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Environmental Psychology (previously Policy and Social Behaviour)


Admission requirements

MSc Psychology students.


Many of the pressing issues that confront society involve social behaviour in relation to the environment. This is the domain of Environmental Psychology: the study of the ways in which people influence the environment and are, in turn, influenced by the environment, often without being aware of its profound impact.

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

  • City life. The world population is increasingly living in cities, and ever larger cities. This makes it really important to look at the psychological characteristics of city life. 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.

  • Nature: We will not only look at the built environment and the technology that surrounds 21th-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?

  • Community Concerns: Housing and neighborhood characteristics may strongly influence well-being and health. What are the relevant environmental characteristics, physical and social, and how do these interact?

  • Pro-environmental Behaviour. Environmental problems are, ultimately, problems of human behaviour. Individual behaviour with environmental consequences will be analyzed from a social-psychological perspective. Specific attention will 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?

  • The Greening of Corporations: organizations have a major impact on environmental quality. Sustainability has become a familiar concept for organizations as environmental decision making and environmental policy are now regular aspects of organizational policy. A green corporate image is something that organizations now strive for and cherish. Psychological processes at an organizational level are different from those at the individual or household level. What do we know about these processes, and how can they be influenced?
    For each meeting students will read a set of papers in advance, to be discussed during the session.

Course objectives

  • To obtain specialized knowledge of social psychological theories relevant for behaviour in social-environmental settings

  • To be able, at basic level, to use findings and insights in environmental, social or organizational psychology to analyze and potentially change problematic environmental behaviour


Environmental Psychology (2012-2013):

Mode of instruction

Lectures, presentations of research

Assessment method

Final written exam with open-ended 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

Literature will be made available via Blackboard. Exemplary literature includes:

  • Lederbogen, F. et al. (2011). City living and urban upbringing affect neural social stress processing in humans. Nature, 474, 498-501

  • Goldberg, T. (1969). The Automobile. A Social Institution for Adolescents. Environment and Behavior, 1, 152-185

  • Moser, G., & Corroyer, D. (2001). Politeness in the urban environment: Is city life still synonymous with civility? Environment and Behavior, 33, 611-625

  • Keizer, K., Lindenberg, S, & Steg, L. (2008). The spreading of disorder. Science, 322, 1681-1685

  • Koole, S. L., & Van den Berg, A. E. (2005). Lost in the wilderness: Terror management, action orientation, and nature evaluation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88, 1014-1028.

  • Evans, G. W., & Kim, P. (2007). Childhood poverty and health. Cumulative risk exposure and stress dysregulation. Psychological Science, 18, 953-957

  • Hardin, G. (1968). The Tragedy of the Commons. Science, 162, 1243-1248.

  • Thögersen, J., & Ölander, F. (2006). The dynamic interaction of personal norms and environment-friendly buying behavior: a panel study. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 36, 1758-1780.

  • Goldstein, N. J., Griskevicius, V., & Cialdini, R. B. (2007). Invoking social norms. A social psychology perspective on improving hotel‘s linen-reuse programs. Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly, 48, 145-150.


Course enrolment

Students need to enrol for the course via uSis on the master’s introduction and course enrolment day that takes place at the start of each semester. Please, consult the master’s agenda Psychology.

Exam registration

Students must register for each examination. Students, who haven’t registered, cannot participate in an exam

Contact information

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