging” narrative and the control. Participants with liberal values and less system-justification tendencies were expected to show more policy support and behavioural intention regardless of narrative. However, statistical analysis did not find an interaction between narrative and system justification or political values. Nonetheless, the “challenging” narrative elicited more support for environmental legislation, independent of system-justification and political values. This is attributable to the sample’s young, largely female and liberal orientation, demonstrating that the recruited sample was generally more receptive to this narrative (Dietz, Dan & Shwom, 2007). Neither narrative affected behavioural intentions, suggesting that active environmental citizenship and policy support have distinct predictors (Stern, 2000), specifically that worldviews, as measured by system justification, are a better predictor of policy support than environmental action.

Identifying narratives resonating with the values of those most resistant to environmental action may facilitate communication across the political spectrum, thus understanding the interaction between political orientation, ideology and communication is crucial to creating a constructive global dialogue.


Allen, R. S., Castano, E., & Allen, P. D. (2007). Conservatism and concern for the environment. Quarterly Journal of Ideology, 30, 1-25

Dietz, T., Dan, A., & Shwom, R. (2007). Support for climate change policy: Social psychological and social structural influences. Rural Sociology, 72(2), 185-214.

Feygina, I., Jost, J. T., & Goldsmith, R. E. (2010). System justification, the denial of global warming, and the possibility of “system-sanctioned change”. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 36(3), 326-338.

Jost, J. T., Nosek, B. A., & Gosling, S. D. (2008). Ideology: Its resurgence in social, personality, and political psychology. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 3, 126-136.

Stern, P. C. (2000). New environmental theories: toward a coherent theory of environmentally significant behavior. Journal of Social Issues, 56(3), 407-424.

Shortlisted abstracts

The effect of natural or urban environments on restoration from anger

  • Laura Baker
  • School of Psychology, University of Surrey


Research has found natural environments can aid recovery from anger more effectively than urban environments (meta-analysis by Bowler et al., 2010). Two theories of environmental restoration, while traditionally used to explain the healing benefits natural and urban environments hold, can be extended to explain the effects of these settings on anger. Firstly, the Stress Reduction Theory (SRT) proposes that as humans evolved in natural settings, individuals are psychologically adapted to these environments (Ulrich, 1983). Thus, the negative emotion of anger is more likely to be elicited in an urban environment (e.g. I feel furious). Secondly, Attention Restoration Theory (ART) proposes individuals are more likely to experience mental fatigue in urban environments (Kaplan & Kaplan 1989). Thus, individuals in urban settings have reduced ability to inhibit anger cognitions (e.g. people are selfish) and anger impulses (e.g. I feel like hitting someone).

The research reviewed into natural and urban environments has investigated anger impulses as one of the many changes in mood after environmental exposure. The current research aimed to fill two gaps in Environmental Psychology. Firstly, outcomes of anger restoration have not yet been operationalised under three dimensions: affective anger (i.e. emotional anger), conflict cognitions (i.e. effortless and automatic processing that lead to conflict escalating behaviour) and anger impulses (i.e. ability to control angry behaviours). The impact of restoration may have unique effects on anger outcomes, due to the distinctly different causal mechanisms proposed based on SRT and ART. Secondly, the effect of natural and urban environments has not yet been investigated on an intense, pre-manipulated level of anger.

In an online study, a sample of 63 young adults read an anger provoking article relating to rising tuition fees, they then immediately reported their affective anger. Participants were randomly assigned to watch either a natural or urban video of the University of Surrey campus. Anger restoration was measured using an affective anger, conflict cognitions and anger impulses scale.

Following a series of statistical tests it was found that exposure to natural environments reduced participants’ affective anger, more rapidly than urban environments.

In addition, participants exposed to natural environments had less conflict cognitions than those exposed to urban environments. While there was no significant effect of exposure to urban or natural environments on anger impulses this could be due to methodological weaknesses. For example, the participants were mainly female and previous findings suggest that females are less likely to express anger than males (Forgays et al., 1997).

Thus, it can be concluded that natural environments promote recovery from anger more effectively than urban environments as measured by affective anger and conflict cognitions. Important implications can be drawn from this research in the field of land management and spatial planning. Anger has been linked to a variety of negative outcomes such as interpersonal aggression and the inclusion of immersive natural spaces within urban environments may provide a practical solution to lower violence.


Bowler, D. E., Buyung-Ali, L. M., Knight, T. M., & Pullin, A. S. (2010). A systematic review of evidence for the added benefits to health of exposure to natural environments. BMC public health, 10(1), 456.

Forgays, D. G., Forgays, D. K., & Spielberger, C. D. (1997). Factor structure of the state-trait anger expression inventory. Journal of personality assessment, 69(3), 497-507.

Kaplan, R., & Kaplan, S. (1989). The experience of nature: A psychological perspective. CUP Archive.

Ulrich, R. S. (1983). Aesthetic and affective response to natural environment. In Behavior and the natural environment(pp. 85-125). Springer, Boston, MA.

Investigating the factors that influence cooperative environmental behaviour

  • Isobel Madle
  • School of Psychology, University of Nottingham


Collectively, humans have an enormous detrimental impact on the environment. To reduce the population’s environmental impact there is a need to successfully change human behaviour to become more pro-environmental. The majority of the UK population have awareness of global warming and are concerned about it (DEFRA, 2002). However, a recurring theme in environmental literature is the value-action gap, whereby environmental concern does not necessarily translate into environmental action (Axsen and Kurani, 2014). Thus, it is important to identify factors which may influence an individual’s concern for, and inclination to take action on environmental issues.

A distinction can be made between environmental behaviours that require the cooperation of others and changes that can be enacted individually. The current study terms cooperative environmental behaviour as action that requires pro-environmental communication and/or action with one or more individuals, such as purchasing environmentally efficient household products or establishing a recycling system. Due to the collective nature of such behaviours, this could alleviate some of the perceived social barriers to environmental action, such as the fear of others free-riding and social norms (Lorenzoni et al., 2007). Interdependent self-construal is associated with increased cooperation and less self-interest, thus those with an interdependent self-construal are more likely to perform cooperative environmental behaviours to benefit the environment. Similarly, levels of cooperative environmental behaviour may increase if individuals perceived others to be supportive of their environmental actions. As cooperative environmental behaviours require the cooperation of others, perceptions of support could alleviate the ‘free-riding’ social barrier. The study hypotheses stated that interdependent self-construal and the perceived support of others would moderate the relationship between environmental concern and environmental behaviour.

To address the gap between environmental concern and environmental action, the current study investigates how interdependent self-construal and the perceived support of others could moderate this relationship. Participants (N=162) completed an online questionnaire measuring current levels of individual and cooperative environmental behaviour, environmental concern using the Revised New Ecological Paradigm (Dunlap et al., 2000), interdependent self-construal (Singelis, 1994) and the perceived support of others.

Following correlational and moderation analyses, results showed that participants performed significantly more individual environmental behaviours than cooperative environmental behaviours. Perceived support of others was positively correlated with both individual and cooperative environmental behaviours whilst interdependent self-construal was positively correlated with cooperative environmental behaviour but not individual environmental behaviour. Contrary to the study hypotheses however, the moderation analysis revealed that interdependent self-construal and perceived support of others did not moderate the relationship between environmental concern and cooperative environmental behaviour. This indicates that the moderating factors explain the same variance as environmental concern.

These findings indicate that increasing interdependent self-construal and perceived support of others could directly increase cooperative environmental behaviour. Promoting discussion of environmental actions and the development of low carbon communities may be one way of achieving this, by supporting accurate perceptions of others, support of climate change initiatives and through promoting interdependent community cohesion. As the moderating factors explain similar variance to environmental concern, future research should investigate factors that could predict additional variance in the relationship between environmental concern and cooperative environmental behaviour.


Axsen, J., & Kurani, K. S. (2014). Social Influence and Proenvironmental Behavior: The Reflexive Layers of Influence Framework. Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design,41(5), 847-862. doi:10.1068/b38101

DEFRA. (2002). Survey of public attitudes to quality of life and to the environment: 2001. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, London.

Dunlap, R. E., Liere, K. D., Mertig, A. G., & Jones, R. E. (2000). Measuring Endorsement of the New Ecological Paradigm: A Revised NEP Scale. Journal of Social Issues,56(3), 425-442. doi:10.1111/0022-4537.00176

Lorenzoni, I., Nicholson-Cole, S., & Whitmarsh, L. (2007). Barriers perceived to engaging with climate change among the UK public and their policy implications. Global Environmental Change,17(3-4), 445-459.

Singelis, T. M. (1994). The Measurement of Independent and Interdependent Self-Construals. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin,20(5), 580-591.

Note: This study was part of a joint project with two other students but the data analysis and the dissertation is the student’s individual work.


Exploring student attitudes to environmental waste policies: A test of the value-belief-norm theory

  • Robert Hickman
  • School of Psychology, Cardiff University


Rapid urbanisation, industrialisation and a shift to consumerism have led to profound and ubiquitous waste problems (UNHSP, 2010). Negative impacts on the environment include pollution to water bodies, adverse impacts on ecosystems, and emissions from landfills. Policy-makers are consequently interested in publicly accepted measures that meaningfully reduce consumption.

Plastic bag charges implemented across the UK proved highly effective in addressing these environmental challenges; altering waste-related behaviours and attitudes (Poortinga et al., 2016). A ‘policy spillover’ effect was also observed as public support for other hypothetical charges subsequently increased. To date, however, there is a paucity of detailed research regarding public acceptability of these initiatives and little clarity surrounding the determinants of waste policy support.

To address these issues, the present study evaluated attitudes towards single-use product charges. A series of push and pull Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) measures were also considered. Participants (N=94) completed a mixed-methods, online survey. Open-ended responses assessed understanding of current waste issues. A new charge on disposable coffee cups was presented as part of a between-subjects, experimental manipulation incorporating attribute framing. Frames emphasised the high effectiveness of the policy (n=33), high fairness (n=31) or a neutral control (n=30). Support for this measure, along with five similar charges, were examined. Fifteen additional MSW policies were also evaluated.

Variables that might influence policy support were assessed based on Stern’s (2000) Value-Belief-Norm Theory (VBN) as this has previously been shown to explain low-cost environmental behaviour and climate policy acceptability (Steg & Vlek, 2009). Variables added as part of an ‘extended’ VBN model that aimed to improve its predictive power included: political affiliation, environmental identity, knowledge of waste schemes, and current waste behaviours.

Findings revealed varied support for proposed product charges: a ten pence charge on plastic bags received strong support but was less favourable for disposable coffee cups. Thematic coding of open-ended responses supplemented quantitative data. For example, consistent with the ‘knowledge-action gap’, a ban on carrier bags had weak support despite qualitative responses citing the need to protect biota from plastic waste and minimise landfill use. Regression analyses generally affirmed the VBN as a predictor of MSW policy support but extended variables did not clearly strengthen the model. Framing conditions did not significantly alter respondents’ support for product charges, confirmed by ANOVA and MANOVA analyses.

These results may guide policy-makers in publicly endorsed and efficacious strategies to reduce MSW; this is crucial given support can attenuate or amplify an initiative’s impact. Furthermore, understanding the antecedents of policy acceptability can help address anthropogenic environmental issues, although further theoretical evaluation of the VBN is required.


Poortinga, W., Sautkina, E., Thomas, G.O., & Wolstenholme, E. (2016). The English Plastic Bag Charge. Cardiff: Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University.

Steg, L., & Vlek, C. (2009). Encouraging pro-environmental behaviour: An integrative review and research agenda. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 29(3), 309-317.

Stern, P.C. (2000). New environmental theories: toward a coherent theory of environmentally significant behavior. Journal of Social Issues, 56(3), 407-424.

UNHSP (2010). Solid Waste Management in the World’s Cities. London: Earthscan Ltd.

Second place

Migration: The socio-spatial practices of migrant communities in urban environments. A contextual analysis of the patterns of spatial segregation in Al Ain, Gothenburg, and Glasgow

  • Nada Shehab
  • Department of Architecture, University of Strathclyde


Today there are more than 60 million displaced people in the world – this is higher than it has ever been since World War II, thus reiterating that there has been an exponential increase in the rate of forced and voluntary mobility between cities. This has inevitably caused socially and politically constructed ‘borders’ to change. Evidence has shown that the increase in the complexity of the flow of movement of individuals, and the social dysfunction that it creates, has introduced an ambiguity in the urgent urban response that it requires.

“Architecture can be regarded as both a product of culture and a medium that can influence change in contemporary society” (Gordon, 2010:1). In the context of migrant communities, architecture and the built environment become intrinsically associated with socio-spatial and socio-cultural sustainability as the cultural identity of a migrant is challenged through the process of migration. This becomes more important as rates of migration increase and order shifts towards more displaced communities requiring resolved urban solutions.

This research crosses between architectural and anthropological themes by examining the different levels of manifestation of migration in three contrasting countries: Scotland, Sweden and the United Arab Emirates. These three countries have been selected as case studies as they demonstrate highly diverse mobility patterns, serving to provide a wider comparison of urban responses to the different magnitudes of influx of migrants. The study also provides a different dimension in that it studies the socio-spatial practices of migrant communities and assesses the impact of displaced populations on the urban areas they occupy and vice versa. In addition, it investigates the role of urban practitioners in analysing durable solutions that address the challenges introduced by spatial segregation on infrastructure and local communities. This will prove vital in proposing how planning and design can foster social and spatial inclusion of migrant communities and internally displaced populations within emerging global cities.

Throughout this study, three main research categories of social spatial segregation are used: distributions of space, distributions in space and distributions through space (Legeby, 2010). These research categories manifest themselves through the use of quantitative and qualitative methods after introducing a conceptual outline of migration, urbanization and spatial segregation on a global scale. The study then systematically presents the two desk studies of Gothenburg and Al-Ain at regional, city and neighbourhood scales and refers to and compares their statistical data over several years. The research then introduces Glasgow as an in depth case study and focuses on the street scale by measuring functional, social and perceptual aspects of the environment through behavioural mapping and systematic walking tours (Salama & Weidmann, 2013).

The main contribution of this dissertation will be a shift in stereotypical architectural conception towards more resolved contextual solutions that address current socio-cultural needs in urban areas that host displaced communities. The fundamental issue that informs the relationship between the ‘spatial’ and ‘social’ categories of socio-spatial segregation is the way in which built form creates relationships between people and buildings, people and amenities, as well as ultimately between people and other people. The driving question presents itself, how does the physical structure of the built environment connect and/or disconnect people – a question that attempts to reflect Lefebvre’s definition of ‘lived space’ and continues to be relevant today (Lefebvre, 1991).


Gordon, R. (2010). Identity Displacement: Architecture, Migration & the Islamic Woman. MArch thesis, Victoria University of Wellington.

Lefebvre, H. (1991). The Production of Space. (Translated by D. Nicholson-Smith). Wiley-Blackwell.

Legeby, A. (2010). Urban Segregation and Urban Form. From residential segregation to segregation in public space. Licentiate thesis, KTH University.

McGarrigle, J. (2010). Understanding processes of ethnic concentration and dispersal. South Asian Residential Preferences in Glasgow. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

Menezes, M., Allen, J. and Vasconcelos, L. (2009). Immigrants in the public space: Understanding urban cultural landscapes. City Futures in a Globalising World. Madrid, Spain, 4-6 June 2009

Salama, A. & Weidmann, F. (2013). Demystifying Doha. 1st ed. Ashgate Publishing regarding public acceptability of these initiatives and little clarity surrounding the determinants of waste policy support.

Shortlisted abstracts

A Sense of belonging: how place identity determines engagement with climate change

  • Emma Thorogood
  • Geography with Psychology, The University of Exeter


Climate change is an urgent issue, which needs to be tackled efficiently and effectively. Much research has been conducted into how distancing affects climate change engagement. Whilst some such as Scannell and Gifford (2013) conclude that local framings are more effective than global, other research suggests that proximity does not necessarily equate to increased concern. Therefore, the present research suggests that perhaps place identity (first introduced by Proshansky et al., 1983) is a more important determinant than distance. Therefore, the under-researched concept of place identity was employed to answer four research questions in determining the role it has in influencing climate change concern and action (mitigation and adaptation strategies) across three scales, namely the planet, UK and local area. This helps to answer the call for research to be conducted at multiple geographical scales (Devine-Wright, 2013). The use of place identity also allows for an interdisciplinary perspective, which is beneficial especially as Devine-Wright (2013) notes that sharing of knowledge between geography and psychology is not commonplace.

A mixed-method approach was adopted. Three online surveys were conducted with UK participants aged 18 to over 60. As emoticons help to visually represent feeling these were employed and validated in Survey 1 (N=86) for later use instead of Likert scales in Survey 3. There are no measurement scales for place identity at multiple levels (i.e. global, national, local). Therefore, to create items for a scale, thematic analysis was conducted on participants’ (N=34) descriptions of their place experiences to the planet, UK and local area (Survey 2). These themes, generated into questions, were then used in a quantitative survey (Survey 3) to assess participants’ (N=142) place identity, using the validated emoticons from Survey 1. Thus, the present research builds upon Devine-Wright et al. (2015) in which only single item measures were used, rather than multiple. Additionally, in Survey 3 participants answered questions on their concern about climate change and expressed preference for mitigation (e.g. increased taxation on global air travel) and adaptation strategies (e.g. a summertime ban on car washing in the local area) at the three scales. These were adapted from Brügger et al. (2015).

SPSS version 23 software was used to conduct non-parametric statistical analyses on the data from Survey 3. Participants were categorised into four place identity groupings (equal-high; placelessness; strong-global; strong-local). It was found that participants had multiple place identities at a variety of geographical scales. Concern about climate change affecting these areas was significantly influenced by a participant’s place identification. Finally, results indicated that place identity and level of concern impact on the preferred scale of strategy implementation, rather than the type of strategy (mitigation or adaptation). However, self-report data conflicted with this.

It is concluded that place identity does indeed play an important role in how people engage with climate change. More research is needed to clarify these results, taking notice of the limitations discussed. Recommendations for future research are provided, including the need to measure actual climate change engagement rather than responses to hypothetical statements.


Brügger, A., Morton, T.A. and Dessai, S. (2015) Hand in Hand: Public Endorsement of Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation, PLOS One, 10(4): 1-17.

Devine-Wright, P. (2013) Think global, act local? The relevance of place attachments and place identities in a climate changed world, Global Environmental Change, 23(1): 61-69.

Devine-Wright, P., Price, J. and Leviston, Z. (2015) My Country or My Planet? Exploring the Influence of Multiple Place Attachments and Ideological Beliefs Upon Climate Change Attitudes and Opinions, Global Environmental Change, 30: 68-79.

Proshansky, H.M., Fabian, A.K. and Kaminoff, R. (1983) Place-Identity: Physical World Socialization of the Self, Journal of Environmental Psychology, 3(1): 57-83.

Scannell, L. and Gifford, R. (2013) Personally Relevant Climate Change: The Role of Place Attachment and Local Versus Global Message Framing in Engagement, Environment and Behavior, 45(1): 60-85.

2016 winner

Reminiscing, pro-environmentalism, and connectedness to nature 

Jack Lawrence-Cade
School of Psychology, Plymouth University


The idea that personal experiences in nature can promote individual pro-environmental behaviour (PEB) has received support from multiple studies (e.g., Hartig et al., 2007; Teisl & O’Brien, 2003), whilst other research (e.g., Kals et al., 1999; Mayer et al., 2009) has indicated that nature experiences may also strengthen feelings of connectedness to nature (CN) — a construct defined by Mayer and Frantz (2004) as the extent to which a person feels affectively connected to the natural world. In addition, there is evidence of a direct connection between PEB and CN (e.g., Gosling & Williams, 2010).

However, despite the evidence that nature experiences enhance PEB and CN directly, it is not clear whether these effects can be replicated simply by reminiscing about past nature experiences (‘nature reminiscing’). Furthermore, given that PEB and CN are each positively associated with nature experiences as well as with each other, a mediatory relationship may exist in which nature reminiscing promotes PEB by strengthening CN. However, no attempt has yet been made to determine whether this is the case. To address these issues, the present study investigated how nature reminiscing affected participants’ PEB, pro-environmental intentions (‘intentions’), and CN. Two research questions were asked. Firstly, does nature reminiscing result in an increase in PEB, intentions, and CN that endures over the course of a week? Secondly, if nature reminiscing does promote PEB and intentions, might this causal relationship be mediated by CN?

To explore these questions, 31 participants completed questionnaires measuring PEB, intentions, and CN before and after a brief reminiscence task in one of two conditions. Participants in the nature condition (n = 17) reminisced about a recent nature experience, whilst those in the urban condition (n = 14) reminisced about a recent urban experience (‘urban reminiscing’). One week later, participants completed the same questionnaires again. The questionnaires used to measure PEB and intentions were constructed by the author for use in the present study, whilst CN was assessed using Mayer et al.’s (2009) Connectedness to Nature Scale (CNS).

Following correlational analyses, nature and urban reminiscing were each followed by a significant increase in PEB and intentions both immediately post-task as well as one week later (although the lack of a control group meant that this relationship could not be deemed causal). Crucially however, there were no significant differences in PEB or intentions between the nature and urban reminiscing conditions. Furthermore, neither sort of reminiscing was followed by a significant increase in CN. These results do not support the idea that nature reminiscing is uniquely effective in promoting PEB, intentions, or CN; and they fail to provide evidence that CN mediates a causal relationship between nature reminiscing and PEB/intentions. However, correlational analyses revealed that PEB and intentions exhibited more than twice as many positive associations with nature reminiscing than with urban reminiscing, thus providing tentative evidence for a special link between nature reminiscing and PEB/intentions.


Gosling, E., & Williams, K. J. (2010). Connectedness to nature, place attachment and conservation behaviour: Testing connectedness theory among farmers. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 30(3), 298-304.

Hartig, T., Kaiser, F. G., & Strumse, E. (2007). Psychological restoration in nature as a source of motivation for ecological behaviour. Environmental Conservation, 34(4), 291-299.

Kals, E., Schumacher, D., & Montada, L. (1999). Emotional affinity toward nature as a motivational basis to protect nature. Environment and Behavior, 31(2), 178-202.

Mayer, F. S., & Frantz, C. M. (2004). The connectedness to nature scale: A measure of individuals’ feeling in community with nature. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 24(4), 503-515.

Mayer, F. S., Frantz, C. M., Bruehlman-Senecal, E., & Dolliver, K. (2009). Why Is Nature Beneficial?: The Role of Connectedness to Nature. Environment and Behavior, 41(5), 607-643.

Teisl, M. F., & O'Brien, K. (2003). Who cares and who acts? Outdoor recreationists exhibit different levels of environmental concern and behavior. Environment and Behavior, 35(4), 506-522.

Second prize winner

Domestic energy saving goals, self-efficacy and behavioural spillover: An individual and collective implementation intentions approach

Amara Waqar
University of Nottingham - Psychology


Although two thirds of UK citizens place high importance on reducing energy consumption, 17% also admit to have not carried out any energy saving behaviour in the past year (Eurobarometer, 2007). Therefore, interventions encouraging pro-environmental attitudes and intentions may not be enough to engage actual changes in behaviour. 

Implementation intentions (IIs), specific ‘when, where and how’ plans, can bridge the intention-behaviour gap through overcoming common self-regulatory issues in goal striving (Gollwitzer & Sheeran, 2006), but have not previously been applied in the energy behaviour domain. They can be applied individually (II) and collectively (CII) in goal striving (Thurmer, 2013) but work directly comparing II and CII effectiveness is sparse. Beyond examining their effectiveness, insight into how implementation intentions facilitate goal striving paves the way for developing optimum intervention strategies. Self-efficacy is one possible mechanism of implementation intentions; however, previous literature has been mixed for the role of self-efficacy. Furthermore, research has found that encouraging individuals to change/ adapt their behaviour in one environmental domain can subsequently result in additional pro-environmental behaviours (Thøgersen, 1999); behavioural spillover can be considered as a positive supplement to an environmental behaviour intervention.

Sixty University of Nottingham students participated in the first study to examine implementation intentions in the context of energy behaviour; comparing II and CII effectiveness in helping students achieve an energy saving goal. In triads, participants were asked to commit to an energy saving goal over the following week, supplemented with a planning tool to assist with goal attainment. Both II and CII groups were given situation-behaviour plans (implementation intentions) for possible energy saving behaviours; IIs were framed singularly (I) and CIIs were framed communally (we). Controls received the same information over possible avenues to achieving their goal, without situation-behaviour plans.

A questionnaire was completed measuring energy saving behaviour, environmental behaviour (different related pro-environmental behaviours to indicate behavioural spillover), and domain specific self-efficacy. A further follow-up questionnaire was completed after a week, measuring changes in behavioural intentions, self-efficacy and goal related perceptions. The data was analysed using inferential statistics including ANOVA and MANOVA.

In this first study testing effectiveness of implementation intentions for energy behaviour, results found that goal attainment was most successful in II and CII triads compared to controls; success may have been due to increased goal effort and future commitment towards energy saving (II only) observed. Behavioural spillover was also demonstrated and showed the biggest increase in II and CII groups suggesting that those most successful in goal attainment may show carryover effects for other pro-environmental behaviours. Self-efficacy increased throughout the study, but was not specifically affected by the implementation intentions, therefore further work is needed to untangle the relationship between IIs and self-efficacy. 

Wasteful energy consumption has integrated into habitual lifestyle behaviours, resulting in the need for efficacious evidence-based intervention that can maintain long-term sustainable energy behaviour. These results support the application of an II supported goal intervention in order to develop high impact cost-effective national campaigns which promote effective energy saving and pro-environmental lifestyle.


Gollwitzer, P. M., & Sheeran, P. (2006). Implementation intentions and goal achievement: A meta?analysis of effects and processes. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 38, 69-119. doi: 10.1016/S0065-2601(06)38002-1

Thøgersen, J. (1999). Spillover processes in the development of a sustainable consumption pattern. Journal of Economic Psychology, 20(1), 53-81. doi: 10.1016/S0167-4870(98)00043-9

Thürmer, J. L. (2013). Goal Striving in Groups with Implementation Intentions: Collective Planning Improves Performance (Doctoral dissertation).

Shortlisted abstracts 

Negotiating the boundaries of elderly accommodation to overcome social exclusion: towards intergenerational living in Scotland

Christine Turnbull
BSc (Hons) in Architectural Studies with International Study, University of Strathclyde


Scotland’s elderly population is on the rise and this trend is predicted to continue for successive generations (National Records of Scotland, 2011: p05). Heightened demand on the housing system has provoked concern that the existing model will not withstand mounting pressure (Homes and Communities Agency, 2009: p12). In an effort to overcome rising demand, a number of elderly housing strategies have emerged (Scottish Government, 2011: p09). However, the responses are slow to reflect the aspirations of Scotland’s diverse ageing society. Current housing policy is focussed on enabling the individual to remain at home, often alone, having a negative impact on the occupant’s well being (ILC-UK, 2012: p05). As a consequence although people are living longer they are not necessarily living well.

There is a growing body of evidence that acknowledges that boundaries in the physical environment have a significant impact on an individual’s ability to participate effectively in social and cultural life (Handler, 2014: p12) By comparing policies for elderly accommodation in England and the Netherlands and by conducting 3 case studies, this research aims to identify design strategies that have the capacity to achieve inclusive elderly housing in Scotland. This study examines the role of the built environment in social exclusion and how Scotland’s housing strategy for older people does not support social inclusion (Thomas, 2015: p03).

Following an extensive literature review – including material on the housing needs of the elderly within architecture, sociology, psychology, gerontology and the news media – the housing strategies for Scotland, England and the Netherlands are summarised and an ‘exemplary’ housing scheme for the elderly from each country is chosen. (Possibly include the name of each one here?)
From the literature review, three key concepts – loneliness, isolation and social exclusion - are identified and used in the comparison of the 3 case studies (ILC-UK, 2012 p04). Elements of the built environment, which could potentially alleviate social exclusion, were derived from previous research and used as the framework for the comparison of the 3 case studies. The 4 elements are; a) adaptability & flexibility b) cross generational exchange c) relationship with neighbours and d) community integration.

The material gathered is supported by in-depth interviews conducted to gain the insight of the elderly regarding the forms of accommodation available to them in Scotland.

In contrast to Scotland’s approach, imminent need in the Netherlands has generated new thinking and new ways of providing elderly accommodation that negotiate the boundaries of traditional ‘specialised’ housing for the elderly (Ex, Gorter, & Janssen, 2003). Intergenerational living facilities are designed to provide a social setting that supports senior integration into their community by maximising the opportunity for informal exchanges. Intergenerational living is not the sole solution to social exclusion but it could have a positive impact. In conclusion, the concept of intergenerational living, if applied appropriately, might be one of a number of measures in alleviating social exclusion of older people in Scotland.


Ex, C., Gorter, K., & Janssen, U. (2003). (2003). Procare National Report the Netherlands: Providing Integrated Health and Social Care for Older Persons in the Netherlands. Netherlands: The Verwey-Jonker Institute

Handler, S. (2014). An Alternative Age Friendly Handbook. The University of Manchester Library: Manchester.

Homes and Communities Agency. (2009). HAPPI Housing our Ageing Population: Panel for Innovation. Available: data/file/378171 /happi_final_report_-_031209.pdf. [04/10/2015].

ILC-UK (International Longevity Centre-UK). (2012). Is Social Exclusion Still Important to Older People? Available: file:///C:/Users/Christine/Downloads/Is_social_exclusion_still_important_for_older_people _1%2 0(6).pdf. [03/10/2015].

National Records of Scotland. (2011). Projected Population of Scotland (2010-Based) National population projections by sex and age, with UK and European Comparisons. Available:…. [03/10/2015].

Thomas, J. (2015). Insight into Loneliness, Older People and Well-being. Available:… /dcp171766_418058.pdf. [10/10/2015].

Wishful thinking influences the prediction of climate change (evidence for the underestimation of the severity of climate change relative to expert opinion)

Luke Somerwill
University of Bristol – School of Experimental Psychology


Wishful thinking is a phenomenon, in which uncertainty regarding an event leads to an overestimation of the probability of a desirable outcome. Due to the high levels of uncertainty associated with climate change- for example, caused by scientific uncertainty and the psychological distance of the issue- it has been suggested that wishful thinking may influence peoples’ perception of global warming, and other associated environmental issues (Gifford, 2011; Markowitz & Shariff, 2012). Past studies have tentatively supported these claims, suggesting that uncertainty regarding climate change can lead to an underestimation of the probability of severe effects, and a decrease in public support for mitigative action (Budescu, Broomell & Por, 2009, 2012; Ballard & Lewandowksy, 2015).

Evidence of wishful thinking regarding climate change lacks extensive research however. An alternative hypothesis for past findings is that people internalise lognormal distributions– where low magnitude values are assigned greater probability. Such distributions are abundant in natural systems (Halloy & Whigam, 2004), and may be used when making uncertain estimations about environmental issues. The current study explored these possibilities by examining participants’ probability predictions of environmental issues with opposing ‘desirability polarities’ (where positive outcomes were of low magnitude in one condition, and high in the other).

This study aimed to test this alternative hypothesis, while utilising distribution elicitation (never before used in this area of research) to identify the exact probability assigned to different occurrences. In a within-subject study, participants were given scientists’ predictions for temperature rise and remaining rainforest area by 2080, with the values being identical in both conditions. Participants were then asked to consider these predictions, and to make their own more specific estimates of the severity of these issues by 2080. As ‘desirable’ outcomes were of opposing polarities in the two conditions (low levels of temperature rise and large areas of remaining rainforest are desirable), it was hypothesised that wishful thinking would lead to lower predictions in the temperature rise condition, despite scientists’ predictions being identical in the two conditions.

The responses of the 81 participants were used to elicit distributions which were analysed. Using within-subject ANOVAs, estimations of temperature rise and deforestation were compared. The analysis was consistent with the hypothesis, with predictions for temperature rise being significantly lower than for remaining rainforest coverage. This strongly suggests that wishful thinking affected the predictions of the participants, as participants erred towards the more desirable outcome in both conditions.

These results have significant implications for the communication of climate science, as well as for the broader field of wishful thinking. This research supports previous claims that uncertain language should be reduced when communicating climate science (Budescu, Broomell & Por, 2009). Additionally, this research helps explain the success of Scientific Certainty Argumentation Methods, where uncertainty is used to oppose preventative action against climate change (Lewandowsky, Oreskes, Risbey, Newell &; Smithson, 2015).


Ballard, T., & Lewandowsky, S. (2015). When, not if: the inescapability of an uncertain climate future. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A, 373(2055), 20140464.

Budescu, D. V., Broomell, S., & Por, H. H. (2009). Improving communication of uncertainty in the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Psychological science, 20(3), 299-308.

Gifford, R. (2011). The dragons of inaction: Psychological barriers that limit climate change mitigation and adaptation. American Psychologist, 66(4), 290.

Halloy, S. R. P., & Whigham, P. A. (2004). The lognormal as universal descriptor of unconstrained complex systems: a unifying theory for complexity. In Proceedings of the 7th Asia-Pacific Complex Systems Conference (pp. 309-320).

Lewandowsky, S., Oreskes, N., Risbey, J. S., Newell, B. R., & Smithson, M. (2015). Seepage: Climate change denial and its effect on the scientific community. Global Environmental Change, 33, 1-13.

Markowitz, E. M., & Shariff, A. F. (2012). Climate change and moral judgement. Nature Climate Change, 2(4), 243-247.


Can the implicit associations of the psychological distance of climate change predict climate change behaviour?

Juan Wen See
School of Psychology, The University of Nottingham


Construal Level Theory (CLT) (Liberman & Trope, 2008) proposed four key dimensions of psychological distance within our mental representations: temporal distance; geographical distance; social distance; and uncertainty. Although previous studies had investigated the psychological distance of climate change and climate change behavioural intentions on an explicit level (Spence et. al., 2012), how the psychological distance of climate change relates to climate change behaviour has remained unexplored at an implicit level. Implicit and explicit measures may impact climate change behavioural intentions differently with research indicating that explicit associations are more predictive of deliberate behaviour and implicit associations of spontaneous behaviour (e.g. Connor et. al., 2007).

This study investigated implicit associations between climate change and concepts of closeness and distance and how these differed from explicit associations and the predictive validity of each in relation to climate change behavioural intentions. Participants (N = 94) took part in an online study in which implicit associations were measured using the Single Category Implicit Associations Task (SC-IAT) by Karpinski et. al. (2006) while explicit associations were measured using direct questions assessing all psychological distance dimensions. The key outcome variable was climate change behavioural intentions. Different forms of sustainable behaviour intentions were assessed using three tasks which varied in terms of the response spontaneity required. An equivalent gain task, which asked participants to choose between a sustainable or unsustainable product option or money, measured sustainable consumer behaviour and was time pressured to increase response spontaneity. A budget allocation task which asked participants to distribute lottery funds to various projects, some of which were focused on sustainability, measured citizen behaviour towards climate change, and given the indirect nature of the task was considered to involve both spontaneous and deliberate processes. Finally, deliberate behaviour was measured using a questionnaire measuring sustainable behavioural intentions.

Regression analyses revealed poor predictive validity of the SC-IAT towards climate change behavioural intentions, however, explicit measures significantly predicted more deliberate behavioural intentions. Results demonstrated that the greater the perceived psychological distance of climate change, the less likely people were to engage in climate change behaviour. This indicates that measuring psychological distance of climate change at an implicit level may not be a valid approach, as the concept of psychological distance may either be too complex a concept to be easily accessed spontaneously or that it is too multidimensional to be activated in a clear manner. A possible explanation is that the dimensions of the psychological distance of climate change may not be inter-correlated on an implicit level.

This research suggests that to promote climate change-friendly behaviour, climate change policies and campaigns should aim to decrease the psychological distance of climate change across all CLT dimensions in people’s mental representations, and at an explicit rather than an implicit level. This could be achieved by using more informative approaches that promote deliberate climate change behaviour. It also highlights the use of explicit measures as a more useful measure for future research regarding the psychological distance of climate change.


Conner, M. T., Perugini, M., O'Gorman, R., Ayres, K., & Prestwich, A. (2007). Relations between implicit and explicit measures of attitudes and measures of behavior: Evidence of moderation by individual difference variables. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33(12), 1727-1740.

Karpinski, A., & Steinman, R. B. (2006). The single category implicit association test as a measure of implicit social cognition. Journal of personality and social psychology, 91(1), 16.

Liberman, N., & Trope, Y. (2008). The psychology of transcending the here and now. Science, 322(5905), 1201-1205.

Spence, A., Poortinga, W., & Pidgeon, N. (2012). The psychological distance of climate change. Risk Analysis, 32(6), 957-972.

Second place

Climate Change and the perception of expert judgements: The differential influence of agreement and uncertainty

Molly Russen
School of Experimental Psychology, University of Bristol


Despite the accumulation of a wealth of supportive evidence, and a near unanimous degree of consensus amongst climate scientists, public polarisation concerning the anthropogenic climate change (ACC) debate remains. In at least some countries, research has revealed growing scepticism surrounding the debate (Capstick, Whitmarsh, Poortinga, Pidgeon & Upham, 2015) whilst perceived exaggeration of the issue remains elsewhere (Whitmarsh, 2011). This is particularly important given its influence on the implementation of mitigating policies and environmentally conscious behaviours and is thought to originate partly from a vocal minority of so-called sceptics exerting disproportionate influence in the debate. Existing research, however, demonstrates that by highlighting scientific consensus, acceptance of scientific facts ensues (Lewandowsky, Gignac & Vaughan, 2012). This corroborates with literature evaluating the influence of experts more generally, i.e. assessing the differential roles of both consensus (or related source conflict) and uncertainty (or source ambiguity) in inducing persuasion.

The present study assessed the influence of these two variables on participants’ acceptance of 15 numerical expert judgements. Judgements were presented in graph format, together with hypothetical cover stories and were devised so as to both relate to real-life events and imply some objective truth. These reflected four levels of agreement and two levels of uncertainty. Based on existing evidence, three key hypotheses were identified: 1) increased agreement increases persuasion, 2) increased certainty increases persuasion, and 3) certainty effects are inversely related to agreement level.

Preliminary analyses and univariate two-way ANOVA analyses of responses (N=40) revealed partial support for the first and second hypotheses whilst highlighting differential effects of higher outlier judgements on responses. Specifically, analyses implicated individual experts expressing a higher judgement (of low uncertainty) as exerting substantial influence on participant responses whereas left outliers failed to provoke the complementary effect. This effect was subsequently shown to arise for emotive cover stories for which higher outliers corresponded with more negative outcomes.

The appraisal-tendency framework (Lerner-Keltner, 2001) and persuasion research concerning “threat appeals” (O’Keefe, 2015) attempt to explain this, through such cover stories evoking differential assessment of judgements, i.e. implying greater threat, inducing greater fear and, in turn, inducing greater persuasion. Lower outlier conditions arguably failed to induce the inverse effect due to these corresponding with diminished threat. This aligns with the ACC debate, where sceptics underestimate threat in comparison to the majority.
The third hypothesis was not supported and reasons for this, as well as for non-significant main effects of uncertainty are discussed. These include potential weaknesses of the current materials and the arguable over-riding importance attributed to agreement manipulations. The failure to substantiate an agreement-uncertainty interaction supports a dichotomy between the two which is consistent with contemporary models of belief aggregation.

The current research supports the emphasis on scientific consensus as the most effective means of reducing the polarity surrounding the ACC debate, provided that minority opinions do not express threat. Separately, uncertainty remains an important consideration in this literature, despite arguably standing subordinate to agreement. Future research should present information to participants as explicitly factual, inverting the phrasing of emotive cover stories, to elucidate further support for these recommendations.   


Capstick, S., Whitmarsh, L., Poortinga, W., Pidgeon, N., & Upham, P. (2015). International trends in public perceptions of climate change over the past quarter century. WIREs Climate Change, 6, 35-61.

Lerner, J. S., & Keltner, D. (2001). Fear, anger and risk. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81(1), 146-159.

Lewandowsky, S., Gignac, G. E., & Vaughan, S. (2012). The pivotal role of perceived scientific consensus in acceptance of science. Nature Climate Change, 3, 399-404.

O’Keefe, D. J. (2015). Persuasion: Theory and Research, Sage Publications. Northwestern University: Australia.

Whitmarsh, L. (2011). Scepticism and uncertainty about climate change: Dimensions, determinants and change over time. Global Environmental Change, 21 (2), 690-700.

Shortlisted papers

Students’ perceptions of the physical environment of their university campus and the relationship with educational outcomes

Daniel McKay
BA (Hons) Psychology, University of The West of Scotland


Research demonstrates that the physical learning environment of nursery, primary and secondary schools is significantly associated with a range of educational outcomes (e.g. Maxwell, 2007; Edgerton, McEwen & McKechnie, 2011). Whilst some studies suggest that these findings may also extend to Higher Education learning environments such as universities and colleges, there is little empirical evidence to support this claim. Since the physical environment may interact with non-environmental factors to aid or inhibit student engagement, motivation and self-esteem (Gifford, 2007), environmental psychology research that investigates the physical environment of higher education institutions would seem valuable. The current research addressed this gap by focusing on a multi-campus Scottish University that has invested £53 million in the redevelopment of one campus, with plans to invest further millions in modernising a further two campuses.

The current research adopted a mixed-methods design. In the first stage a content analysis of two focus groups, consisting of 13 students with experience of different university campuses, was conducted to identify the aspects of the university environment students consider important. This analysis then informed the design of the University Physical Environment Questionnaire (UPEQ), which was based on the school environment questionnaire originally developed by McEwen, Edgerton and McKechnie (2010).  The UPEQ measured students’ perceptions of their physical learning environment, their behaviour within the university, their self-esteem and approach to learning. Furthermore, two qualitative questions regarding the “best” and “worst” aspects of the campuses were included. The UPEQ was randomly distributed to students across three campuses and 170 completed questionnaires were returned and analysed using SPSS.

The results indicated that students with more positive perceptions of their university campus were found to have fewer difficulties interacting with their environment, higher academic and global self-esteem, and were more likely to adhere to mastery-approaches to learning. These results suggest that students’ perceptions of their university environment may be important predictors of a number of educational outcomes.  The results also highlighted significant cross-campus variation relating to the age and condition of the environment as well as student year group variation, with first year students generally being more positive about their university environment.  In addition, the significant positive relationship between perceptions of the physical environment and environmental behaviours supports the validity of the questionnaire as a research tool.

In conclusion, the findings of this study highlight the role of the physical environment of universities in the learning process. It is also suggested, based on both the quantitative and qualitative findings, that university students should not be treated as a homogenous group and should be involved in the processes of modifying and designing new university environments. Future research should focus on the relationship between the physical environment and academic performance, whether the degree/subject studied is related to students’ perceptions of their university environment and the relative importance of specific features of a university environment such as social spaces.


Edgerton, E., McKechnie, J., & McEwen, S. (2011). Students’ perceptions of their school environments and the relationship with educational outcomes. Educational and Child Psychology, 8(1), 33-45.

Gifford, R. (2007). Environmental psychology: Principles and practice. (4th Ed.). Colville: Optimal books.

Maxwell, L.E. (2007). Competency in child care settings: The role of the physical environment. Environment and Behavior, 39(2), 229-245.

McEwen, S., Edgerton, E., & McKechnie, J. (2010). Students subjective experiences of the physical school environment: a quantitative and qualitative approach. Interactive Discourse, 2(1), 1-20.

Shortlisted abstracts

Investigating pro-social and pro-environmental behavioural spillover on purchasing behaviour for socially responsible goods

Emily Wolstenholme
Cardiff University, School of Psychology


Schwartz’s (1992) model of social values defines self-transcendence as concern for the welfare of others and the environment, while self-enhancement is identified as concern for self-achievement and power. Recent research has demonstrated the ability of self-transcendent priming information to evoke value congruent pro-environmental behavior (Evans et al., 2013). The Welsh carrier bag charge legislation affords extending research on pro-environmental behavioural spillover into a real world context, as many supermarkets endorse compliance with this charge in both a self-transcendent (advertising reduced litter pollution) and self-enhancement (offering financial incentives) way. The present study investigates the effect of value-salient priming information about the Welsh carrier bag charge on willingness to pay for neutral, pro-ethical, recycled and eco-friendly products.

The sample of 61 undergraduates were given a set of priming information, a pricing task, a priming questionnaire, a product concern scale and an environmental concern scale. All the data was subject to statistical analysis.

Contrary to the hypotheses, results showed that participants who were primed with self-enhancement information were willing to pay a significantly higher price premium for recycled products than participants primed with self-transcendent or neutral information, thus demonstrating the first evidence of pro-environmental behavioural spillover as evoked by the Welsh carrier bag charge. This result may be of value to policy makers in England, where a carrier bag charge is due to be implemented in shops with 250 or more full-time equivalent employees following October this year. If it is found that participants are more likely to buy, and/or spend more money on items with a pro-environmental value, there may be incentive to roll out the prospective charge in England to include shops with fewer employees also.

The unexpected results of this study – that information that was tailored to invoke self-enhancing (rather than self-transcending) values led to pro-environmental behavioural spillover – also corroborates previous results demonstrating variable success of pro-environmental campaigns to promote pro-environmental behavioural spillover, with many pro-environmental campaigns resulting in boomerang effects and negative behavioural spillover (Corner & Randall, 2011). This highlights the necessity for further research into the most effective way of promoting environmental campaigns, in order to increase the scope for compliance and subsequent spillover effects.


Evans, L., Maio, G. R., Corner, A., Hodgetts, C. J., Ahmed, S., & Hahn, U. (2013). Self-interest and pro-environmental behaviour. Nature Climate Change, 3(2), 122-125.

Corner, A., & Randall, A. (2011). Selling climate change? The limitations of social marketing as a strategy for climate change public engagement. Global Environmental Change, 21(3), 1005-1014.

Schwartz, S. H. (1992). Universals in the content and structure of values: Theory and empirical tests in 20 countries. In M. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 25) (pp. 1–65). New York: Academic Press.


Understanding inertia: An interpretative phenomenological analysis of the experiences of owning an empty home

Danielle Elizabeth Butler
University of Salford, School of Health and Social Sciences


The number of long term empty properties in England – those that have been vacant for more than 6 months - has been estimated at 232,600 (Empty Homes, 2014). Approximately 25,000 of these empty homes are in Greater Manchester (McCourt, 2013) and if returned back to use could house one-quarter of the families in the region on social housing waiting lists. Driven largely by a dramatic shortfall in current housing stock, the neglect of empty properties is perceived as unsustainable. Most long term empty properties in the UK are privately owned and government strategy seeks to adopt a new approach to engagement with owners. One way in which the strategic shift has been implemented has been to draw influence from the field of behavioural economics. This research aimed to contribute to the shift in strategy by exploring the lived experiences of empty homeowners from a psychological perspective.

A qualitative methodology was employed. Twelve empty homeowners participated in two focus groups during their attendance of an empty homes event organised by Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council. Transcripts were analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis, adopting the guidance of Smith, Flowers & Larkin (2009, p.45) where central to the analysis is a “focus on personal meaning and sense-making in a particular context, for people who share a particular experience”.

The analysis revealed two superordinate themes around ownership of an empty home: motives for inaction and unsustainable status quo. Overall, participants revealed that the experiences of empty homeowners are problematic and largely negative. Issues presented by the participants covered a broad spectrum including: problems as a landlord (both experienced and perceived), implications of emotional attachment to the property, self-identity associated with ownership, the property as a relentless burden, and the pressure of wider social implications such as withholding a resource perceived as invaluable to others. Participants attributed past experiences to their current position of inaction, highlighting that the historical context was contributory to identity formation as empty homeowners. For example, the emotional attachment participants held with their properties varied and although participants held the commonality of owning a long term empty home, the means by which the properties had been accrued was not the same for any two individuals. Interestingly, the analysis identified various forms of attachment, going beyond that which may be expected of those who inherit an empty property, for example attachment associated with a previous status such as a successful landlord, or the attachment held to certain self-identities such as that of parent or caregiver.

The identity of the empty homeowner remains undefined. Future research could explore the experiences using alternative methodological approaches, further defining the homogeneity of the sample, such as those who are empty homeowners through inheritance. Understanding the wider implications of empty home ownership and the extent to which they are contributory to current housing shortages may identify more effective and successful approaches for both the current and successive governments in tackling housing crises.


Frost, N. (2011). Qualitative Research Methods In Psychology: Combining Core Approaches: From core to combined approaches. McGraw-Hill International.

Homes from Empty Homes. (2014) Press release: Number of empty homes in England at lowest ever level. Retrieved from… on 19/4/14.
McCourt, A. (2013) Empty Homes in Greater Manchester Infographic

Smith, J. A., Flowers, P. & Larkin, M. (2012). Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Sage: London.

Strough, J., Karns, T. E., & Schlosnagle, L. (2011). Decision‐making heuristics and biases across the life span. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1235(1), 57-74

Special commendation

Chasing pavements: paving slab patterns displayed in the lower peripheral visual field influence walking trajectories

Gaby Oliva, 
School of Experimental Psychology, University of Bristol


Outdoor and indoor spaces are often tiled with clearly visible grouting. People do not always walk in the direction of grouting, nor does the grouting direction have to correspond to the major direction of travel on a path. Here, I investigated whether such floor patterns influence our ability to walk “straight-ahead”. Current biomechanical models would predict that the orientation of floor patterns should not matter as walking in an obstacle-free environment on even ground is heavily automated and overlearned, and could even be performed with eyes closed (e.g., Matthis & Fajen, 2013). Also work on the impact of visual reference frames on balance or of optic flow on locomotion would not predict too much impact of floor patterns, as most of their influence should arise from the lateral visual periphery, not a comparably narrow part of the lower visual field (e.g., Turano et al., 2005).
Using a paving slab pattern similar to those seen on pavements, 25 healthy adults walked along paths projected on the floor while completing a cognitive task that involved attending to images on the far wall straight ahead of them. Using 3D motion capture, it was investigated whether rotating the floor pattern orientations within the path (while keeping the outlines of the path constant), would guide participants’ walking trajectory. In other words, it was investigated whether different orientations would induce lateral veering, as extracted with principal component analysis from the collected sternum marker data. Pavement slab patterns contain basic “first-order” orientations, consisting of high-luminance contrast lines (i.e. the grouting) specific to a particular region within the pattern. They further contain illusory or “higher-order” orientations, spanning across the whole patterns and comprising of multiple lines. In a within-participant repeated measure’s design, sixteen different pattern orientations (each one rotated from the next by 11.25 deg) were presented to each participant in random order, each orientation four times. It was found that for some paths, participants’ general trajectories veered off from straight ahead: veering was along the direction of the basic orientation that was closest to straight ahead, with oblique as compared to control patterns inducing veering of up to 40 cm over the measured travel distance of 10 meters. I conclude that visual information impacts the control of walking, even when gaze is directed away from the floor and straight ahead toward a clearly visible target. Therefore, as walking is affected by simply changing line orientations on the floor, walking direction seems far more shaped by our environment than one would have predicted from current locomotion models. Further, these results justify future investigation of the potential impact patterned flooring may have for walking trajectories of people with higher falls risk.


Matthis, J. S., & Fajen, B. R. (2013). Visual control of foot placement when walking over complex terrain. Journal of experimental psychology: Human Perception and Performance, Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0033101

Turano, K. A., Yu, D., Hao, L., & Hicks, J. C. (2005). Optic-flow and egocentric-direction strategies in walking: central vs peripheral visual field.Vision research, 45(25), 3117-3132.

Shortlisted abstracts 

Here and there: A comparative study of place; attachment to experienced and non-experienced places

Jonathan Howard
Department of Psychology, University of Sunderland


Research on place attachment; “the bonding that occurs between individuals and their meaningful environments” (Scannell & Gifford, 2010, p 1.), has almost exclusively focused on attachment to places which a person has directly experienced; and researchers generally concur that experience is essential in order for place attachment to develop (Lewicka, 2011). Counterintuitively, Low & Altman (1992) suggested place attachment can also occur in instances where no direct experience has occurred. However, with the exception of one study (Semken, Freeman, Watts, Neakrase, Dial & Baker, 2009), evidence of this assertion is lacking. The current study aimed to confirm the existence of place attachment to nonexperienced places, and to establish how factors influencing attachment differ between experienced and non-experienced places.

An experimental within-subjects design was used. Participants (N = 208, M = 26.81, SD = .78 years) were recruited online and in person using opportunity sampling. Participants were provided a definition of place attachment and asked to identify two places to which they were attached (experienced and non-experienced). For each location, participants completed Williams and Vaske’s (2003) place attachment measure which includes factors of place identity and place dependence. Items representing place meaning (Gustafson, 2001) were designed by the researcher and added to establish how place meanings influenced attachment bonds. An open-ended item was provided for participant descriptions of their reasons for their attachment to each location. The order of place location (experienced, non-experienced) was counter balanced.

Results supported the main aim: place attachment occurs to non-experienced places. The second aim was only partially supported. Both place identity and place dependence influenced attachment; however, factor analysis indicated that the items contributing to each factor differed dependent on experience. Additionally their relative importance differed. Place identity influenced attachment more for experienced places (t(153) = -9.67, p < .001) while place dependence had a greater influence on attachment to non-experienced places (t(153) = 6.68, p < .001). Place meaning did not contribute to place attachment; this was likely due to the wording of items created for the study. Qualitative analysis suggested that place meaning does influence place attachment through representations of place ‘knowledge’, ‘family history’ or ‘goal attainment’. Overall, the results suggest that place attachment does indeed differ as a result of experience. The results of the current study offer both support and argument against the role experience plays in the development of place attachment. Experience is significant; however place attachment can also exist without experience. This raises an important question: what other factors influence our attachment to place? Investigation into the peculiar instances of meaningful bonds to non-experienced places may hold the key to establishing such factors; and research should investigate how place meaning factors identified through qualitative analysis effect overall place attachment.


Gustafson, P. (2001). Meanings of place: Everyday experience and theoretical conceptualizations. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 21, (1), 5-16.
Lewicka, M. (2011). Place attachment: How far have we come in the last 40 years? Journal of Environmental Psychology, 31(3), 207-230.

Scannell, L., & Gifford, R. (2010). Defining place attachment: A tripartite organizing framework. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 30(1), 1-10.

Semken, S., Freeman, C. B., Watts, N. B., Neakrase, J. J., Dial, R. E., & Baker, D. R. (2009). Factors that influence sense of place as a learning outcome and assessment measure of place-based geoscience teaching. Electronic Journal of Science Education, 13(2). 136-159.

Williams, D. R., & Vaske, J. J. (2003). The measurement of place attachment: Validity and generalizability of a psychometric approach. Forest Science, 49, 830 - 840.

The effects of different coastal states on perceived restorativeness: Tide and accumulation of litter

Katrina E. Thomas
Plymouth University


It has been well documented that clean natural environments are beneficial to human health and wellbeing. Aquatic environments, including coastlines, are popular in terms of visitors per year in the UK alongside being a highly important feature of the tourism industry. Marine Litter is now found in every ocean and frequently becomes deposited on coastlines around the world. The impact this increase of marine litter has upon marine life and the natural environment is regularly publicised and commonly known, for example injuries to marine wildlife through entanglement and ingestion. However, the impact marine litter has upon people’s psychological well-being is less well known and therefore requires more research. A direct rating approach was used to measure the four components of a restorative environment proposed by the Attention Restoration Theory (ART): being away, fascination, extent and compatibility (Kaplan & Kaplan, 1989). A measure of preference was also recorded. Preferences and perceived restorativeness were predicted to be higher in the low tide than high tide condition, and in the no litter than litter condition. Forty undergraduate students (36 females and four males) from Plymouth University rated twenty four photographic images of Southwest beaches according to preference and perceived restoration. The presence of litter was digitally manipulated and stage of the tide was controlled resulting in four conditions 1) low tide and no litter 2) low tide and litter 3) high tide and no litter 4) high tide and litter. Results from two-way repeated-measures ANOVAs support the hypotheses. People significantly preferred non-littered beaches compared to littered beaches and low tides compared to high tides. People also rated perceived restorativeness higher for non-littered beaches than littered beaches and for low tides than high tides. These findings show how marine litter does not only impact the natural environment and the animals and plants that live in it but also people’s perceptions and their willingness to visit the natural coastal environment. Limitations include the nature of the sample (largely young female students) and that we cannot infer the effects would be the same on real visits to natural environments. However, the laboratory setup allowed us to control the stimuli very carefully and exclude the potential effect of weather. In conclusion, the data show consistency with previous research in that pristine environments are good for people but it contributes novel insights about the negative impact marine litter may have upon a visitor’s experience and psychological well-being. Future research should extend this work to include field studies and aim to explain why tide and litter have these effects, so that we obtain a better understanding of the processes underlying the benefits of natural environments.


Kaplan, R., & Kaplan, S. (1989). The experience of nature: a psychological perspective. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Wyles, K., Pahl, S., & Thompson, R., C. (2014). Rocky Shores: From Habitat Threat to Marine Awareness and Well-Being Benefits (Doctoral thesis). Plymouth, UK: Plymouth University.


You don’t know us: The effects of deprivation on the identity, peer attachment and place attachment of young people

Ashley Carrick
School of Health Sciences, University of Salford, Manchester


The current study aims to look at the relationship between place and peer attachment and identity in young people living in a disadvantaged area. Research specific to this field of study  is currently overlooked. The application of two models of place attachment was necessary in order to carry out the research. These were The Tripartite Organising Frame work (Scannell & Gifford, 2010), and the theoretical frame work for place attachment in adolescence (Dallago et al., 2009). A combination of the two was necessary in order to account for differences in attachment and identity in adults and young people.
Participants were aged 16-19, living in a deprived area in the North West of England who had previously or currently accessed a youth group session for this age range. Of a desired sample of 50, a total of 36 participants were recruited to take part. These were19 males and 17 females. The mean age for the sample was 18.2 years.
A questionnaire design was used for the study and participants were recruited using opportunity sampling via a third party. Two questionnaires were used in the study, one concerning place attachment and identity, (your general feelings about your local area). This questionnaire was adapted from D. Williams’ (2000) work on measuring place attachment. The second questionnaire concerned peer attachment, (your general feelings about your relationships with peers). This was adapted from Armsden’s (1985) inventory of parent and peer attachment. Correlations were carried out to determine the relationships between peer and place attachment; no significance was found here. A second correlation was conducted to determine the relationship between peer attachment and identity, again no significance was found. A third correlation was carried out to determine the relationship between place attachment and identity; the result was significant, p= .814, N= 36, p< 0.5.  The results suggest a need for more research in the area in order to fully understand the concepts of place attachment, peer attachment and identity in a deprived area.
More research in the field of place attachment and identity in a deprived area is of particular interest due to the significance found. Research has previously found that young people living in deprived areas can have negative perceptions of their own identity and this can lead to negative self-fulfilling prophecies (McDonald et al., 2005),
Place related distinctiveness, describes the relationship between place and identity. As a majority of the research carried out is with adult populations, a possible increase in the intensity of this relationship in young people may have been overlooked. The ability of adults to spend time in various places compared to the adolescent tendency to spend time in the same places, may result in the effects of place related distinctiveness becoming heightened in young people.
The negative effects of this relationship for young people in deprived areas may be reduced through the development of a deeper understanding and thus services to empower young people in such areas.


Armsden, G. C., Greenberg, M. T. (1985). The Inventory of Parent and Peer Attachment: Individual Differences and Their Relationship to Psychological Well-Being in Adolescence. Journal of youth and adolescence. (16), pp. 427-454

Dallago, L., Perkins, D. D., Santinello, M., Boyce, W., Molcho, M.,… Morgan, A. (2009). Adolescent Place Attachment, Social Capital, and Perceived Safety: A Comparison of 13 Countries. American Journal of Community Psychology. (44), pp. 148-160. doi: 10.1007/s10464-009-9250-z

Scannell, L., Gifford, R. (2010). Defining Place attachment: A Tripartite Organizing Framework. Journal of Environmental Psychology (30), pp. 1-10. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvp.2009.09.006

Williams, D. R. (2000). Notes on Measuring Recreational Place Attachment. Retrieved from.

Shortlisted abstracts

How the framing of climate change affects support for 'green' government policy

Grant Copeland
Division of Psychology, De Montfort University


The purpose of this study was to investigate how an individual’s support for 'green' government policies  affected by framing; which is the process by which individuals or groups make sense of their external environment (Boettcher III, 2004). According to Prospect Theory (Tversky & Kahneman, 1981), the way in which a problem is framed can affect the decision taken to solve it; with problems framed in terms of gain often resulting in people becoming risk-averse and thus prefering options which are certain, whereas problems framed in terms of loss instead often result in people becoming risk-accepting ad thus prefer options which are risky. Empirical support for this theory comes from a number of studies investigating decision-making in a range of hypothetical problems such as disease management , humanitarian intervention, and presidential elections (Quattrone & Tverksy, 1988).
Along with investigating how framing affects support for 'green' government policy, this study will also investigate how framing affects levels of support. The justification for this being that whilst prior studies into Prospect Theory have investigated how framing effects which options an individual chooses they have not investigated how it affects the level of support for participants' preferred option.
In this study, in order to investigate how the framing of climate change affects both support for 'green' government policy and the levels of support for their preferred option, participants (N=40) were split into two equal groups: the gain-framed group and the loss-framed group. They were then presented with two novel dilemma problems, which were framed either in terms of gains or losses, relating to negative consequences arising from climate change, with two options being presented to the participants in order to address it; one option being 'green' whilst the other is 'non-green'. In order to avoid potential bias towards the 'green' or 'non-green' options which might confound the study's findings, in the first problem the 'green' option was the certain choice, and the 'non-green' was the risky choice, whereas in the second problem, this was reversed. Following each problem, participants were then given a question in order to measure their level of support for their preferred option, which took the form of asking them how much money they would be willing to donate to a charity advocating their preferred option.
Statistical analyses revealed several interesting findings. First, and perhaps most important, was that whilst framing climate change in terms of gain did affect support for government policy, with participants in this group favouring the certain choice irrelevant of whether it was 'green' or 'non-green’; framing in terms of loss had a non-significant effect. Secondly, the level of support was non-significantly affected by how the problems were framed. However, this might have been the result of how it was measured; meaning that any future research investigating this might reconsider the method utilised in this study.
One implication of this study is that it challenges Prospect Theory. Because  in this study it was observed how framing in terms of loss had a non-significant effect on the participants preferred option, rather than preferring the risky option as predicted. Nevertheless, this does not necessarily mean these findings fully disprove Prospect Theory, but instead rather suggest that it may not be applicable in the context of 'green’ government policy. A second implication of this study is that these findings can be applied by those advocating 'green' government policy in that they can frame climate change in terms of gain, in addition to presenting 'green' government policy as certain solution to dealing with it.


Boettcher III, W. A. (2004). Military intervention decisions regarding humanitarian crises: Framing induced risk behaviour. The Journal of Conflict Resolution, 48(3), 331-355. doi:10.1177/0022002704264271.

Tversky, A.,& Kahneman, D. (1981). The framing of decisions and the psychology of choice. Science, 211(4481), 453-458. Retrieved from

Quattrone, G. A., & Tverksy, A. (1988). Contrasting rational and psychological analyses of political choice. The American Political Science Review, 82(3), 719-736. Retrieved from uid=22731&uid=3738032&uid=22729&uid=2&uid=3&uid=5910784&uid=67&ui d=62&sid=21101762540717.

“Don’t be stupid. Put it in the recycling.”: A qualitative study into the factors affecting the permeability of the border between home and university domains with regards to university students’ recycling behaviours

Sarah-Jane Gan
School of Psychology, University of Surrey


The role of recycling has become increasingly important in recent years as it provides a platform for the public to partake in the conservation of the environment. The recycling culture is well established in households across the UK and is now being adopted at Higher Education (HE) institutes in order to promote this culture amongst the younger generation. Despite efforts made by HE institutes to encourage recycling, there is still a lack of establishment of this culture amongst the student population in universities (Zhang, 2011). Studies have looked to identify factors contributing to the presence or absence of recycling behaviour amongst students (Zhang, 2011; Dahle & Neumayer, 2001). However, very little has been done to try and understand why the well-established recycling culture from home sometimes fails to manifest itself in the university domain where students reside during the academic term.  
Using the concepts in Clark’s (2000) Border Theory, this qualitative study aims to explore the factors affecting the permeability of the border between the home and university domain with regards to recycling behaviour amongst university students. Ten students from the University of Surrey with varying backgrounds were interviewed and their individual perceptions of how and why these borders are formed was analysed. The analysis revealed four themes: 1) Conduciveness of environment for recycling, 2) Temporal barriers/opportunities for recycling within respective domains, 3) Individual’s self-concepts and personal understanding of recycling, and 4) Social barriers/opportunities within domains. The conceptualisation of these themes within Border Theory, alongside the Theory of Planned Behaviour (Ajzen, 2011), showed how perceived control and social norms can affect the permeability of the border to recycling behaviours, in addition to factors such as convenience of recycling and identity.
The implications of this current study is not only a practical one, giving insight into the transition process individuals encounter when mediating between borders, but also a theoretical one, showing how the relatively new Border Theory can be integrated with the Theory of Planned Behaviour to understand the inconsistencies in environmental behaviour within individuals. Further research should look to apply the Border Theory in Environmental Psychology by integrating it with other theories more commonly used in this field to explore the process of transition with regards to recycling behaviour. This could have implications for the education and management of pro-environmental behaviours in communities which could, in return, help lead to a more pro-environmental culture across societies.


Ajzen, I. (2011). Theory of planned behavior. Handb Theor Soc Psychol Vol One, 1, 438.

Clark, S. C. (2000). Work/family border theory: A new theory of work/family balance, Human Relations. 53(6), p747-770.

Dahle, M. & Neumayer, E. (2001). Overcoming Barriers to Campus Greening: A Survey among Higher Educational Institutions in London, UK. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 2(2), p139-160.

Zhang, N (2011). Greening Academia: Developing Sustainable Waste Management at UK Higher Educational Institutions (Doctoral Thesis, University of Southampton, Southampton). Retrieved from:

Special commendation 

Shanghai: The change in urban morphology’s effect on society

Stuart Rennie
Department of Architecture, University of Strathclyde


China is currently growing at a rate far exceeding anything ever witnessed. This architectural phenomenon appears to be holding the world’s economy together, pulling architects from around the world to the new designer’s playground.
The Chinese Government idealise grand, often idiotic architecture, yet the majority of new construction is bland ‘international style’ towers, many of which remain empty due to high market costs. The collective aim, however,to be the best the country can be, is on a daily basis mesmerising. They see results of dramatic development and an increase in quality of living in the past two decades, and they want more. “It is argued that ‘instant’ cities in China do not reflect regionalism, but are a product of intense competition to reach world city status.” (Lau et al., 2000) This, however, has come at a cost: overcrowded cities such as Shanghai leave even the greatest of infrastructure strained; people are forcibly removed from their homes, making way for new construction; and air pollution is at an all-time high. Inter country relations are also under strain as farmers migrate to the city looking for prosperity.

Shanghai has two key problems. Firstly, it is a city with a rich history, being a key city during the colonial era and the opium wars, yet the historic urban form has not been properly analysed and developed. Secondly, Shanghai is growing at an alarming rate creating vast transformations within short periods. This creates many problems with infrastructure and retaining a cultural identity within its urban form. “Success in delivering new developments with a strong sense of local identity is much more likely if the roots of character are recognised in the urban structure: the relationship between landscape, settlement and movement. Movement patterns form the framework for our experience of place.” (Davies, 2007:41)

The aim of this dissertation is therefore to negotiate the complex array of typologies, selecting a comparable few, examining them, and understanding what has changed. Using simple urban case studies I hope to show critical errors made in the complex rapid-planning of China’s metropolis Shanghai, and how it is developing from community based organic slums to vast gated compounds. This will be exemplified through research on certain developments, looking at the plan and section of street networks, urban blocks, public spaces, public buildings and amenities, and how residents connect with the urban fabric. It will be considered throughout that “a successful street and walkway pattern not only increases opportunities for people to meet, but also helps increase levels of trust locally” and that “ a sense of trust…is essential to the social life of urban communities, and to local economic life as well.” (Neal, 2003:129)

Finally the outcome of the investigation will be a greater understanding of Shanghai’s typologies, which could be developed into a methodology that can be used elsewhere, helping the Chinese to retain their cultural identity with design in the future.


Davies, L. (2007) Urban Design Compendium 2, Urban Design Alliance

Lau, S. Mahtab-uz-Zaman, Q. M. & Mei, S. H. (2000) High-Density Instant City: Pudong in Shanghai, In Jenks, M. and Burgess, R., eds. Compact Cities: Sustainable Urban Forms for Developing Countries, London, Taylor and Francis

Neal, P., ed. (2003) Urban Villages and the Making of Communities, London, Spon Press


The system is unfair but inequality is natural; system justification, information and climate change scepticism

Sarah Becker
School of Psychology, University of Sussex, UK


System Justification Theory (Jost & Banaji, 1994; Jost, Banaji, & Nosek, 2004) suggests that people tend to accept the legitimacy of the status quo, partly because this provides a degree of psychological stability and certainty. The theory is variously described as relating to psychological ‘needs’ (Jost et al., op. cit.) yet admitting of individual differences - such as those accompanying different political orientations (Jost & Hunyady, 2005) - and contextual variation (Kay & Friesen, 2011). One central proposal is that threats to the status quo will activate system justification processes (Jost, Glaser, Kruglanski & Sulloway, 2003). Thus, we sought to assess whether information about the environmentally-detrimental effects of the current economic system would accentuate system justification or attenuate system justification.

The present study investigated how system justification levels were influenced by exposure to information that linked economic growth to environmental problems. Participants (N = 136; 92 female; 42 male; 2 unknown; Mage = 24.15 years; SDage = 8.25) were students and working adults in south-east England who were recruited via e-mail to take part in an online survey. They were assigned alternately to either an ‘economic system critique’ group or to a ‘neutral information’ group. The key dependent variable was levels of Economic System Justification (ESJ; Jost & Thompson, 2000). Climate Change Scepticism (CCS; Whitmarsh, 2011) was also measured.

Principal component analysis of the ESJ items revealed three factors which reflected beliefs about (1) the Fairness of the System, (2) the Possibility of Change and (3) Inequality as Natural. Multiple regression analyses were conducted to explore the effect of Information Type, General System Justification and their interaction on the three ESJ components. Unpacking the first interaction showed that in the economic system critique condition, participants high on General System Justification rated the system as significantly more unfair than did their counterparts in the neutral information condition. However, the regression of Inequality as Natural scores also revealed a significant effect for the interaction term: here economic system critique participants high on General System Justification rated inequality as more natural than did their counterparts in the neutral information condition. In neither case did Information Type have an effect on the ratings of participants who were low in General System Justification.

The CCS items revealed two factors, reflecting (1) Scientific Evidence Scepticism and (2) Excessive Attention to Climate Change. Similarly structured multiple regression analyses indicated positive relationships between both components and General System Justification but no interactions involving Information Type.

The key findings indicated that those high in General System Justification can indeed be influenced by the provision of information that is critical of a growth-oriented economic system. Interestingly, however, although beliefs in the unfairness of the system were elevated for these participants, so too were beliefs that inequalities were part of the natural order! The results are discussed in relation to the implications for System Justification Theory, to the processes of maintaining a belief in the inevitability of economic inequalities within the status quo and to understand defence mechanisms that may prevent environmentally beneficial economic system change.  


Jost, J.T. & Banaji, M.R. (1994). The role of stereotyping in system-justification and the production of false consciousness. British Journal of Social Psychology, 33, 1-27.

Jost, J. T., Banaji, M. R., & Nosek, B. A. (2004). A decade of system justification theory: Accumulated evidence of conscious and unconscious bolstering of the status quo. Political Psychology, 25, 881- 919.

Jost, J. T., Glaser, J., Kruglanski, A. W., & Sulloway, F. J. (2003). Political conservatism as motivated social cognition. Psychological Bulletin, 129, 339–375.

Jost, J.T. & Hundady, O. (2005). Antecedents and consequences of system justifying ideologies. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 14, 260-265.

Jost, J. T., & Thompson, E. P. (2000). Group-based dominance and opposition to equality as independent predictors of self-esteem, ethnocentrism, and social policy attitudes among African Americans and European Americans. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 36, 209–232.

Kay, A. C., & Friesen, J. (2011). On social stability and social change: Understanding when system justification does and does not occur. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 20, 360–364.

Whitmarsh, L. (2011). Scepticism and uncertainty about climate change: Dimensions, determinants and change over time. Global Environmental Change, 21, 690–700.

Shortlisted abstracts

The stress reducing potential of Aquaria

Abigail Corcoran
Department of Psychology, University of Plymouth


Previous findings indicate that natural environments are beneficial for human physical and psychological wellbeing (Kaplan & Kaplan, 1989; Ulrich, 1983). Recent studies have shown the essential quality water has to play in these benefits, and has been identified as a confounding variable in much of the current literature (White et al., 2010). There has since been resounding support for an association between the presence of water and wellbeing, (Han, 2010; Lange & Schaeffer, 2001; Purcell, Peron and Berto, 2001) however as of yet, there has been little exploration of sub-aquatic environments. Despite the anecdotal indication of the stress-reducing properties of aquaria, no systematic research has been conducted. As aquaria are an accessible form of Blue environment, they may provide a low cost solution to increase psychological wellbeing and combat stress, which is particularly relevant in the present economic climate.  

The current study addresses this issue by measuring physiological and psychological stress-reduction whilst watching an aquarium exhibit. Participants were asked to rate how they were feeling using Hardy and Rejeski’s (1989) Feeling Scale, and also completed Svebak and Murgatroyd’s (1985) Felt Arousal Scale (FAS) which assesses activation. Heart rate and blood pressure measures were collected throughout the experiment to monitor physiological arousal levels.

The large Eddystone Reef tank at the National Marine Aquarium underwent refurbishment providing the means for the current study. One group of participants (N=29) watched the empty tank (containing water, but empty of fish), creating a control condition; the other (N=29) watched the same tank once it had been restocked with fish 6 months later (full tank). Both groups followed precisely the same procedure which involved initial stress manipulation through the use of anagrams, followed by 10 minutes of watching the assigned tank.

Results were strongly supportive of the central thesis of the study: having watched the full tank, participants reported an elevation of mood levels and physiological measurements suggested lower stress levels compared with before watching the full tank or watching the empty tank. Participants in the full tank condition also reported greater enjoyment, willingness to continue to watch for longer, and a higher interest level than those in the empty tank condition. Participants’ arousal levels and heart rates reduced significantly even when watching the empty tank; a natural effect of simply sitting still. However, by comparing the two tanks using repeated measures ANOVAs, it was possible to consider a baseline, allowing these effects to be controlled for.

Explanations for these finding are discussed using Kaplan’s (1995) Attention Restoration Theory (ART) and Ulrich’s (1983) psychophysiological stress recovery theory. A number of practical and theoretical implications result from the current research. Primarily, it adds to the growing body of evidence supporting the benefits of blue environments, focusing on the novel area of aquaria. Practically, there are valuable implications of the findings being integrated into a wide variety of healthcare settings, particularly regarding stress.

Further research is needed to consider the optimum exhibit for stress reduction, which groups of people will benefit most and how to practically apply these findings in a healthcare setting.


Han, K. T. (2010). An exploration of relationships among the responses to natural scenes: Scenic beauty, Preference, and Restoration. Environment and Behaviour, 42(2), 243-270.
Hardy, C.J., & Rejeski, W.J. (1989). Not what but how one feels: The measurement of affect during exercise. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 11, 304–317.
Kaplan, R., & Kaplan, S. (1989). The experience of nature: A psychological perspective. New York: Cambridge University Press.
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Lange, E., & Schaeffer, P. V. (2001). A comment on the market value of a room with a view. Landscape and Urban Planning, 55, 113-120.
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Concerns identified in the application of cultural cognition to address climate change scepticism

Rebecca Ferm
School of Psychology, Cardiff University


Scepticism about the reality and severity of climate change is increasing in the UK and is likely to be an obstacle to implementing effective climate policies. Recent British reports suggest that scepticism is associated with fundamental ideologies and values rather than socio-demographics or knowledge about climate change (Whitmarsh, 2011).

Cultural cognition theory proposes that perceptions of risk are shaped by cultural worldviews whereby novel information is interpreted in such a way that individuals seek out information which reinforces their worldviews and refute information which conflicts with such views (Kahan, 2010). Climate change scepticism is thus argued to be predicted by ‘individualist’ and ‘hierarchical’ worldviews which value individual freedom, commerce and industry. According to this theory, effective climate change communication requires information about climate change to be tailored to an individual’s worldview (Kahan, 2012). This theory has been developed in the US, however, and its applicability in other cultures is untested.

This research aimed to investigate the applicability and reliability of cultural cognition theory to predict scepticism, to communicate information about climate change, and to promote sustainable behaviours within a UK sample. Both individualism and hierarchism scales (Kahan et al., 2011) were used to assess whether or not such worldviews correlated with scepticism, environmental attitudes and sustainable behavioural intentions in a sample of 99 British undergraduate participants. In addition, participants were placed into groups depending on their worldview scores and presented with information that either matched or conflicted with their worldviews to determine whether or not such constructs predicted interpretation of climate change information.

Partial support for the relation between worldviews and environmental attitudes was found whereby hierarchical worldviews were negatively associated with environmental attitudes, although no difference was found for individualist worldviews. In addition, there was no support for the hypothesis that information was perceived as more liked, credible or suited to the individual when matched to a participant’s worldview compared to the unmatched condition. As a result, no significant difference of environmental attitudes or behavioural intentions was found at Time 2 between matched versus unmatched conditions. Nevertheless, as expected, both individualist and hierarchical worldviews were significantly more sceptical about climate change. Furthermore, a full mediation effect was found whereby hierarchical scores had an indirect effect, through scepticism, on intentions to behave sustainably.

In conclusion, cultural cognition theory does predict perceived risk of climate change within a UK sample, yet appears to have little application in communication to promote attitudinal or behaviour change. The lack of findings as a result of experimental manipulation supports previous claims that cultural theories are too rigid and abstract to predict individual behaviour (Rayner, 1992). Both the observed mediation effect and previous findings (Whitmarsh, 2011) suggest that climate change scepticism is more proximally linked to attitudes, intentions, and behaviours regarding the environment, than to cultural worldviews. Cultural cognition therefore provides a general framework to understand variability across populations to predict scepticism. However, strategies to promote climate-friendly attitudes and behaviour are more likely to be effective if they match information to individuals’ attitudes than to their cultural worldviews.


Kahan, D.M. (2010). Fixing the communications failure. Nature, 463, 296-297.
Kahan, D. M., Jenkins-Smith, H., & Braman, D. (2011). Cultural cognition of scientific consensus. Journal of Risk Research, 14, 147-174.
Kahan, D.M. (2012). Cultural cognition as a conception of the cultural theory of risk. In Hillerbrand, R., Sandin, P., Roeser, S., & Peterson, M. (Eds.), Handbook of Risk Theory. London, UK: Springer London Ltd.
Rayner, S. (1992). Cultural theory and risk analysis. In Krimsky, S., & Goldin, D., (Eds.), Social Theories of Risk, (pp. 83-84). Westport, CT: Praeger.
Whitmarsh, L. (2011). Scepticism and uncertainty about climate change: Dimensions, determinants and change over time. Global Environmental Change, 21, 690–700.

Special commendation  

Gender, class and a cup of tea: A critical discussion of how Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centre’s engage with culturally constructed expectations and ideologies pertaining to gender and class

Gregory Edward Murrell
Department of Architecture, Planning and Landscape, University of Newcastle


Maggie Keswick Jencks Cancer Caring Centres (Maggie’s) are praised for providing the quintessential antithesis to the frighteningly institutional atmosphere of a large hospital. No doubt, their high profile is also due to the extraordinary list of architects who have designed them, which reads like a who’s who of an architectural coterie. Contrary to this prevailing attitude within the architectural profession, this dissertation examines how the well-designed spaces of these Centres also serve as spatial sorters, excluding certain segments of society based on gender and class. It argues that healing spaces do not take a universal form, but in fact are quite specific to certain culturally constructed expectations of society.

The Centres adopt a wilful domesticity in their design and the kitchen may be identified at the centre of virtually all Maggie’s. Bespoke designer furniture and commissioned artworks fill the remaining spaces where visual connections to natural elements outside are also important. They are a built environment choreographed to relieve distress, inspire confidence and allow the patient to feel valued. Thus Maggie’s deliberately brings the care giving process into the more familiar surroundings of home; the widely accepted inference being that this particular mode of physical space is more conducive to the physiological process of dealing with, and hopefully overcoming, cancer than that of the impersonal general hospital.

The notion that built environments encountered in moments relating to health, affect our mental and physical capacities with regards to recovery and gaining a sense of well being, is a familiar one within the fields of Neurobiology and Environmental Psychology. For instance, in Healing Spaces: the Science of Place and Well-Being  Esther M. Sternberg argues that the interaction of the physical aspects of space with our senses alter our mental state and affect the immune system, concluding that a considered approach to the design of physical space could actually allow patients to heal more rapidly. This is exactly what Maggie’s are praised for within the orthodoxy of popular architectural journals.

In this dissertation, by compiling an in-depth qualitative analysis of their design, self-publicity, representation in popular media and architectural discourse, I conduct two main lines of enquiry. I examine whether there is a relationship between the physical, visual and verbal presence of Maggie’s and the disparity in the number of male vs. female patients (ratio 1:3) visiting, despite the comparable incidence of cancer in both sexes on the one hand, and their perceived middle-classness on the other.
Using content analysis and some key interviews, and with reference to crisis theory and visual culture theory, I argue that these lines of enquiry present some unexpected discoveries and provoke further questions for Maggie’s and, more broadly, the field of Environmental Psychology into what may be regarded as a physical space conducive to healing.


Sternberg, E.M. Healing Spaces: The Science of place and Well-being. Cambridge, Mass. ; London: Belknap. 2009

Environmental Psychology MSc

From personal space in offices environments to climate change awareness, we study the relationship between people and environments at every scale.