PB435      Half Unit
Behavioural Science for Planetary Wellbeing

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Ganga Shreedhar


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

We live on a changing planet, and need to confront multiple human-caused global challenges like climate change and mass extinction through coordinated and cooperative action. This course aims to introduce students to concepts and tools from Behavioural Science, especially environmental and ecological economics and psychology, understand to the interplay between human behaviour and global environmental and ecological change in ten lectures such as: (1) unpacking the human-nature dilemma (2) adapating and mitigating climate and environmental risks (3) conservating non-human nature (4) fostering individual and collective action (5) making organisations sustainable (6) political action and policy support (7) behavioural climate and conservation policy I: deliberation, awareness, persuasion & nudges (8) behavioural climate and conservation policy II: incentives, infrastructure & regulation (9) coping with complex and uncertain systems (10) planetary wellbeing as a societal objective. The course seeks to impart knowledge of, and critical thinking about, the interconnections between human behaviour and wellbeing, and planetary change across multiple scales and entities. Each lecture and seminar will cover individual, social and situational barriers and enablers to sustainable behaviour change. It will emphasise holistic thinking about overlapping systemic challenges and factors to keep in mind while designing integrated and context-specific behavioural interventions.


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

The course will be delivered through a combination of interactive classes/seminars and lectures and supplementary interactive live activities. There will be structured learning activities throughout the course, espeically in the seminars, including student presentations and group work. 

There will be no teaching during reading week (Week 6). 

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 case study in the LT.

Indicative reading

  • Ostrom, E., 2010. Polycentric systems for coping with collective action and global environmental change. Global environmental change, 20(4), pp.550-557.
  • Amel, E., Manning, C., Scott, B. and Koger, S., 2017. Beyond the roots of human inaction: Fostering collective effort toward ecosystem conservation. Science, 356(6335), pp.275-279.
  • Clayton, S., Devine-Wright, P., Stern, P.C., Whitmarsh, L., Carrico, A., Steg, L., Swim, J. and Bonnes, M., 2015. Psychological research and global climate change. Nature Climate Change, 5(7), pp.640-646.
  • Gifford, R., 2011. The dragons of inaction: psychological barriers that limit climate change mitigation and adaptation. American psychologist, 66(4), p.290.
  • Adams, M., 2021. Critical psychologies and climate change. Current Opinion in Psychology.
  • Bouman, T. and Steg, L., 2019. Motivating society-wide pro-environmental change. One Earth, 1(1), pp.27-30.
  • Weber, E.U., 2020. Heads in the Sand: Why We Fail to Foresee and Contain Catastrophe. Foreign Aff., 99, p.20.
  • Yoeli, E., Budescu, D.V., Carrico, A.R., Delmas, M.A., DeShazo, J.R., Ferraro, P.J., Forster, H.A., Kunreuther, H., Larrick, R.P., Lubell, M. and Markowitz, E.M., 2017. Behavioral science tools to strengthen energy & environmental policy. Behavioral Science & Policy, 3(1), pp.68-79.
  • Croson, R. and Treich, N., 2014. Behavioral environmental economics: promises and challenges. Environmental and Resource Economics, 58(3), pp.335-351.
  • Horton, R., Beaglehole, R., Bonita, R., Raeburn, J., McKee, M. and Wall, S., 2014. From public to planetary health: a manifesto. The Lancet, 383(9920), p.847.
  • Sabherwal, A., Shreedhar, G. Stories of intentional action mobilise climate policy support and action intentions. Sci Rep 12, 1179 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-04392-4
  • Shreedhar, G. 2021. Evaluating the impact of storytelling in Facebook advertisements on wildlife conservation engagement: Lessons and challenges. Conservation Science and Practice, 3(11), e534.
  • Shreedhar, G., & Galizzi, M. M. 2021. Personal or planetary health? Direct, spillover and carryover effects of non-monetary benefits of vegetarian behaviour. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 78, 101710.


Presentation (25%, 1000 words) in the LT.
Essay (75%, 2500 words) in the ST.

• Summative essay (2500 words) will give students a chance to work independently on one topic based on their formative assignment proposal. (80%)

• Group presentation: students will work in groups and make a group presentation during a symposium. Students will be assed based on their performance in the symposium and have to submit their slide deck. (20%)


Key facts

Department: Psychological and Behavioural Science

Total students 2021/22: Unavailable

Average class size 2021/22: Unavailable

Controlled access 2021/22: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

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.

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills