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Developing a critical agenda to understand pro-environmental actions: contributions from social representations and social practices theories

Batel, Susana, Castro, Paula, Devine-Wright, Patrick and Howarth, Caroline (2016) Developing a critical agenda to understand pro-environmental actions: contributions from social representations and social practices theories. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 7 (5). pp. 727-745. ISSN 1757-7780

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Identification Number: 10.1002/wcc.417


Debates over the value and compatibility of different approaches to understanding and changing environmental-relevant actions proliferate across the social sciences. This article reviews and discusses some of the (socio-)psychological and sociological approaches in those debates. We will start by critically reviewing the (socio-)psychological perspectives, highlighting two main shortcomings. First, they are often partial in their focus—concentrating on the consumption side of climate-relevant actions and, relatedly in changing these actions at the individual level. They tend to assume that individual change equates to social change and, with that, fail to contextualize ‘anti’-environmental actions in current neoliberal, capitalist societies. Second, they usually present the mainstream (socio-)psychological approaches, which are ontologically individualistic and cognitive, as the only existent ones, therefore neglecting other perspectives within Social Psychology which might actually be (more) compatible with sociological perspectives. We then suggest that Social Representations Theory (SRT), as an ontologically social-psychological approach and a theory of social change, might be reconciled with sociological approaches, such as Social Practices Theory (SPT), in contrast to the more individualistic (socio-)psychological perspectives. After reviewing the main tenets of SRT, its discrepancies and potential synergies with SPT, we discuss how both can be articulated to understand different stages of the social change process toward more environmentally sustainable societies. While SPT might be more suitable to understand stability or how some actions become habitual, SRT might be better equipped to understand how those change, or how individuals and groups negotiate new actions with old ones.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2016 Wiley
Divisions: Psychological and Behavioural Science
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
Date Deposited: 28 Jul 2016 09:43
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2023 18:09
Projects: SFRH/BPD/96061/2013
Funders: Portuguese Science Foundation

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