I am very interested in what motivates people to save energy and how people interact with others around energy use. In particular I am concerned with investigating how to promote energy savings and how and when energy saving may spillover into engaging with further sustainable behavior.
Within this, we are exploring how framing energy saving in different ways (e.g. in terms of cost or environmental issues) may more strongly motivate energy savings. Of course, our behavior is strongly influenced by those we interact with, e.g. our family members at home and our work colleagues at work, and we are particularly considering how interactions around energy may develop and be influenced by energy feedback.
Our work here is very multidisciplinary and applied and we have variously installed energy monitoring equipment in homes and workplaces in order to understand the impact of energy feedback on perceptions and behavior - see a recent blog on our work here. We are currently developing this applied work in terms of type of information given, associated communications and goal setting.
This research explores what our energy systems are likely to look like in the future. In particular we are exploring how we might move towards a smarter energy grid in the UK and what has to happen for us to get there.
I am particularly interested in public perceptions of a smarter energy grid and of possible demand side management (DSM) possibilities. In order to facilitate explaining what DSM is to project participants, we produced a series of videos which illustrate potential future DSM possibilities.
These videos can be viewed here. Since producing these, they have been translated into Chinese, Italian and German and used in further academic research by other groups. Please let me know if you are interested in using these videos in any way.
Goulden, M., Bedwell., B., Rennick-Egglestone, S., Rodden, T., and Spence, A. (in press). Smart Grids, Smart Users? The Role of the User in Demand Side Management. Energy Research & Social Science. Balta-Ozkan, N., Watson, T., Connor, P., Axon, C. Whitmarsh, L. Davidson, R., Spence, A., Xenias, D., Cipcigan, L. and Taylor, G. (2014) Scenarios for the Development of Smart Grids in the UK - Synthesis Report (UKERC: London).
One of my primary interests is in public perceptions of climate change, and how these may change over time and be influenced by communications received. The idea that climate change is an abstract, unobservable phenomena is really central to some of my ideas here. Currently I am thinking about how experiences of impacts considered relevant to climate change (e.g. flooding) may influence perceptions of the phenomenon.
I am also interested in scepticism and uncertainty surrounding climate change. People are often unclear about what facet of climate change their scepticism or uncertainty pertains to (e.g. anthropogenic nature, effects) and I think this is crucial. I am currently interested in how uncertainty communications about one aspect of climate change may transfer to uncertainty about another aspect of climate change that is logically unrelated.
Spence, A., Poortinga, W. and Pidgeon, N. (2012). The Psychological Distance of Climate Change. Risk Analysis: Special Issue on Climate change. 32, 957-972. Spence, A., Poortinga, W., Butler, C. and Pidgeon, N. (2011). Perceptions of climate change and willingness to save energy related to flood experience. Nature Climate Change. 1, 46-49. Spence, A. and Pidgeon, N. (2010). Framing and Communicating Climate Change: The Effects of Distance and Outcome Frame Manipulations. Global Environmental Change, 20, 656-667. Spence, A., Pidgeon, N., and Uzzell, D. (2009). Climate Change: Psychology’s Contribution. The Psychologist. 21, 108-111. Spence, A. and Pidgeon, N. (2009). Psychology, Climate Change and Sustainable Behaviour. Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development. 51, 9-18. (3rd most cited article in journal 2009-11)
Perceptions of personal data online data
(Funding: RCUK. Information Geology. The ‘Lifelong’ in the Lifelong Contextual Footprint - CI)
This current project explores how people think about and organize their personal data online. We have a specific focus on how people would like to be able to organize and aspects different parts of their data.
The affect heuristic and implicit associations
(Funding ESRC - Theoretical integration of the affect heuristic and implicit attitudes –CI)
I’m interested in the processes involved within the affect heuristic and clarifying it’s operation. In particular, I have been comparing the concepts of the affect heuristic with that of implicit associations.
Townsend, E., Spence, A., and Knowles, S. (2014). Investigating the operation of the affect heuristic: Is it an associative construct? Journal of Risk Research. 17, 299-315. Keller, C., Bostrom, A., Kuttschreuter, M, Savadori, L., Spence, A. and White, M. (2012). Bringing appraisal theory to environmental risk perception: A review of conceptual approaches and suggestions for future research. Journal of Risk Research. 15, 237-256.Spence, A. and Townsend, E. (2008). Spontaneous evaluations: similarities and differences between the affect heuristic and implicit attitudes. Cognition and Emotion, 22, 83-93.
I spent some time exploring people’s acceptance of blood substitutes, e.g. GM blood (developed from human haemoglobin). My interests here were particularly in relation to trust and the source of communications about blood substitutes.
Fleming, P. Townsend, E., van Hilten, J. A., Spence, A. and Ferguson, E. (2012). Expert-relevance and the use of context-driven heuristic processes in risk perception. Journal of Risk Research. 15, 857-873. Ferguson, E., Spence, A., Townsend, E., Prowse, C., Palmer, J., Fleming, P. and Van Hilten, J. (2009). What type of information is trusted by whom? A multi-level analysis of the stability of the information source-trust association for blood transfusion. Transfusion, 49, 1637-1648. Ferguson, E., Prowse, C., Townsend, E., Spence, A. van Hilten, A. and Lowe, K. (2008). Acceptability of Blood Substitutes. Journal of Internal Medicine, 263, 244-255.
(Funding: Attitudes and Behaviour towards genetically modified food – PhD)
My research on GM food examines the nature of attitudes towards GM food and how these relate to behavior. In particular, I explored implicit attitudes towards GM food, particularly considering whether people had cognitive elaborations of GM food that could be examined at an implicit level. This research also compared implicit and explicit attitudes towards GM food and their predictive validity.
Spence, A. and Townsend, E. (2007). Predicting behaviour towards genetically modified (GM) food with implicit and explicit attitudes. British Journal of Social Psychology, 46, 437-457. Spence, A. and Townsend, E. (2006). Examining consumer behaviour towards genetically modified (GM) food in Britain. Risk Analysis, 26, 657-670. Spence, A. and Townsend, E. (2006). Implicit attitudes towards genetically modified (GM) foods: a comparison of context-free and context-dependent associations. Appetite, 46, 67-74