Cardiff University, Cardiff School of Psychology
Supervision: Prof. Wouter Poortinga
Application deadline: Friday, March 11, 2022

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The role of identity in reducing diet-related carbon emissions: a mixed-methods approach
Reducing meat consumption is a key part of reducing carbon emissions (Poore & Nemeek, 2019) and adopting a healthier lifestyle (Crowe et al., 2013; Godfray et al., 2018). Previous research indicates that diet-related identity is an important factor in people’s willingness and their responsiveness to interventions to reduce meat consumption (Carfora et al., 2017; Wolstenholme et al., 2021). However, to date, most research has relied on the Eating Identity Type Inventory (Blake et al., 2013). This scale does not capture the complexity of diet-related identity, which are formed through a complex interaction of environmental and health concerns, culinary interests and other factors (Randers et al., 2020). The development of a more comprehensive measure of diet-related identity would therefore help deepen our understanding of how this may help or hinder efforts to reduce carbon emissions in this challenging area.

The aims of the proposed research are (i) to explore the multiple dimensions of diet-related identity within the UK, (ii) to develop a comprehensive, validated measure that captures multi-dimensional structure of diet-related identity, and (iii) to examine how this can be used to inform targeted interventions to reduce meat consumption. The project will take a sequential mixed-methods approach (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2018), consisting of (1) qualitative interviews, (2) quantitative survey methodology, and (3) experimental research.

First, semi-structured interviews will be conducted with variety of consumers in terms of diet, cultural and religious worldviews, gender, age, region and socio-economic status. Inductive thematic analysis will be used to analyse the data (Braun & Clarke, 2006). Second, the themes and sub-themes identified at the first stage will be used to develop items for the diet-related identity scale. The developed scale will subsequently be validated using quantitative survey methodology (Zhou, 2019). This includes, but is not limited to, tests for internal consistency, test-retest reliability and convergent/discriminant validity. Third, after the development and validation of the diet-related identity scale, research will explore whether and how (a) dietary identities are amenable to change, (b) tailored messages can be used to avoid psychological reactance (for example, by maintaining certain elements of someone dietary identity while reducing meat consumption), and (c) low-carbon (meat) alternatives can be marketed to consumers with different diet-related identities (cf., Sucapane et al., 2021; Lu et al., 2021).

The PhD student will be supervised by Professor Wouter Poortinga and will be linked to the Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations (CAST). The Centre is a global hub for understanding the profound changes required to address climate change. CAST’s research focuses on people as agents of transformation in four challenging areas of everyday life that impact directly on climate change but have proven stubbornly resistant to change: food and diet; travel; heating and cooling in buildings; and consumption of goods.

Funding Notes: To be eligible for the full award, EU Nationals must have been in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the course for which they are seeking funding, including for the purposes of full-time education. EU students who do not meet the residency requirements, a ‘Fees only’ award may be offered but we have been able to offer full awards if funding available.