Sustainability and the Psychologically Literate Citizen

Niki Harré, Taciano L. Milfont, William Helton and Andrea Mead

in The Psychologically Literate Citizen

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780199794942
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199914500 | DOI:
Sustainability and the Psychologically Literate Citizen

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The current ecological crisis is of enormous relevance to psychology teaching, as it is essentially a problem of human behaviour. Despite this, psychology has been slow to contribute. As a result, our environmental problems deepen, while our knowledge, skills and values as teachers of psychology remain largely untapped. This chapter urges psychology educators to consider how they can nurture the psychologically literate citizen through a focus on ecological sustainability. We present four case studies from New Zealand psychology departments. Two are laboratory exercises, one based on a social dilemma, the Tragedy of the Commons, and the other on perceptions of animal cognition. The third is a fourth year class that is open to students from different disciplines. The final case study is an action research and teaching project designed to create a sustainable school. Participating in these experiences highlights for students the ecological issues faced by people everywhere, how to cooperate in the sustainable and equitable use of resources, how cognitions and moral reasoning are affected by culture and how to use one’s psychological literacy to effect social change.

Keywords: action research; action teaching; conservation psychology; sustainability; teaching; environmental psychology; social dilemmas; tragedy of the commons; animal cognition; multi-disciplinary

Chapter.  6538 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social Psychology

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