nl en

Policy and Social Behaviour: Introduction to Environmental Psychology


Admission requirements

Bachelor Degree in Psychology


Many of the pressing issues that confront society involve social behaviour in relation to the environment. This course will address how social behaviour affects the environment and vice versa, and how policy measures, and interventions more in general, can be an effective tool for behavioural change.

Each meeting will be devoted to a specific issue within environmental psychology. For example:

  • we will discuss the way people evaluate the presence of large crowds, and situations of high density, how they react to these situations and how environmental alterations may improve well-being.

  • We will focus on environmental determinants of crime, safety and risk, and how people cope with these: What determines their experience of risk, how does this deviate from experts’ risk assessments, and what measures can be appropriate to reduce risk.

  • We will not only look at the built environment and the technology that surrounds 21st-century man, but also at nature. People generally like nature, but why, and to what extent? What effects can be expected from exposure to natural environments?

  • Attention will also be given to the difference between individual and collective interests (social dilemmas), which plays a role in a range of environmental issues, ranging from the number of parking places in a neighbourhood to the greenhouse effect. What psychological mechanisms drive environmentally relevant behaviour and how can interventions be designed to change behaviour in a pro-environmental sense?
    For each meeting students will read a set of papers in advance, to be discussed during the session.

Course objectives

The student

  • Has specialized knowledge of social psychological theories about behaviour in social-environmental settings.

  • Can, at basic level, make use of theories that are common in social psychology to get a grip on environmental problems.


Policy and Social Behaviour: Introduction to Environmental Psychology (2010-2011):

Mode of instruction

Seven seminars/lectures, presentations of research.

Assessment method

Final written exam with essay questions.

From January 1, 2006 the Faculty of Social Sciences has instituted the Ephorus system to be used by instructors for the systematic detection of plagiarism in students’ written work. Please see the information concerning fraud .


Information on

Reading list

Journal articles and book chapters that will be offered via Blackboard.


Introduction and enrolment for courses of the first semester will take place on 2 September 2010. Introduction and enrolment for courses of the second semester will take place on 27 January 2011. More information will be available at the website of the Institute of Psychology.

NB: Exam registration will take place via uSis, and will be open between a month and a week before the (re)exam. Students who haven’t registered, cannot participate in the exam.

Contact information

Dr. Henk Staats
Room 2A40
Tel.: +31 (0)71 527 4104