We, the Change: Outlining Research Lines of How Psychology Can Contribute to the Understanding of Societal Transition Processes
In the last years within sustainability research, the agreement seems to have changed about the appropriate strategies to solve the intensifying socio-ecological crisis. While the focus used to be on “greening” individual lifestyles, it has recently shifted to the fundamental transition of central societal production and consumption systems. This raises the question of what psychology with its traditional focus on the individual can contribute to a better understanding and successful design of such societal transition processes. The present paper aims to offer an outline of how such psychological research lines might look like. We use the social identity concept as a starting point and motivate it as central for understanding the transformation of an individual into a group member who voluntarily collaborates with others to create more sustainable socio-technical solutions for central societal needs. The three parts of our paper deliver compact descriptions of thought-provoking research lines which developed in the last years. These research lines contribute to a better understanding of how social identities as collective pro-environmental activists are “crafted,” through which processes such as activist identities influence the participation in collective pro-environmental action and, ultimately, collective change. In sum, an important psychological contribution to the debate about the “Great Transformation” could be to provide a better understanding of what motivates individuals to actively participate in transition-oriented initiatives and how this motivation can be strengthened.
Schulte, Maxie, Sebastian Bamberg und Jonas Rees. 2021. We, the Change: Outlining Research Lines of How Psychology Can Contribute to the Understanding of Societal Transition Processes. In: European Psychologist 26, Nr. 3: 172–183. doi: 10.1027/1016-9040/a000445.