Department Environmental Social Sciences

Environmental Health Psychology (EHP)

The Environmental Health Psychology group researches the human dimension of current environmental health challenges in the water domain. 

Today’s key global challenges include environmental health risks in the water domain, such as water scarcity, water pollution, or unsafe sanitation. Humans are strongly intertwined with these risks: oftentimes they are both, causing the risks and suffering their consequences. Our research group uses theories and methods from environmental and health psychology to research, first, people’s behaviours and choices that contribute to these risks, and second, cognitive and behavioural responses to these risks. With our research, we aim to increase our understanding on these topics as well as to help designing interventions to promote risk-mitigating and risk-adapting behaviours and choices. Researched behaviours and choices in the water domain include:

  1. Pro-environmental and health behaviours that contribute to environmental health (e.g. consumption of safe drinking water)
  2. The acceptability and/or adoption of sustainable innovations (e.g. water recycling)
  3. The support of sustainable policies (e.g. the ban of microbeads)

The Environmental Health Psychology group works closely with scholars from various disciplines, including social sciences, natural sciences, engineering, and philosophy.

Our focus areas at a glance

Human causes of environmental health risks

We investigate factors influencing human behaviour and choices that contribute to environmental health risks. We build our research amongst other on value theory and research on social dilemmas. Research in this focus area provides key insights on the barriers to risk-mitigation and is thus closely related to the research in the focus area “Risk-mitigation and –adaptation”. 

Risk perception

In this focus area, we investigate people’s perceptions of environmental health risks in the water domain and factors influencing risk perception. Key topics include the role of values, affect and emotions for risk perception and information selection. Research in this focus area informs strategies for risk communication. 

Risk-mitigation and risk-adaptation

We research factors influencing risk-mitigating and risk-adapting behaviours and choices. The factors we research include individual factors, such as perceived costs, risks, and benefits, or self-efficacy beliefs, as well as collective factors, such as social identification, social norms, or collective psychological ownership. 

Interventions to promote risk-mitigation and risk-adaptation

Building on the insights from the other three focus areas, we design and test interventions and strategies to promote risk-mitigation and risk-adaptation. First, we design and test interventions aimed at promoting pro-environmental and health behaviours that contribute to environmental health. Second, we design and test (communication) strategies aimed at increasing acceptability and/or adoption of sustainable innovations and policies.

Team

Dr. Nadja Contzen Group leader, Environmental Health Psychology Tel. +41 58 765 6892 Send Mail
Dr. Josianne Kollmann Postdoctoral researcher, Environmental Health Psychology Tel. +41 58 765 6420 Send Mail
Désirée Schmid Doctoral Student, Environmental Health Psychology Tel. +41 58 765 6724 Send Mail

Publications

Huijts, N. M. A., Contzen, N., & Roeser, S. (2022). Unequal means more unfair means more negative emotions? Ethical concerns and emotions about an unequal distribution of negative outcomes of a local energy project. Energy Policy, 165, 112963 (17 pp.). doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2022.112963, Institutional Repository
Contzen, N., Perlaviciute, G., Sadat-Razavi, P., & Steg, L. (2021). Emotions toward sustainable innovations: a matter of value congruence. Frontiers in Psychology, 12, 661314 (19 pp.). doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2021.661314, Institutional Repository
Contzen, N., Handreke, A. V., Perlaviciute, G., & Steg, L. (2021). Emotions towards a mandatory adoption of renewable energy innovations: the role of psychological reactance and egoistic and biospheric values. Energy Research and Social Science, 80, 102232 (15 pp.). doi:10.1016/j.erss.2021.102232, Institutional Repository
Inauen, J., Contzen, N., Frick, V., Kadel, P., Keller, J., Kollmann, J., … van Valkengoed, A. M. (2021). Environmental issues are health issues. Making a case and setting an agenda vor environmental health psychology. European Psychologist, 26(3), 219-229. doi:10.1027/1016-9040/a000438, Institutional Repository
Judge, M., de Hoog, O., Perlaviciute, G., Contzen, N., & Steg, L. (2021). From toilet to table: value-tailored messages influence emotional responses to wastewater products. Biotechnology for Biofuels, 14, 79 (12 pp.). doi:10.1186/s13068-021-01931-z, Institutional Repository
Palomo-Vélez, G., Perlaviciute, G., Contzen, N., & Steg, L. (2021). Promoting energy sources as environmentally friendly: does it increase public acceptability?. Environmental Research Communications, 3(11), 115004 (13 pp.). doi:10.1088/2515-7620/ac32a8, Institutional Repository
Contzen, N., Mosler, H. J., & Kraemer-Palacios, S. (2019). Environmental issues in low‐ and middle‐ income countries. In L. Steg & J. I. M. de Groot (Eds.), BPS textbooks in psychology. Environmental psychology. An introduction (pp. 330-340). doi:10.1002/9781119241072.ch32, Institutional Repository
Harter, M., Contzen, N., & Inauen, J. (2019). The role of social identification for achieving an open-defecation free environment: a cluster-randomized, controlled trial of community-led total sanitation in Ghana. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 66, 101360 (8 pp.). doi:10.1016/j.jenvp.2019.101360, Institutional Repository
Contzen, N., & Marks, S. J. (2018). Increasing the regular use of safe water kiosk through collective psychological ownership: a mediation analysis. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 57, 45-52. doi:10.1016/j.jenvp.2018.06.008, Institutional Repository
Contzen, N., Meili, I. H., & Mosler, H. J. (2015). Changing handwashing behaviour in southern Ethiopia: a longitudinal study on infrastructural and commitment interventions. Social Science and Medicine, 124, 103-114. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.11.006, Institutional Repository
Contzen, N. (2015). Handwashing: population-tailored promotion and the problem of self-reporting (Doctoral dissertation). University of Zurich, Zürich, 270 p. , Institutional Repository
Contzen, N., & Mosler, H. J. (2015). Identifying the psychological determinants of handwashing: results from two cross-sectional questionnaire studies in Haiti and Ethiopia. American Journal of Infection Control, 43(8), 826-832. doi:10.1016/j.ajic.2015.04.186, Institutional Repository
Contzen, N., De Pasquale, S., & Mosler, H. J. (2015). Over-reporting in handwashing self-reports: potential explanatory factors and alternative measurements. PLoS One, 10(8), e0136445 (22 pp.). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0136445, Institutional Repository
Contzen, N., & Inauen, J. (2015). Social-cognitive factors mediating intervention effects on handwashing: a longitudinal study. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 38(6), 956-969. doi:10.1007/s10865-015-9661-2, Institutional Repository
Contzen, N., & Mosler, H. J. (2013). Impact of different promotional channels on handwashing behaviour in an emergency context: Haiti post-earthquake public health promotions and cholera response. Journal of Public Health (Berlin, Heidelberg), 21(6), 559-573. doi:10.1007/s10389-013-0577-4, Institutional Repository

Contact

Dr. Nadja Contzen Group leader, Environmental Health Psychology Tel. +41 58 765 6892 Send Mail

Current Projects

The REVALUE project aims at developing and testing a refined value typology and new measurement instruments.
The role of individual and collective psychological ownership for monitoring and maintenance of public and private handwashing infrastructure
Perceived distributive justice and acceptance of decentralised water and wastewater systems
Enhancing lay people’s understanding of biodiversity through participatory interventions: A key to successful river restoration

Completed projects

This project aimed to investigate factors explaining the (regular) use of safe water kiosks in three Kenyan communities.
A handwashing promotion project in the Borena Zone of southern Ethiopia aimed to increase handwashing rates in communities through systematic behavior change strategies.
This project in post-earthquake Haiti aimed to evaluate the impact of public health promotions and cholera response on handwashing rates.