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Susan Clayton

College of Wooster
Whitmore-Williams Chair in Psychology
Exploring perceived connections between environmental and social issues
01 September 2021 -
30 June 2022

Susan Clayton is Whitmore-Williams Professor of Psychology at the College of Wooster in Ohio, USA. Her research focuses on the human relationship with nature, how it is socially constructed, and how it can be utilized to promote environmental conservation. She has written extensively about the impacts of zoo visits on environmental attitudes, and about the impacts of climate change on mental health and psychosocial wellbeing. Susan Clayton is a fellow of the American Psychological Association (APA), the Society for Environmental, Population, and Conservation Psychology (SEPCP), the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP), and the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI). She is a lead author on the upcoming 6th assessment report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Research interests

Perceptions of environmental issues, Emotions and behavior in response to environmental degradation and climate change, Environmental identity

Exploring perceived connections between environmental and social issues

This research program has three goals.

First, it investigates perceptions of environmental issues, with a particular emphasis on the views of marginalized members of society. Through a series of focus groups, it should be determined whether they perceive environmental problems such as climate change, loss of biodiversity, and pollution to be connected to social problems such as racism and poverty, as well as threats to public health (both physical and mental health). It is also necessary to ask them about their motivations for environmentally protective behaviors and whether those reflect other goals in addition to environmental protection, such as personal or social wellbeing. As an extension of this, another survey explores whether people who perceive connections tend to be higher in environmental concern and pro-environmental behavior.

The second goal is to explore, using a survey, actual connections between people’s nature experiences and their perceived mental health and wellbeing.

The third goal is to experimentally test the impact of telling people about links between environmental and social issues on concern and support for related public policies, and intentions for pro-environmental behavior. The results are intended to help guide recommendations for messaging to more effectively encourage support for environmental conservation among individuals.

Key publications

Clayton Susan, Manning Christie (eds.), Psychology and climate change: Human perceptions, impacts, and responses, Elsevier Science & Technology, 2018, 312 p. https://doi.org/10.1016/C2016-0-04326-7

Clayton Susan, “Climate anxiety: Psychological responses to climate change”, in Journal of Anxiety Disorders, vol 74, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.janxdis.2020.102263

Clayton, S., Colléony, A., Conversy, P., et al., “Transformation of Experience: Toward a New Relationship with Nature” in Conservation Letters, vol 10, n°5, 2017, p. 645-651. https://doi.org/10.1111/conl.12337 

Latest publication

Clayton Susan, Nielsen, K.S., Marteau, T.M., et al., “Biodiversity conservation as a promising frontier for behavioral science”, in Nature Human Behavior, vol. 5, 2021, p. 550-556. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-021-01109-5

Contemporary period (1789-…)
World or no region