New Master "Psychology & Sustainability" to start in winter semester 21/22

2021-03-08 Rijksuniversiteit Groningen is considered a world leader in the field of environmental psychology. In autumn, Leuphana will launch the new double-degree programme together with the Dutch university. Students will explore human perception and behaviour in times of ecological, economic and cultural change and the corresponding societal transformation processes. Psychological topics related to sustainability such as the resolution of social conflicts in the context of resource scarcity, sustainable consumption in times of climate change, and challenges of social work in pluralistic societies are just a few aspects of the programme that will be addressed from the perspective of psychology. The programme is unique in this form throughout Europe.

How do children develop an understanding of the challenges of sustainable development? Why do young people engage in protest movements such as "Fridays for Future"? How do people regulate their energy consumption in their private households? How do communities encourage neighbourhood cooperation with the aim of building sustainable communities? How do political actors make decisions on energy, migration, or climate policy and how are political conflicts negotiated in the context of societal transformation? Together with Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, the Institute of Psychology and the Faculty of Sustainability at Leuphana developed a study programme that addresses such questions from the standopoint of psychological research: "The study programme focuses on the question of how the human factor, i.e. the individual with his or her personal perceptions and behaviours, promotes or impedes sustainable development" explains Dr. Roman Trötschel, Professor of Social and Political Psychology and head of the new study programme "Psychology & Sustainability".

While the traditional perspective of sustainability sciences often answers the question on sustainable development from an systemic perspective (e.g. nature, technology, politics, economy), psychology as part of the interdisciplinary research field of sustainability sciences focuses on the individual actors within this system and their cognitive mindsets, emotional states, and motivational inclinations as important determinants of sustainable development. "Sustainable development cannot be achieved without a systematic analysis of ecological, political, or economic systems. However, without a deep understanding of psychological processes on the level of the individual actors such as their social perceptions, attitudes , decisions, or social behaviours the idea of sustainability, which is also human-made, cannot be achieved," explains Roman Trötschel.

In the first year of the master's programme "Psychology & Sustainability" at Leuphana, key issues of sustainability psychology will be discussed, such as people’s motivation to participate in political protest activities, their willingness to engage in social projects on the level of communities, or the way how people solve political conflicts in the context of social change. Three different perspectives will be adopted, focusing on the individual, the community, and the society: How can individuals contribute to sustainable development through their personal actions, for example by changing their consumption patterns? How can social groups at the local level promote sustainable transformation processes, for example in the context of neighbourhood assistance? Which role do political actors play at the societal level, for example in political negotiations on societal change? In addition, there is a strong focus on methodological training in quantitative and interdisciplinary research methods. Besides, a transdisciplinary research project in cooperation with students from the field of sustainability sciences is part of the study programme at Leuphana.

In the second year, the master's candidates will continue their studies at the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, where they will focus on the topics of 'Environmental Psychology', i.e. the study of individuals in their ecological, social and economic environments. Dr. Goda Perlaviciute, Professor of Environmental Psychology and programme coordinator at Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, is looking forward to the partnership with Leuphana "For Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, Leuphana with its great expertise in sustainability science and psychology is the optimal partner for a dual-degree programme bridging environmental and sustainability psychology."

Graduates of the Psychology & Sustainability programme will find employment opportunities in companies that are committed to foster sustainability transitions, in public agencies or institutions that seek to promote sustainable development at the local, national, or European level, or in non-governmental or political organisations that are actively engaged in societal transformation processes.