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Moments of change’ as opportunities to leverage sustainable lifestyles

  • Full or part time
    Prof Lorraine Whitmarsh
  • Application Deadline
    Wednesday, April 10, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Recent scientific reports emphasise the pressing need to change lifestyles and wider society in order to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change impacts. But changing behaviour and organisations is challenging, particularly because many everyday actions that contribute to causing climate change (e.g., driving, eating meat, heating our homes) are habitual and embedded in routines that are often unquestioned and resistant to change. ‘Moments of change’ are short-term disruptions to routines that can mark a turning point in someone’s life or a critical juncture in an organisation’s trajectory. Moments of change can take many forms: life-course changes (e.g. pregnancy or retiring); technological adoption (e.g. car-share or heat pumps); experience of climate-related events (e.g. heatwaves or floods); and large-scale political or infrastructural disruption (e.g., Brexit, economic downturns). Such moments of change are potentially significant as they can affect the basic rhythms of everyday life and disrupt behavioural and organisational routines.

This project will integrate sociological, political, socio-technical and psychological understandings of moments of change, and apply this interdisciplinary understanding to everyday actions of individuals that are particularly impactful for climate change (diet, mobility, heating, consumption). The project will combine insights from secondary data (e.g., UK Understanding Society survey) with primary data collected through interviews, focus groups and cross-cultural surveys, to examine impacts on climate change attitudes and behaviour of different forms of disruption (life-course, technological, environmental, socio-political), and their implications for emission trajectories and resilience to climate impacts. Overall, the project will deliver a rich, multidisciplinary account of how individuals adapt to, and cope with, moments of change, and how these may provide opportunities for intervening to promote more sustainable lifestyles.

Candidates should have skills in quantitative methods, and ideally some experience of or interest in conducting mixed-methods research, in psychology or a related social science field. In addition, research experience and interest in climate change behaviour change and/or disruption/moments of change would be an advantage. This studentship offers an exciting and challenging opportunity for those who are interested in further developing their skills and experience in designing and conducting socially impactful research within a vibrant and interdisciplinary academic community at one of the UK’s top five universities ranked by research.

Funding Notes

The studentship will commence in October 2019 and will cover your tuition fees (at UK/EU level) as well as a maintenance grant. In 2018-2019 the maintenance grant for full-time students was £14,777 per annum. As well as tuition fees and a maintenance grant, all School of Psychology students receive conference and participant money (approx. £2,250 for the duration of the studentship). They also receive a computer, office space and access to courses offered by the University’s Doctoral Academy and become members of the University Doctoral Academy.


Full awards (fees plus maintenance stipend) are open to UK Nationals, and EU students who can satisfy UK residency requirements. To be eligible for the full award, EU Nationals must have been in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the course for which they are seeking funding, including for the purposes of full-time education.

As only one studentship is available and a very high standard of applications is typically received, the successful applicant is likely to have a very good first degree (a First or Upper Second class BSc Honours or equivalent) and/or be distinguished by having relevant research experience.

You can apply online - consideration is automatic on applying for a PhD in Psychology, with an October 2019 start date (programme code RFPDPSYA). Please use our online application service at: and specify in the funding section that you wish to be considered for ESRC funding. Please specify that you are applying for this particular project and the supervisor.

How good is research at Cardiff University in Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 69.33

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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