Department of Psychology

Research student insight

Karlijn Lisette Van Den Broek


Karlijn Van Den Broek

  • Department of Psychology
  • First supervisor: Dr Ian Walker
  • Second supervisor: Prof Furong Li
  • Research title: Individual and interpersonal factors influencing energy use and how such processes might be influenced by information provision

Karlijn is conducting research in the Department of Psychology that will further the improvement of environmental campaigns and interventions.

She is seeking to uncover how society understands its energy consumption. This will assist with the formulation of adequate strategies that people will be able to follow and reduce their energy consumption.

Understanding environmental psychology

From a young age Karlijn has always been concerned about environmental problems and developed a sense of responsibility to consider the environmental consequences of her daily actions.

The inspiration and further interest to commit to this specific field of research came about when she volunteered in India.

During my time in India I taught environmental education and was shocked to see the increasing environmental problems which arose mainly due to the lack of pro-environmental behaviour. This inspired me to investigate the field of environmental psychology.

Environmental psychology is the study of the interaction between humans and their environment; it explores how the environment influences humans and how humans influence their environment. Karlijn is particularly interested in the latter type of research.

This research, sometimes called ecological psychology, investigates people’s environmental behaviour and the factors which drive this behaviour. The research in this field greatly contributes to the knowledge we need to persuade people to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle.

Investigating energy use and research techniques

Energy hungry house appliances that consume energy
Appliance Watt per-hour Watt per-minute
Tumble dryer 3,150 w 52.5 w
Oven                 2,400 w 40 w
Kettle                2,300 w 38.33 w
Electric hob 2,000 w 33.33 w
Portable heater 1,280 w 21.33 w
Microwave         1,195 w 19.92 w
Hair dryer 1,184 w 19.73 w
Toaster             1,150 w 19.17 w
Clothes Iron 1,100 w 18.33 w

The research Karlijn is conducting investigates how knowledgeable people are about their energy consumption in their home – known as ‘energy literacy’.

Most people aren’t aware of how much energy the appliances in their homes consume.

When I ask people to give an estimate on the energy consumption of household appliances it is clear that they rely on certain heuristics, which are mental short cuts to simplify decision-making processes. An example of this is ‘the bigger the appliance, the more energy it will consume.

In her first study Karlijn identified 35 different strategies which people use in order to estimate energy consumption of household appliances.

Many participants thought that devices that are switched on for a long period of time, such as a fridge, would not use a lot of energy per minute. They reasoned that if these devices would use a lot of energy, they would notice or technological improvements would reduce the energy consumption of the devices.

Participants also used the above mentioned ‘size-heuristic’ which led them to underestimate the energy consumption of a kettle, which is the third most energy consuming device in a household. Other devices that use a lot of energy per minute are tumble dryers and ovens.

The contents of her study included the collection of qualitative data; this was a research method that Karlijn was not as familiar with.

At my previous university the focus was more on quantitative research leaving me rather unfamiliar with qualitative research. Fortunately, I really enjoyed learning about this by attending a course in qualitative methods, reading books and working closely with other PhD students to better understand this way of researching.

Researching at the University of Bath

Karlijn has enjoyed the freedom which comes with a doctoral programme and has taken part in many skill training courses alongside her research.

I found the workshops on reading and writing particularly useful as they provide you with practical tips which are extremely important when doing a PhD.

She has also regularly attended departmental seminars to learn about other research projects as well as teaching on the quantitative methods course.

Being a teaching assistant as well allows me to meet and interact with the students, work together with lecturers in our department and further develop my teaching skills.

After completing her PhD Karlijn hopes to find a job where she can apply the knowledge she has gained during her PhD and make a difference in the world.

I would like to work as a consultant in which I could function as a link between the academic world which produces the knowledge about environmental behaviour and the NGO’s or governments which design and implement campaigns and interventions to stimulate the adoption of pro-environmental behaviour.

Further information