PB417      Half Unit
Consumer Psychology for Sustainability

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Liora Moskovitz


This course is available on the MSc in Behavioural Science, MSc in Organisational and Social Psychology, MSc in Psychology of Economic Life, MSc in Social and Cultural Psychology and MSc in Social and Public Communication. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

The objectives of the course are: 1) to provide students with an understanding of the social, psychological and cognitive processes underpinning the consumption of goods and services and their impact; 2) to explore alternative ways of relating to users/consumers than those based solely on market and competition and use these understandings to develop/move towards alternative sustainable routes for consumption; and 3) to prepare students to build better business models (e.g. social entrepreneurship, more sustainable, and so on) for the provision of goods and services.

The course will address the psychology of consumption at different levels of analysis: individual, group and societal. It will ground this psychology in the relevant literature, and teach students foundational theories, allowing them to develop a mental model of human behaviour as it relates to consumption.

This is not a standard marketing or consumer research course. It is not about brand territories and market shares, but about how understanding various psychological processes in conjunction with these forces can provide us with tools to improve the world. How can we leverage consumer psychology to solve our sustainability problem?


15 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the LT.

Formative coursework

1 x essay plan submitted in the LT.

Indicative reading

  • Baca-Motes, K., Brown, A., Gneezy, A., Keenan, E. A., & Nelson, L. D. (2012). Commitment and Behavior Change: Evidence from the Field. Journal of Consumer Research, 39(5), 1070-1084.
  • Belk, R.W. (1988). Possessions and the Extended Self. Journal of Consumer Research, 15(2), 139-168.
  • Belk, R. (2010). Sharing. Journal of Consumer Research, 36(5), 715–734.
  • Bendapudi, N.& Leone, R.P. (2003). Psychological Implications of Customer Participation in Co-Production. Journal of Marketing, 67(1), 14-28.
  • Cialdini, R.B., & Goldstein, N.J. (2004). Social Influence: Compliance and conformity. Annual Review of Psychology, 55, 591-622.
  • Griskevicius, V. & Kenrick, D.T. (2013). Fundamental motives: How Evolutionary Needs Influence Consumer Behaviour. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 23(3), 372-386.
  • Jensen schau, H., & Gilly, M. (2003). We Are What We Post? Self-Presentation in Personal Web Space. Journal of Consumer Research, 30(3), 385-404.
  • Luchs, M. G., Naylor, R. W., Irwin, J. R., & Raghunathan, R. (2010). The Sustainability Liability: Potential negative Effects of Ethicality on Product Preference. Journal of Marketing, 74(5), 18-31.
  • Muniz, A. M., & O’Guinn, T. C. (2001). Brand Community. Journal of Consumer Research, 27(4), 412–432.
  • Richins, M. L., & Chaplin, L. N. (2015). Material parenting: How the use of goods in parenting fosters materialism in the next generation. Journal of Consumer Research, 41(6), 1333- 1357.
  • Rysman, M. (2009). The Economics of Two-Sided Markets. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 23(3), 125-143.
  • Waring, T. M., Goff, S. H., & Smaldino, P. E. (2017). The Coevolution of Economic Institutions and Sustainable Consumption via Cultural Group Selection. Ecological Economics, 131, 524–532.

Additional readings will be recommended throughout the course.


Essay (100%, 3000 words) in the ST.

The assignment is part of the learning process: analysing a real case and making sound recommendations will help to provide students with the transferable skills necessary to make the world a better place. In the first part, 'memorandum' (1,000 words), you will be asked to prepare a memorandum or open letter to the head of an organisation of your choice, with recommendations to improve the organisation by making it more sustainable. The recommendations must be realistic – they must be achievable and make business sense. In the second part of the essay, 'justification' (2,000 words), you will justify the specific recommendations presented in the memorandum with reference to theoretical and empirical literature and concepts. We encourage the best essays to be published as open letters.

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Teachers' comment

LSE offers two courses addressing consumer behaviour: MG404 Consumer Insights: Behavioural Fundamentals and PB417 Consumer Psychology. MG404 is designed for the students of Management to complement their curriculum, and PB417 targets the (future) decision-makers and advisers in business and organisations dealing with consumers, including non-commercial.
There are some similarities in the content of MG404 and PB417. Broadly, both courses introduce the psychological foundations of consumer behaviour, and are intended to equip students to apply psychological theories to business situations. There are, however, important differences in the orientations of the two courses.
MG404 is intended for students studying management and related disciplines, who want to learn how to influence consumer behaviour (e.g., how to construct persuasive advertising or sway purchase decisions). MG404 introduces the principles of consumer behaviour that firms need to recognize for successfully marketing their products and services, and which consumers themselves can use to make optimal decisions.
PB417 provides a skillset and a toolbox of theories and methods for analysing consumer demand, finding the levers for change and building sustainable business models. For assessment, students choose a real case and write a set of (justified) recommendations to the CEO. PB417 may especially be of interest to students across a broad range of programmes who are interested in developing new modes of relationship with consumers or building sustainable business models as an alternative to the current consumer society.
The courses share some content where appropriate; other content differs in accordance with the different goals of the two courses.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Psychological and Behavioural Science

Total students 2020/21: 46

Average class size 2020/21: 15

Controlled access 2020/21: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Commercial awareness