Tell me about your work and what got you interested in attitude formation.
I’m an environmental psychologist and I’ve been at the University for twelve years. I first became interested in environmental issues during my post-doc, a four year funded “Three University” project in conjunction with the University of East Anglia and the University of Cardiff, with the broad theme being the understanding of risk, specifically on climate change and energy options for the future. I was a named research associate on that project, and was given a free rein to explore the issues I thought were interesting in regards to energy choices and the future in the context of climate change.
On that basis I began to do some work on wind farm opposition. Around the time I started the project, there was an article in the Sheffield Star, a report about a proposed wind farm at Westwood Country Park in the North of Sheffield. Opposition was beginning to form and I found it interesting enough to pursue. I conducted a survey to learn more about the extent of support and opposition, and how perceptions towards climate change related to those opinions. In a general sense, I wanted to identify whether opposition was rooted in commonly held perceptions of selfishness, or whether there were other motivating factors.
I’ve also done some work on energy demand, working on the BIG Energy Upgrade Project, a multi-disciplinary project designed to look at house energy efficiency interventions in some of poorest areas in Yorkshire. I worked on energy demand, particularly what people think about interventions aimed at reducing demand, and what might lead people to accept or reject them.
So you’re attempting to move focus away from assumptions of selfishness?
There is a term, nimbyism, as in NIMBY (Not in My Back Yard). As I was beginning my research, the term was being questioned by academics in terms of its prevalence as an explanation for opposition to things. A lot of the research was pointing to any number of different reasons why people oppose things, other than simply being selfish.