PhD The role of misperceptions in inhibiting a sustainable energy transition

Updated: 11 days ago
Deadline: 30 Apr 2021


Since its foundation in 1614, the University of Groningen has enjoyed an international reputation as a dynamic and innovative centre of higher education offering high-quality teaching and research. Balanced study and career paths in a wide variety of disciplines encourage the 35.000 students and researchers to develop their own individual talents. Belonging to the best research universities in Europe and joining forces with prestigious partner universities and networks, the University of Groningen is an international place of knowledge.

The Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences is a centre of knowledge focusing on individuals and society. The faculty studies issues relating to human behaviour, and the relationships between people and society. This includes the study of how people function under normal circumstances, and of the problems encountered by individuals or groups, and how these can be resolved or prevented. The Department of Psychology is part of the Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences, and offers Bachelor’s and Master’s programmes in both Dutch and English to over 3.000 students, including the international Master programme Environmental Psychology ( ).

Job description

The Environmental Psychology group at the University of Groningen offers a PhD position in the project “The role of misperceptions in inhibiting a sustainable energy transition”. The project aims to investigate the extent to which different actors in society hold misperceptions of other actors (e.g., their willingness to make sustainable changes), and the antecedents and consequences of these misperceptions.

Environmental Psychology at the University of Groningen has a national and international reputation for excellence. Research within the Environmental Psychology group focuses on a wide range of topics, including understanding which factors affect sustainable behaviours (such as energy use, car use, food consumption, and participation in environmental groups); understanding how people and groups cope with environmental and climate risks; understanding the effectiveness of strategies to promote sustainable behaviour; understanding the acceptability environmental policies and changes; and the effects of sustainable behaviour on wellbeing. The research is funded by the Stevin prize awarded to Linda Steg for her pioneering, innovative and socially impactful research ( ). The research aims to contribute to theory development and practice, and is embedded in the research programme Interpersonal Behaviour, as well as in two of the focus areas of the University of Groningen: Energy and Sustainable Society. The Environmental Psychology group collaborates with scholars from different disciplines within and outside the University of Groningen, as well as with governments, NGOs, and various business organisations, such as the Global Centre of Expertise on Climate Adaptation that is based in Groningen and Rotterdam.

A successful sustainable energy transition will require various actors across different sectors of society to make coordinated changes to existing norms and practices. There is likely to be considerable uncertainty and debate around who should be taking action (and is taking action), and what kind of actions should be taken (and are being taken). This may mean that many individuals have inaccurate beliefs about what other people and groups believe (i.e., misperceptions), which could be acting as a barrier to making sustainable choices. In this project, we will explore misperceptions of the values, intentions and actions of other people that are held by different groups in Dutch society, including citizens, activists, employees, managers, business leaders, members of the financial sector and governmental officials. Our main research questions are: 1) Is there evidence that individuals hold misperceptions of other actors involved in the sustainable transition? 2) Do these misperceptions affect sustainable behaviours, and if so, under what conditions? 3) Why do these misperceptions occur? 4) Can we promote sustainable behaviour by addressing these misperceptions?

You will publish the results of your studies in international scientific journals, which will be part of your PhD thesis, and you will present your studies at international conferences. You will be a member of the Environmental Psychology Group, and your research will be embedded in the Research Programme Interpersonal Behaviour and in the Dutch Kurt Lewin Institute.


We are looking for a PhD student who is highly motivated to work on this topic, and is particularly interested in conducting theory-based research with a high societal relevance. You have completed a Master in Psychology with a focus on Environmental or Social Psychology, or a scientific education which is closely related to this, or you expect to receive such a Master degree soon. You have a creative, critical and independent research attitude and you are open to different perspectives on this research topic. You can work independently, but can also collaborate with other members of the research group. You have good communication skills in English and Dutch, both verbally and written (or willingness to learn Dutch).

Conditions of employment

We offer you, following the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities:

  • a salary of € 2,395 gross per month in the first year of the appointment, rising to € 3,061 gross per month in the fourth year for a full-time position
  • a holiday allowance of 8% gross annual income and an 8.3% year-end bonus
  • a temporary position of 1.0 FTE for a period of four years. You will first be appointed for a period of 12 months. After a positive evaluation, the contract will be extended for the remaining period.

Intended starting date: as soon as possible


For information you can contact:

Dr Madeline Judge,

Prof. Linda Steg,

(please do not use the email addresses above for applications)

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