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Psychology: Fully Funded PhD Scholarship: Experiencing flow in nature: Evaluating impacts on wellbeing, values, and pro-environmental behaviours

   School of Psychology

   Wednesday, November 09, 2022  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Funding providers: Laudes Foundation, in collaboration with the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP)

Subject areas: Nature Engagement, Positive Psychology, Environmental Psychology, Wellbeing Promotion, Sustainability Promotion

Project start date: 

  • 1 January 2023 (Enrolment open from mid-December)


  • Dr Amy Isham, Swansea University
  • Professor Birgitta Gatersleben, University of Surrey
  • Professor Jason Davies, Swansea University

Aligned programme of study: PhD in Psychology

Mode of study: Full-time 

Project description: 

There is significant evidence that engagement with natural environments benefits people’s health and wellbeing (Capaldi et al, 2015) and is linked to a greater sense of connectedness to nature, which in turn is associated with an increased likelihood for people to adopt pro-environmental behaviours (De ville et al, 2021). Some recent literature has also suggested that exposure to nature can function to prime people’s value and goal orientations, increasing the salience of self-transcendent values and intrinsic aspirations (protecting nature, helping others) and reducing the relative importance and salience of self-enhancement values and extrinsic aspirations and goals (possessions, success, wealth; Joye et al, 2020).

However, it appears to matter what people do in nature. Certain forms of more immersive or mindful engagement with nature may be more likely to be beneficial than those that are more passive or where nature is simply the backdrop. This project aims to explore whether experiencing the psychological state of ‘flow’ whilst in nature can lead to more beneficial outcomes for wellbeing and sustainability. Flow experiences are considered to have many benefits spanning across improvements in wellbeing, enhanced performance, and, potentially, stronger prosocial and pro-ecological values (Isham & Jackson, 2022). However, thus far it has not been considered whether the environment in which flow is experienced has an impact on its consequences. We could reason that experiencing flow when engaging with nature will have greater beneficial consequences than will experiencing flow in urban environments or more passive forms of nature engagement. This research will help understand how flow experiences and nature engagement may interact to help foster more sustainable lifestyles characterised by positive wellbeing and low environmental impact.

Key studies that may be undertaken as part of this PhD include:

  • Collection and analysis of survey data asking people about the physical environments in which they experience flow
  • Experimental studies that manipulate the physical environment, examine people’s flow experiences in a specific activity and subsequent wellbeing, values, and behaviour.
  • Diary studies which track people’s flow experiences across different activities/types of environments as well as their wellbeing, values, and engagement in pro-environmental behaviours.

The research is intended to have a primarily quantitative approach. Applicants should therefore have a solid grounding in statistical analyses and psychological research methods.

This project is being funded by a research grant awarded to the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity. CUSP is an internationally leading research organisation with a rich international network of both academic and non-academic partners. The successful applicant will be based at Swansea University. They will have the option to spend time visiting CUSP and the Environmental Psychology Research Group at the University of Surrey as part of the PhD.


Candidates must normally hold an undergraduate degree at 2.1 level and a master’s degree. Alternatively, applicants with a UK first class honours degree (or Non-UK equivalent as defined by Swansea University) not holding a master’s degree, will be considered on an individual basis.

English Language requirements: IELTS 6.5 Overall (with no individual component below 6.5) or Swansea recognised equivalent.

This scholarship is open to candidates of any nationality to apply, however international students are expected to cover the difference between UK and international tuition fees.

Funding Notes

This scholarship covers the full cost of UK tuition fees and an annual stipend of £16,704.
Additional research expenses will also be available.
This scholarship is open to candidates of any nationality to apply, however international students are expected to cover the difference between UK and international tuition fees.

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