Tag Archives: psychology

Psychology : the most important research questions about the energy efficiency

The roles of academic psychology in climate change perspectives have been described in various articles. Among the most important of them is the Dreyer et al’s publication (1). They highlighted the food-energy-water nexus as central component of human life, and a priority for our current and studies. However, it is relatively hard to identify priorities for each component. I found a set of good papers on food research priorities in psychology. (I will contact some researchers for the water question)

A social sciences and humanities-focused research agenda has been developed (horizon scanning method) by questioning more than 150 researchers from 23 countries (2). Authors listed 100 research questions splitted in 7 domains.

I subjectively selected the research questions for the academic psychology communities (community, organizational, health, social psychology). Also, I recommend the Introduction subsection : ‘Evolution of social sciences and humanities research on energy efficiency’. It is important to note that these recommendations are more adapted for high incomes countries.

“Theme 1: Citizenship, engagement and knowledge exchange in relation to energy efficiency

  • What are the challenges to mobilising collective action around energy efficiency and sufficiency (e.g., convincing private apartment owners to undertake collective refurbishments); and what learnings on addressing these can be drawn from exemplars?
  • Which organisations and individuals play important roles in the diffusion of energy efficiency measures to homes and businesses; and how do these diffusion processes operate (e.g., through developments in leadership, social norms and skills)?
  • How can policies and public programmes aiming to increase energy efficiency, via citizen engagement, go beyond individualistic models of behaviour; and how can a social practice framing result in different types of programmes?

Theme 2: Energy efficiency in relation to equity, justice, poverty and vulnerability

  • What are the major barriers and enablers of installing energy efficiency measures among different socio-demographic and socio-economic groups; and what are the implications for designing policies that ensure energy efficiency is accessible to all?
  • How do energy efficiency policies affect vulnerable groups with higher energy consumption needs (e.g., elderly, disabled); and how can policies ensure that such ‘energy vulnerable’ citizens benefit from energy efficiency solutions?
  • What are the short-, medium- and long-term effects of domestic energy efficiency improvements on the mental and physical health of people living in energy poverty?

Theme 3: Energy efficiency in relation to everyday life and practices of energy consumption and production.

  • What unanticipated challenges and poor outcomes arise from a lack of ‘fit’ between new initiatives or technologies with everyday lives and practices; and how can these be addressed?
  • What are the roles of personal, cultural and site-specific factors in the success or failure of energy efficiency initiatives?
  • How can participatory design and co-creation approaches contribute to the development of energy efficiency solutions that work with, rather than against, practices in everyday settings?
  • How is thermal comfort perception related to physiological, psychological and social influences; and how could understanding of these relationships help to improve energy efficiency and reduce energy consumption in everyday life?
  • What are the conditions that facilitate the acceptance and pursuit of energy sufficiency (e.g., living in smaller spaces, avoiding mobility, reducing consumption) over energy efficiency; and how can these conditions be scaled-up across society?

Theme 6: Roles of economic systems, supply chains and financial mechanisms in improving energy efficiency

  • Given that a large proportion of intentions to invest in energy efficiency measures (in existing buildings) are never carried out or are substantially delayed, how can Social Sciences and Humanities improve understandings of this implementation gap?

Theme 7: The interactions, unintended consequences and rebound effects of energy efficiency interventions.

  • How can various ‘rebound effects’ or unintended consequences resulting from increasing energy efficiency be minimised through technological design, new policies, alignment with particular contextual conditions, or even the formulation of alternative approaches to reducing energy demand?
  • How can Social Sciences and Humanities contribute to better qualifying and quantifying the non-energy-related benefits of energy efficiency; and how can this be translated into better Monitoring and Evaluation tools for policymakers?
  • What are the relationships between energy efficiency and healthy and productive indoor environments; and how can human-building interactions be improved to optimise all these outcomes?
  • What are the relationships between energy efficiency, energy demand and human well-being; and what roles could energy efficiency and energy sufficiency play in policy interventions to tackle inequalities in well-being?”

1. Dreyer SJ, Kurz T, Prosser AMB, Abrash Walton A, Dennings K, McNeill I, et al. Towards a Psychology of the Food-Energy-Water Nexus: Costs and Opportunities. Journal of Social Issues. 2020;76(1):136‑49.

2. Foulds C, Royston S, Berker T, Nakopoulou E, Bharucha ZP, Robison R, et al. An agenda for future Social Sciences and Humanities research on energy efficiency: 100 priority research questions. Humanit Soc Sci Commun. 30 juin 2022;9(1):1‑18.

Climate change & physical activity behaviours : A challenge for health psychology

In November, I gave a talk for the European Health Psychology Society SIG Equity, Global Health and Sustainability. Slides are available here.

In conclusion, I presented an updated definition of health behaviors : “actions and patterns of actions within a context that enable human choices that result in reduced or net zero carbon, energy, water, and ecological footprint and (in)directly result in equitable improvement, restoration, and maintenance of health for humans and nonhuman health for current and future generations” (1).

I also presented a set of priorities for health psychology community:

  • To systematically present climate change consequences in courses
  • A responsibility of ‘senior researchers’ to reshape their research questions in CC perspectives
  • To develop collaborations with environmental/climate  psychology) researchers
  • To accelerate implementation of effective interventions to cope with CC/health issues
  • To prioritize social change >>> technology based solutions
    To develop multilevel interventions with multi- or interdisciplinary perspectives
  • To reorganize our research practices (carbon footprint of congress)

Finally, I shared the link to download our info-graphics (open access).

Chevance G, Fresán U, Hekler E, Edmondson D, Lloyd S j, Ballester J, et al. Thinking health-related behaviors in a climate change context: A narrative review [Internet]. OSF Preprints; 2021 [cited 2021 May 19]. Available from: https://osf.io/pb8vc/

Content of behavior change interventions for more sustainable diet behaviors.

The definition of sustainable diet varies between the authors and countries (1). However, the main characteristics are provided by Lonnie et al. (2) : to consume a variety of unprocessed or minimally processed foods, (i.e., whole-grains, pulses, fruits and vegetables), with moderate amounts of eggs, dairy, poultry and fish and modest amounts of ruminant meat . The Food and Agriculture Organization has published a more broad definition of sustainable diet: ‘Sustainable diets are protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair and affordable; nutritionally adequate, safe and healthy; while optimizing natural and human resources’ (3).

As you can imagine, it is particularly challenging to operationalize the sustainable diet behaviors for future interventions. A behavioral intervention could target the adopting plant-based diet, decrease the consumption of meats, sugar added product, ultra-processed food, soda, dairy products (particularly cheese)…. The behavioral change perspectives of sustainable diet are in line with debates about multiple health behavior change interventions (i.e., sequential versus simultaneous approach, number and order of targeted behaviors, rebound effects…) (4–6).

I tried to identify the systematic reviews examining the effects of ‘real-context’ behavioral interventions to help adults to adopt more sustainable diet behaviors. No surprise ! Most of published papers focused on animal-based diet or adoption of plant-based diets. It is easily understandable because the meat consumption reduction is particularly interesting in term of individual carbon footprint reduction (7,8) and is associated with various health benefits. Furthermore, the reduction of red and processed meat is also associated with a decrease of water and ecological individual footprints (9).

Five reviews and one report was found (10–15). I also added two narrative reviews of the special issue of Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences about climate change (16,17). The number of interventions was relatively low and their respective efficacy is disputable. Most of interventions were performed in a ‘controllable’ context (e.g., cafeteria).

What are the psychological targets (and possible behavioral change techniques) to develop a future effective behavior change intervention ?

  • Health beliefs (to provide the information about health benefits or consequences) (10,11,14)
  • Food knowledge (to develop the skills and abilities preparation of new food or plant-based meals) (10,11,14)
  • Environmental beliefs (to provide the information about environmental benefits or consequences) (14,15)
  • Self-regulation (to facilitate action planning, to prompt self-recording) (11,14)

What are the most recurrent psychological barriers ?

  • Positive taste experiences with meat (10,12)
  • Health risks perception associated with a diet without meat (10,12)
  • Food preparation or purchase habits (10,10,13)
  • Poor social support or unwillingness of household members (10,13)

It is important to note that the findings are only generalizable in adults living in countries with high-incomes. Also, higher incomes and levels of education were associated with easier shift from meat- to plant-based diets (11,13).

The review about habit and climate change suggested that implementation intentions and gamification may be two effective technique to disrupt the meat consumption (17). Finally, the reported studies in review about the affects and emotions for climate change communication were mostly experimental. However, the authors suggested the ineffective role of threatening messages to modify the health behavior has not been verified for pro-environmental behaviors (16).

This article is a first attempt to identify the evidence based contents of future sustainable diet interventions. I recommend the well-designed protocol of Bianchi et al. , particularly their intervention logic model.

  • 1. Steenson S, Buttriss JL. The challenges of defining a healthy and ‘sustainable’ diet. Nutrition Bulletin. 2020;45(2):206–22.
  • 2. Lonnie M, Johnstone AM. The public health rationale for promoting plant protein as an important part of a sustainable and healthy diet. Nutrition Bulletin. 2020;45(3):281–93.
  • 3. Food Forum, Food and Nutrition Board, Health and Medicine Division, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Sustainable Diets, Food, and Nutrition: National Academies Press; 2018. Available from: https://www.nap.edu/catalog/25289
  • 4. Hyman DJ, Pavlik VN, Taylor WC, Goodrick GK, Moye L. Simultaneous vs Sequential Counseling for Multiple Behavior Change. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2007 Jun 11;167(11):1152.
  • 5. Sniehotta FF, Presseau J, Allan J, Araújo-Soares V. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”: A Novel Research Paradigm to Explore the Relationship between Multiple Intentions and Behaviours. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. 2016 Jul;8(2):258–75.
  • 6. Spring B, Moller AC, Coons MJ. Multiple health behaviours: overview and implications. Journal of Public Health. 2012 Mar 1;34(suppl 1):i3–10.
  • 7. Bernard P. Health psychology at the age of Anthropocene. Health Psychology and Behavioral Medicine. 2019 Jan 1;7(1):193–201.
  • 8. Ivanova D, Barrett J, Wiedenhofer D, Macura B, Callaghan M, Creutzig F. Quantifying the potential for climate change mitigation of consumption options. Environ Res Lett. 2020 Aug;15(9):093001.
  • 9. Fresán U, Marrin DL, Mejia MA, Sabaté J. Water Footprint of Meat Analogs: Selected Indicators According to Life Cycle Assessment. Water. 2019 Apr;11(4):728.
  • 10. Graça J, Godinho CA, Truninger M. Reducing meat consumption and following plant-based diets: Current evidence and future directions to inform integrated transitions. Trends in Food Science & Technology. 2019 Sep;91:380–90.
  • 11. Taufik D, Verain MCD, Bouwman EP, Reinders MJ. Determinants of real-life behavioural interventions to stimulate more plant-based and less animal-based diets: A systematic review. Trends in Food Science & Technology. 2019 Nov;93:281–303.
  • 12. Szejda K, Urbanovich T, Wilks M. An Evidence-Based Guide for Effective Practice. :111.
  • 13. Fehér A, Gazdecki M, Véha M, Szakály M, Szakály Z. A Comprehensive Review of the Benefits of and the Barriers to the Switch to a Plant-Based Diet. Sustainability. 2020 May 19;12(10):4136.
  • 14. Bianchi F, Dorsel C, Garnett E, Aveyard P, Jebb SA. Interventions targeting conscious determinants of human behaviour to reduce the demand for meat: a systematic review with qualitative comparative analysis. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity [Internet]. 2018 Dec [cited 2021 May 14];15(1).
  • 15. Abrahamse W. How to Effectively Encourage Sustainable Food Choices: A Mini-Review of Available Evidence. Frontiers in Psychology [Internet]. 2020 Nov 16 [cited 2021 May 14];11. Available from: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.589674/full
  • 16. Brosch T. Affect and emotions as drivers of climate change perception and action: a review. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences. 2021 Dec 1;42:15–21.
  • 17. Verplanken B, Whitmarsh L. Habit and climate change. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences. 2021 Dec;42:42–6.