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PhD research: Psychological influences of sustainable consumer choice: The role of motivation, automatic evaluation and attention

Kelly Tate

Postgraduate student

Kelly Tate graduated from The University of Manchester in 2009, obtaining a First Class degree in Psychology. Her final year research project investigated the relationship between implicit and explicit measures of attitudes in the domain of sexual jealousy in order to test evolutionary models of sex differences towards this topic. The research highlighted the lack of convergence between these two different types of attitude measures. Indeed, one important conclusion from this research was that exclusive reliance on self-report measures of attitudes might very well lead to incorrect conclusions about important aspects of human behaviour.

Kelly’s current PhD research is primarily concerned with motivating sustainable consumer choice through environmental goal-activation. The underlying assumption of this research is that in order for consumers to adopt more sustainable patterns of consumption, environmental issues must be made salient during decision-making. Using an experimental research design, her research has revealed that activating environmental goals through exposure to pro-environmental messages produces more sustainable consumer choice. Her research also examines the psychological mechanisms that underpin the behaviour change. For example, she has shown that once environmental goals are activated, people are more likely to implicitly evaluate environmental stimuli positively and devote greater visual attention to environmental labelling. Her research highlights how an analysis of implicit processes in cognition can contribute to the understanding and prediction of consumer behaviour, particularly with regard to sustainable practice.

Innovative methods including sophisticated eye-tracking technology, reaction-time based implicit attitude measures and choice tasks are used to provide a richer understanding of sustainable consumer decision-making.

In addition to her ongoing PhD research, Kelly has recently been involved in an evaluation of the Manchester Carbon Literacy project, alongside doctoral researcher Janice Astbury with Dr Sally Randles acting as principal investigator. The evaluation was a small scale research project, made possible by funding through an Eco Innovation Voucher provided by the HEIF Environmental Sustainability Knowledge Hub Project, funded through the higher education innovation funding (HEIF) awarded to the University of Manchester. The Eco Innovation Voucher scheme provides small and medium enterprises (SMEs), including social enterprises working on environmental sustainability within the UK, but primarily in the Greater Manchester area, with academic input that they would otherwise not have access to, with the overall goal to stimulate future collaborative research partnerships. The outputs from this project are below.

Publications and conference presentations

Tate, K., Stewart, A. J., & Daly, M. (2013). Influencing green behaviour through environmental goal-priming: The mediating role of automatic evaluation. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Tate, K., Stewart, A., & Daly, M. (2013, April). The effect of priming on attitudes: An experimental approach. Paper presented at the meeting of the Experimental Psychology Society, Lancaster.

Tate, K., Stewart, A., & Daly, M. (2012, August). Unpicking packaging preferences: the predictive role of implicit and explicit attitudes in consumers’ packaging choices. Poster presented at the 120th American Psychological Association Annual Convention, at Division 23, The Society of Consumer Psychology, Orlando, FL.

Selected documents