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  MSc R in climate psychology: Tackling Climate Change By Boosting Climate Efficacy


   School of Psychological Science

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  Prof Colin Davis  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

As the effects of climate change mount and future risks loom large, the question of how best to engage the public is vital. Concerns about the potential counterproductive effect of fear appeals have prompted researchers to argue that threatening climate information should be accompanied by information that seeks to boost climate efficacy, i.e., the sense that there is something that people can do to tackle the threat of climate change. That is, there needs to be emphasis on both “urgency and agency”. This dual importance of (perceived) threat and efficacy is a common aspect of many psychological theories. Indeed, a sense of efficacy—the belief that a behavioural response to a given obstacle is feasible and will be effective in overcoming it—is a fundamental precursor to any adaptive behaviour. Several studies have observed that efficacy is the best predictor of behavioural intentions to mitigate effects of climate change.

In recent research, Angill-Williams and Davis (2021) found that it was possible to increase response efficacy relating to climate change, but that (paradoxically) this did not result in a concomitant increase in behavioural intentions; the reason appears to be that the boost to efficacy led to a decrease in climate concern. In addition, the video interventions tested by Angill-Williams and Davis did not have any impact on self-efficacy. Thus questions remain regarding how to boost individuals’ self-efficacy to engage in climate-related behaviour, and how to increase efficacy without undermining the urgency of taking action. These questions suggest two related lines of research concerning climate efficacy. One will focus on individual behaviour, drawing on the role of vicarious experience to increase people's perception of their own ability to engage in pro-environmental behaviours such as switching to active modes of transport. The other will focus on collective action, investigating the factors that positively and negatively impact people's collective efficacy to bring about change.

MSc by Research (MScR) is a 1-year research degree that provides an intensive lab-based training and a preparation for PhD study. You will carry out your studies as part of your research group – like a PhD student does. Towards the end of the year, you write up a thesis on your research and are examined on this. This degree suits students wanting to gain maximum research experience in preparation for PhD applications.  

We are keen to recruit a diverse range of students and to ensure our research is open to all. We particularly welcome applications from groups traditionally under-represented in life sciences research. Please check the University webpages for the current tuition fee information. Most MScR projects also require a bench fee. This varies depending on the research and your project supervisor can tell you the bench fee for the project. 

How to apply: 

Use the following link to apply: Start your application | Study at Bristol | University of Bristol 

You should select the programme: Psychology (MSc by Research) or Psychology (PhD) (3yr)  

Please ensure you upload all supporting documents as per the admissions statement (which applies to both PhD and MScR programmes):  PhD Psychology | Study at Bristol | University of Bristol 

Clearly indicate the supervisor name and project title in the relevant section of the application form. 

The system will not allow you to submit your application without uploading a document to the research statement section.  Where this is an optional requirement, please upload a blank Word document which is headed “No research statement required”. 

Applications are accepted all year round. However, the preferred entry points for study are September / January / April / July. 


Environmental Sciences (13) Psychology (31)

Funding Notes

This project is available to:
- international students who wish to self-fund their PhD or who have access to their own funding
- UK or international students who wish to self-fund their MScR or who have access to their own funding
Please contact Prof Davis directly for information about the project and how to apply: [Email Address Removed]

Where will I study?