About Environmental Psychology at the University of Groningen

The environmental psychology group‘s mission is to understand human responses to environmental risks, such as climate change. The research aims to understand:

  1. which factors influence behaviour causing environmental risks,
  2. which factors promote adaptation to environmental risks, such as climate change,
  3. the effects of interventions aimed to encourage risk mitigation and adaptation behaviour, and factors influencing intervention effects,
  4. the acceptability of environmental policies, technology and system changes, and factors influencing such acceptability judgements,
  5. the relationship between environmental behaviour and quality of life.

A wide range of factors is included, including individual, social, institutional, cultural, technological, and situational factors. The Environmental Psychology Group has extensive collaborations with scholars from many different disciplines within physical sciences, humanities, and social sciences. These include Sociology, Marketing, Economics, Geography, Spatial Sciences, Philosophy, Arts, Innovation Sciences, Law, Natural Sciences, Engineering, and Computer Sciences.

Research topics and domains

The research focuses on environmental behaviour in different domains, including energy, travel and transport, waste handling, and food consumption. The Environmental Psychology Group conducts research in around the globe, and is involved in many international research projects. A wide range of research methods is being used, including qualitative interviews, questionnaire studies, longitudinal studies, field experiments and lab experiments. The Environmental Psychology research group strives for scientific excellence and high practical relevance, and to advance science and enhance society’s capacity to mitigate and cope with environmental risk . The research aims to advance theory and to find solutions for problems faced by practitioners and policy makers. The Environmental Psychology research group carries out a number of forms of outreach, including training and education, and collaborating with and advising to local, national and international organizations. The collaboration between researchers, policy makers and practitioners is bidirectional: the research informs the outreach and the outreach provides research ideas and opportunities to conduct research. Located at the University of Groningen, the Environmental Psychology research group is affiliated with the Groningen Energy and Sustainability Platform, Sustainable Society, the Energy Academy Europe and partners from various departments and centres across the university. For more information about our partners, see our Partners and Collaborators page

Studying Environmental Psychology

Environmental risks, such as climate change, represent one of the greatest threats to our future and that of generations to come. In recognition of this threat, almost 200 nations agreed to fight climate change. To mitigate and cope with environmental risks such as climate change, technological developments are critical but not sufficient. As environmental risks are to a great extent caused by human behaviour, adoption of sustainable technology and practices are crucial as well. Environmental psychology studies which factors cause behaviour that reduces environmental risks, which factors encourage effective adaptation to environmental risks that still occur, which solutions will be effective and acceptable to mitigate and adapt to environmental risks, and how these solutions can be implemented without seriously threatening human quality of life. The role of social sciences and humanities in understanding and tackling environmental and energy-related problems is key, as has been emphasized in the leading journals such as Nature, Nature Climate Change, Nature Energy, Nature Sustainability and PNAS. Governments, industries, business companies and NGOs have a key interest in understanding the human dimension of sustainable development, such as a sustainable energy transition. Environmental psychologists provide key insights about in how to strengthen effective human responses to environmental risks that improve quality of life of the world population as well. Themes Explaining environmental behaviour Effects of environmental policies Acceptability of environmental policies, technology and system changes Sustainable behaviour and well-being Climate change risk perception and adaptation

Recent events

Online Course: Energy Systems Integration

A Trend or a Revolution?

In collaboration with the Environmental Psychology Groningen team, EIT InnoEnergy and ESIG launches a free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on November 19th 2018. Enroll in the class here.

Job opportunity: PhD in psychology of climate change

The environmental psychology group at the University of Groningen is seeking candidates for a PhD position on understanding climate adaptation behavior. More details below.

Recent publications

Interview: “Green behavior is good for your status”

Are status and identity important for people buying sustainable products?

Ernst Noppers of the University of Groningen explains his research findings in an interview with BNR Nieuwsradio. Listen to the podcast here.

Emotional Responses to Energy Projects

Insights for Responsible Decision Making in a Sustainable Energy Transition

By: Perlaviciute, G., Steg, L., Contzen, N., Roeser, S., & Huijts, N.M.A.

In: Sustainability
doi: 10.1016/j.jenvp.2018.06.008

Abstract.Energy projects aimed at a sustainable energy transition can trigger strong negative emotions and resistance from the public. While practitioners are increasingly realising that they cannot simply ignore public emotions, they struggle with how to deal with people’s emotional responses and how to secure public acceptability of sustainable energy projects. We argue that a first critical step in order to adequately address emotional responses to energy projects is to understand where these emotional responses come from. We introduce a value-based approach, which entails that different characteristics of energy projects may violate or support people’s core values, which evokes emotions in people. We present a theoretical framework of the relationship between people’s values, the (perceived) implications of energy projects for these values, and people’s emotional responses to energy projects. We give examples from case studies in the literature to substantiate our reasoning, and we offer directions for future research. Our novel approach provides critical insights for project developers, decision makers, engineers, and scientists who aim to better understand the human dimension of a sustainable energy transition.

Increasing the regular use of safe water kiosk through collective psychological ownership

A mediation analysis

By: Contzen, N., & Marks, S. J.

In: Journal of Environmental Psychology
doi: 10.1016/j.jenvp.2018.06.008

Abstract. Unsafe water consumption is the environmental risk factor in sub-Saharan Africa contributing most to premature death. In urban slums and dispersed rural communities, where access to safe water is especially limited, water kiosks are a relevant safe water source. However, irregular use challenges their operational viability and may cause discontinuation. The present study investigated collective psychological ownership for the kiosk as a potential factor to increase regular kiosk use. Data were collected cross-sectionally in one urban and two rural kiosk sites through interviews in study households (N = 205) and analyzed by path analysis. Involvement in decision-making related to the kiosks explained collective psychological ownership for the kiosks. Collective psychological ownership, in turn, explained self-reported kiosk use through social-cognitive factors. The results emphasize the importance of community involvement in decisions related to kiosk installation and maintenance because it may contribute to regular kiosk use.