Influencing “social norms”: promoting climate change adaption to minimize flooding

The following poster, “Influencing “social norms” to promote greater climate change adaption measures to minimize localized flooding” was presented by Dawn Purves PhD Researcher at the School of Architecture and Landscape, Kingston University. Dawn is a graduate of Architecture and Landscape Architecture and MA Sustainable Place Making and Urban Design, Kingston University. She is a practicing landscape architect with a particular interest in sustainable water management and urban design.



By examining current methods of climate change adaption, and via a thorough understanding of community action, the social norm approach, and behavioural change, this research provides a contribution to the broader discussion around social nudges, and assesses whether they are effective at shifting attitudes to encourage citizens to adopt socially beneficial behaviour, ultimately increasing participation in and responsibility for the environment.

The research looks at how social nudges can be used to influence people’s choices to adopt behaviour that promotes LID measures for flood prevention and climate change adaption in the UK and Europe. The research draws upon wider theories associated with behavioural economics and choice architecture, and illustrates how subtle shifts in communication and engagement utilizing community participation, design for sustainability, the engagement process and deliberate dialogue, encourages more socially sustainable behaviour and ultimately personal responsibility towards localized flood prevention. By altering the social norms away from “collective conservatism” it is anticipated that bottom-up climate change adaption to localized flooding through rain garden delivery as LID measures can be promoted.


The poster draws upon that wider PhD project and specifically address changing people’s attitudes, beliefs and values so that socially sustainable behaviour is adopted instead of “collective conservatism” (Thaler & Sunstein, 2008), promoting a wider adoption of climate change adaption measures in the form of rain gardens, under the umbrella of climate change neighbourhoods.


The poster illustrates how the use of social nudges when presented within engagement methodologies applying knowledge transfer, avoids provoking defensive reactions which currently restrict the implementation of LID measures and instead, by reframing the issues perceived around climate change utilizing “libertarian paternalism”, encourages shifts in behaviour to enable greater adoption of localized climate change adaption in the form of rain gardens.


  1. What role do our personal values play in determining motivation and intent for adapting pro-environmental behaviour?
  2. To what degree can a series of “social nudges” that correct misperceptions and reposition salience increase the likelihood of pro-environmental behaviour encouraging “personal responsibility” to localised flood prevention ?
  3. Can engagement as community participation via “deliberate dialogue” act as a multi-component social norm intervention?


Image sources:

Dawn Purves PhD Researcher, Faculty of Art and Design, Kingston University London:


One comment

  1. Pingback: Kingston PhD student presents to international conference on Citizen Science: Part I | Landscape Interface Studio

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