PSYC 4541 Special Topics in Psychology – Social Science: Psychology of Sustainability

Instructor Contact:

Dr. Amanda L Mahaffey


Course Description:

This course explores the scientific study of environmental sustainability from a psychological perspective. We will consider sustainability attitudes, behaviors, and cognitions, and the psychological, biological, and social influences on them. This course will take a holistic approach to the topic in that material will come from most major areas of psychology, including social, cognitive, clinical, and neuroscience.


Prerequisites for this class are PSYC 1001, PSYC 2111 and PSYC 311 and junior or senior psychology major. If you don’t meet these prerequisites but would like to join the class, you may reach out to the professor at

Course Objectives: 

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of psychological processes, as they apply to environmental sustainability and behavioral change
  2. Examine the environmental impact of people on the environment
  3. Analyze the psychological and neuropsychological impact of the environment on people
  4. Practice the ability to reason critically and scientifically about psychological research findings from an empirical orientation, citing original theory and evidence
  5. Apply scientific research results and technological strategies to a social change presentation to solve contemporary environmental and psychological problems

Course Overview:

In this course, we explore the impact of humans on the sustainability of our natural environment and the effects of our natural environmental on our psychological and neuropsychological wellbeing. We will read and examine empirical research on these topics and solutions for solving these problems. We will review the history of environmental problems, explore our relationship with nature and our behavioral impact. We will explore the research on health and neuropsychological issues that arise from the condition of our environment. We will analyze and apply social psychological, cognitive, developmental, and holistic approaches to solving environmental problems and improving our situation within our natural environment. We will observe media representation of environmental issues and we will finish the semester with proposals of concrete solutions- implementing structural changes based on empirical research- to solve the world’s environmental problems.

Required Reading:

  1. Scott, B. A., Amel, E. L., Koger, S. M. Manning, C. (2021). Psychology for Sustainability, (5th Ed). Psychology Press. (ISBN: 9780367480691). This book is available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book.
  2. Popular media articles, news reports, videos, empirical journal articles, etc., to be assigned or shared by fellow students on an ad-hoc basis.


Your final grade is determined by your performance on the following:

Discussion Participation 60%

Quizzes 40%

Total 100%

Now that you’ve selected your favorite Continuing Education courses, email or print the information, including class number, to more easily search Buff Portal and enroll. Still have questions? Contact an advisor.


Monday – Friday
8:00am to 5:00pm


We are located at the corner of University Avenue and 15th Street in a white brick building.


1505 University Avenue
University of Colorado Boulder
178 UCB
Boulder, Colorado