Expanding the role for psychology in addressing environmental challenges


Environmental challenges, though daunting, present an important area for psychologists to apply their knowledge. Psychological theories, research methods, and interventions are essential for examining the questions about human impacts, tendencies, and capacities that are integral to constructing effective responses to these challenges. Although a great deal of relevant research has been done, there is scope for psychologists to be more extensively involved. Following a brief review of existing research, we outline some important new directions. We also highlight 2 key divergences, arguing that psychological research needs to expand beyond a traditional, theory-based and decontextualized approach to environmental issues to incorporate a contextualized or "place-based" approach and a willingness to collaborate in interdisciplinary research teams that focus on specific environmental problems. Suggestions for promoting such interdisciplinary collaborations are reviewed. We encourage psychologists to expand their engagement with important environmental issues through multiple research approaches in order to further their understanding of human behavior, contributions to human well-being, and relevance to other disciplines and to society.

Publication Type
Journal Article
Susan Clayton, The College of Wooster
Patrick Devine-Wright, University of Exeter
Janet Swim, Pennsylvania State University
Mirilia Bonnes, Sapienza University of Rome
Linda Steg, University of Groningen
Lorraine Whitmarsh, Cardiff University
Amanda Carrico, Vanderbilt University
American Psychologist

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