Department of Psychology

Gregory has successfully passed his viva

Research student insight

Greg Thomas


Gregory Thomas

  • Department of Psychology
  • First supervisor: Dr Ian Walker
  • Second supervisor: Professor Bas Verplanken
  • Research title: Moving in subtle ways – the role of automatic thought processes in travel and transport

How we choose to travel can have a huge influence on our health (both physical and mental), on the climate and environment, and also on the economy.

Greg is conducting research in the Department of Psychology that investigates these decision making processes and the impact of our travel mode choice and behaviour as part of his PhD.

Decision making: do we see all the options?

Greg previously graduated from his BSc (Hons) Psychology at the University of Bath in 2009. He then went on to work for a consultancy firm for two years before deciding to undertake a research PhD in 2011.

It was during my placement year working for a consultancy firm in Bristol that I discovered I really enjoyed working on psychological research with practical applications; in particular I was interested in how people choose a travel mode and the ways we can encourage greener, healthier and more active travel modes.

Through his later employment at the company, Greg discovered that very subtle things such as how a plan is made, trying a new route once, or the way an option was worded had strong effects on behaviour, and he wanted to investigate these concepts further.

My research so far suggests that we might not be able to make as clear and informed decisions as we thought; sometimes we can’t spot all options open to us, or sometimes our automatic preference is different than what we consider and choose. My work is looking at new ways to think about decision making for travel mode choice, and how we can use these subtle concepts to reduce bias against alternative options.

Travel behaviour and making informed choices


Greg’s work is looking at new ways to think about decision making for travel mode choice, and how we can use these subtle concepts to reduce bias against alternative options.

Currently he is exploring the differences between travel mode groups, with a large emphasis on how our automatic and uncontrolled thought processes can influence decisions and behaviour.

Some of my work so far has shown that breaking routine patterns of thought enables people to spot shortcuts they normally would miss, and that cyclists are better at identifying shortcuts through maps than regular car drivers.

His other work has shown that active mode users (cyclists and walkers) have stronger automatic motivations to use their travel mode than car and bus users.

I’ve also developed an implicit measure of environmental concern which measures how people instinctively feel about environmental issues, and I’ve found that this is a better predictor of being an environmentalist than the normal attitude questions that are used to measure environmental concern.

Researching with the Department of Psychology

Greg works closely with his main supervisor on all his projects and has regular meetings to discuss all aspects of the work. He has a lot of room to develop ideas and to try new methods, while keeping a close working relationship with his supervisors.

Throughout my PhD I’ve been given a huge amount of invaluable support and guidance from my supervisor, right through from designing my first study to planning a future career. I can also approach other academic staff with questions and ideas, and it’s nice to be treated as a researcher and not just a student.

He has been on a number of courses across the UK for training in statistical methods and programming. The Graduate School in the Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences has helped him contact other universities to recruit specialist samples, and work with their departments.

Greg has also attended the postgraduate skills courses at the University for various training sessions such as, time management and career advice.

I’ve joined a few societies at the University, and there’s a really good social network between the other psychology PhD students for meals, trips, and chances to meet up.

Next steps

I’ve learned a huge amount during my time at the University of Bath, such as a range of research methods, statistical analysis, writing techniques and presentation skills. It’s also taught me a lot about how to manage time and juggle a number of different projects at the same time. I’m interested in staying in research and academia, so for me the PhD research course is vital to taking the next step in my career.

Greg hopes to work as a post-doc in a psychology research lab by continuing to look at implicit and subtle processes, or applying research to health and environment-related behaviours.

Further information

To find out more about Greg's research, you can visit his research website or contact him by email:

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