Dr. Birgitta Gatersleben


Natural environments can help reduce stress and improve cognitive functioning. However, much of our consumer behaviour alters and sometimes destroys such natural environments and depletes the natural resources it is dependent upon. Environmental Psychologists specifically study the relationship between people and their physical environment.

I've been conducting Environmental Psychology research for about 10 years now. At the moment I am lecturer in Environmental Psychology at the University of Surrey and Course Director of the MSc in Environmental Psychology. I have been at Surrey since 1998 where I worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow until 2001. I received my PhD from the University of Groningen in The Netherlands. Most of my work to date examines sustainable consumer behaviour in general and travel behaviour in particular.


Sustainable consumption

At the moment about 20% of the world population uses about 80% of the world's non-renewable resources (Dürr, 1994). To support the high-consumption lifestyles of Western households for the whole world population the continuous use of about twice the total land surface of earth is needed (Goodland et al, 1994). It seems useful therefore to examine the factors that drive consumption and to determine potential options for change. Such research is interdisciplinary in nature and has been the focus of much of my work to date.

Examples of research projects to date are:

2006- Understanding the links between lifestyles values and the environment (RESOLVE: www.surrey.ac.uk/resolve/ ). This 5-year cross disciplinary research program is led by Professor Tim Jackson at the Centre for Environmental Strategies (CES) at Surrey and involves researchers from CES and the departments of Psychology, Sociology and Economics. Our specific focus within this project will be on identity processes and community management.

2000-2003: Developing Tools for the Sustainable Households in the City of Tomorrow (ToolSust: www.toolsust.org ). This three year EC funded project on sustainable household consumption, involved researchers from 5 different countries who represented both the social and environmental sciences. Our specific focus within this project was on participation and pro-environmental behaviour.

1994- 1998. Household Metabolism Effectively Sustainable (HOMES). Five PhD students from different disciplines studied household consumption patterns in the Netherlands. My PhD (Centre for Environmental and Traffic Research at the University of Groningen in The Netherlands) was entitled: 'Sustainable Household Consumption Patterns and Quality of Life'.


The car is the main mode of transport for 63% of all UK trips and more than 70% of UK commuters travel to work by car (DfT, 2005). The use of private transport is one of the most energy consuming activities in modern households. A lot of my recent work has concentrated on examining why people use different travel modes and how they might be persuaded to use non-car modes more often. Most of this work was conducted when I was post Doctoral Scholar at the University of Surrey (1998 - 2001).

Examples of research projects conducted are:

2003: Instrumental, affective and symbolic aspects of the journey to work.
1999 and 2002: The impact of the Jubilee Line extension in London on travel behaviour, place attachment and neighbourhood quality.
1998-2001: The risk perceptions of transport generated air pollution.
2001: Walking buses and Croco cycles: safe walking and cycling routes to school.
2000-2001: promoting cycling to work: attitudes and perceptions in different stages of change.
2000: Comparing perceptions of transport problems and travel demand management between residents, policy makers and organisations.
Restorative environments

Research in environmental psychology has shown that natural scenes, particularly unspectacular scenes such as parks, can reduce stress, and improve mood, concentration and task performance. This interesting area of Environmental Psychology was the focus of my Masters dissertation which I conducted in 1994. More recently I have become involved again in various studies examining the restorative effects of natural environments, mainly through the supervision of dissertation projects.

Some examples of research projects are:

2005: The impact of fear on the restorative potential and perceived quality or urban and natural environments.
2005: The effect of outdoor experiences on the mood and confidence of adolescents.
2004-2005: Blind people's perceptions of natural environments.
1996: Mood change as a function of environmental design: arousal and pleasure on a simulated forest hike.

Since 2000 I have been Course Director of the Modular MSc programme in Environmental Psychology. This course covers a wide variety of areas within Environmental Psychology research including environmental perception, cognitive mapping, restorative environments, privacy and crowding, place attachment, environmental risk perception, sustainable consumption and sustainable transport.

More information about the MSc can be found here: http://www.surrey.ac.uk/Psychology/MScEnvironmentalPsychology.htm

Please click here for a list of selected publications.