Kies de Nederlandse taal
Course module: 202300098
Psychology of Sustainability
Course infoSchedule
Course module202300098
Credits (ECTS)5
Course typeStudy Unit
Language of instructionEnglish
Contact P.W. de Vries
N.M.A. Huijts
dr. M. Stel
Examiner P.W. de Vries
Contactperson for the course P.W. de Vries
Academic year2023
Starting block
1A/  2A
Application procedureYou apply via OSIRIS Student
Registration using OSIRISYes
At the end of the course students are able to:
  1. Describe important determinants of sustainable behaviours and environmental (in)action.
  2. Describe theories that explain sustainable behaviours and environmental (in)action.
  3. Apply theories that explain sustainable behaviours and environmental (in)action to relevant cases. 
  4. Explain and understand how technology and policy may affect citizens’ sustainable behaviours (positively or negatively) and apply this to relevant cases.
  5. Apply insights and methods from literature to develop an intervention or research design that facilitates sustainable behaviours and environmental action. 
  6. Demonstrate skills to advise societal stakeholders to develop useful and impactful interventions.

The transition to a sustainable society is the paramount challenge in the coming decades. Governments (local, regional, national, and international), companies, and NGOs will be required to design, deploy, monitor, and change interventions to aid this transition. However, the role of citizens in this transition is crucial and complex.
Citizens are not merely passive stakeholders, waiting to embrace whatever intervention comes their way, or behaving in a way that merely maximizes rewards or avoids punishment. Instead, they increasingly are active participants in the sustainability transition, either as individuals or in a social context, and responding to contextual factors such as policy measures and technology in often unexpected ways. For one, technological innovations such as smart grid automation in local energy communities impact users’ freedom to expend energy whenever they want; theory on trust and acceptance may therefore be useful to prevent reactance and disuse of smart grid technology, and to afford successful balancing of energy production, storage, and demand. Additionally, financial incentives may effectively steer focal behaviour in a sustainable direction, but their effects may be short lived, and they may spill over into other, less sustainable, “sloppy” behaviours; theory on rebound effects may help us understand and prevent such undesirable behaviours. Also, social movements advocating more sustainable eating patterns, such as eating less meat, and demanding attention to the maltreatment of dairy and meat cattle, may trigger both favourable and unfavourable responses from the general public, as predicated by theories on norm setting and social influence.  Similarly, the introduction of large sustainable energy projects, such as geothermal energy and wind parks, tends to elicit resistance from citizens, and, thus, slows down their implementation; various theories and models provide insights into which factors predominantly determine acceptance or resistance and which design choices receive higher acceptance. As such, citizens’ perceptions and choices determine the very success of all interventions that are brought to bear to help make the transition. A firm theoretical understanding of the underpinnings of these perceptions and choices, and knowledge of theories and methods for successful interventions, are therefore valuable assets.
This course helps students interested in contributing to a sustainable society to gain the insights needed that are crucial in the development of impactful technological, social, or policy interventions. Besides learning about theories, students learn about methods and develop skills that are important in interacting with societal stakeholders, with the aim to create and support lasting sustainable action in society.
Bachelor students who have the possibility to take a master’s course during their bachelor’s programme and would like to take this course can submit a motivated request no later than four weeks before the start of the quartile, containing:
  • Study progress overview from Osiris
  • Description of how the student meets the course’s prerequisites
  • Approval of the programme director (or a delegate from the bachelor’s programme) for following this master’s course
The request should be sent to Manon te Vaarwerk (email: AND Marleen Janssen (email:
Assumed previous knowledge
Bachelor or pre-master Psychology UT
Participating study
Master Psychology
Required materials
Recommended materials
Literature list will be provided; articles are accessible if VPN is used
Instructional modes

Written exam and assignment

Kies de Nederlandse taal