Evolutionary psychology and contemporary behavioural framework for environmental policy

Sanna Stålhammar, K. Ingemar Jönsson

Research output: Contribution to conferencePoster


Objective: The objective of the study was to investigate the extent to which evolutionary psychology is applied in common behavioural frameworks that are used to explain, analyse and promote pro-environmental behaviour and inform environmental policy in the EU context. Such behavioural frameworks have been developed and analysed by for example the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Sustainable Practices Research Group.

Methods: A review of documents was conducted that consisted of contemporary behavioural frameworks related to environmental behaviour as well as environmental policy documents within the EU. We also reviewed previous efforts to link the field of evolutionary psychology to pro-environmental behaviour.

Results and Conclusions: The results show that contemporary behavioural frameworks for environmental policy lack an evolutionary perspective. Evolutionary-related behavioural theory is mentioned once, as ‘sexual signaling’ theory by the Ecologic Institute (2014). The behavioural theories informing contemporary frameworks and recommendations are predominantly drawing on the fields of social and cognitive psychology, behavioural economics and sociology. The current narrative on behaviour change is primarily focused on personal responsibility and choice, and how these are shaped by individual’s attitudes and values. We argue that an evolutionary consideration of behaviour could be beneficial when designing environmental policies that aim to take into account individuals mechanisms for motivation and behaviour. A combination of instruments that target innate psychological mechanisms could be used to promote pro-environmental behaviour and such instruments could aid policy-makers and environmental campaigners in developing strategies. The evolutionary perspective is to be regarded as a complementary framework for analysis of behavioural change and is not intended to replace the contemporary frameworks.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2015
EventEuropean Human Behaviour and Evolution Association Annual Conference (EHBEA), Helsinki 29 march - 1 April 2015. -
Duration: 1980-Jan-01 → …


ConferenceEuropean Human Behaviour and Evolution Association Annual Conference (EHBEA), Helsinki 29 march - 1 April 2015.
Period80-01-01 → …

Swedish Standard Keywords

  • Environmental Sciences (10502)


Dive into the research topics of 'Evolutionary psychology and contemporary behavioural framework for environmental policy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this