Our work on society has a number of vibrant and diverse strands: from the question of public engagement with issues such as climate change, risk, urban living and neuroscience, to economic and work psychology, to public understanding of mental illness.
Studying 'common-sense' or social understandings of risk and health, science and the environment can help us improve our capacity, as a society, to think about how to prepare ourselves for the future. Examples include an intervention to change earthquake preparedness in highly seismic regions; another investigates how we can improve life in our large, and ever-growing, cities.
The economic and work psychology team engages with the dark side of behaviour at work: whistle-blowing and the pressure not to whistle-blow, bullying, theft, and management upheaval.
Our work on social understandings of mental illness aims to guide thinking on how we educate people at large about mental health, with the aim of countering the shame and isolation that can make life even harder for individuals facing mental health problems.
Finally, the study of society
group as a whole has an active interest in media psychology, the efficacy of
advertising/health campaigns and the impact of the social media.
Liveable Cities: Engineering cities for planetary and societal wellbeing
PIs: Helene Joffe with Nick Tyler (Engineering, UCL), Brian Collins (Engineering, UCL), Francesca Medda (Engineering UCL) and teams from Birmingham (Chris Rogers, PI), Southampton and Lancaster
£6,250,000 Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (2012-2017)
The broad vision of this project is to transform the engineering of cities to deliver societal and planetary wellbeing. A key challenge, however, is to ensure that radical engineering solutions take human dimensions of living and working in a city into account. A central element within this is to generate socially acceptable low-carbon solutions that individuals, families and communities have the desire to achieve. This means taking their aspirations for the future into account.
Through a combination of novel qualitative and quantitative research methodologies the UCL Psychology team are examining people’s aspirations and desires and how best they can be modified to successfully promote low-carbon living alternatives http://liveablecities.org.uk
Representation of earthquake risk: A cross-cultural study
PI's: Helene Joffe, Cliodhna O'Connor, Caroline Bradley
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
This is a large-scale, cross-cultural study examining the lay representations of earthquakes in highly seismic areas. This focuses on how people think and feel about their earthquake risk and how this relates to whether action is taken to reduce the risk.
The purpose of the study is to answer such questions using both interviews and questionnaires with matched samples of locals in each area. These were carried out in collaboration with the Middle East Technical University in Turkey and Kyoto University in Japan. The study adopts a social representations approach, which strives to provide an in-depth, systematic study of people’s common sense thinking: what form it takes and what consequences it has for behaviour. The results of the study can be used to inform earthquake hazard mitigation and preparedness.
Joffe, H., Rossetto, T., Solberg, C., & O’Connor, C. (2013). Social representations of earthquakes: A study of people living in three highly seismic areas. Earthquake Spectra, 29(2), 367-397. doi: 10.1193/1.4000138
O’Connor, C., & Joffe, H. (2013). Media representations of early human development: Protecting, feeding and loving the developing brain. Social Science & Medicine, 97, 297-306. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.09.048
Smith, N.W. & Joffe, H. (2013). How the public engages in climate change: A social representations approach. Public Understanding of Science, 22, 16-32. doi:10.1177/0963662512440913
Kay, A., & Furnham, A. (2013). Age and sex stereotypes in British television advertisements. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 2(3), 171-186. doi: 10.1037/a0033083
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