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 and PSYC 2111 or 3111.

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. (2016). Psychology for Sustainability, (4th Ed). Psychology Press. (ISBN-13: 978-1-84872-580-5). This book is available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book for both Kindle and Apple.
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 (including virtual field trip and presentation) 60%

Quizzes 40%

Total 100%

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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