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Waikato academic appointed to prestigious global taskforce

13 October 2020

Associate Professor Taciano Milfont

Associate Professor Taciano Milfont from the University of Waikato's Te Kura Whatu Oho Mauri School of Psychology, was recently appointed to serve as a member of the Climate Change Task Force of the American Psychological Association (APA). This prestigious appointment was influenced in large part by his expertise in taking a cross-cultural approach to environmental problems.

The APA is the largest scientific and professional organisation of psychologists in the United States and has been an observer organisation of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change since 2017. Associate Professor Milfont joined a team of eleven other academics and psychologists tasked to provide a critical review of APA's past and current activities related to addressing climate change. In addition, the task force will also recommend goals and strategies for future APA activities to strengthen the role and impact of psychology in addressing the global climate change crisis.

The 12 Task Force members were selected from over 40 nominations globally and have an impressive array of accomplishments.  The members include academics from prestigious universities in the USA (Stanford University) and the UK (University of Cambridge). Associate Professor Milfont is the only member from a country in the Southern Hemisphere.

“I am honoured by this appointment and look forward to guide the next stage of work by APA and the field of psychology to help address the climate crisis”, said Associate Professor Milfont.

He is an expert in the field of Environmental Psychology, an interdisciplinary field concerned with the interplay between individuals and their built/natural environments. Environmental Psychology studies how our physical surroundings influence our thoughts, feelings and behaviours, but also how our behaviours influence the built/natural environment.

Associate Professor Milfont joined the University of Waikato in May 2020 as ‘Reader in Environmental Psychology’ at the Tauranga campus, demonstrating the University’s commitment to better understand and manage the impacts of human activities on the environment through leading research.

Associate Professor Milfont has been championing the need to take a more culturally informed understanding and sensitivity to the role of culture in human-environment interactions. This has culminated in a recently published article Towards cross-cultural environmental psychology: A state-of-the-art review and recommendations, that he co-edited with Associate Professor Kim-Pong Tam from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology .

Associate Professor Milfont has also recently established Environmental Psychology Waikato, a lab dedicated to applications of psychological principles and methods to understand and solve environmental issues. He is hopeful his appointment to the APA Task Force will generate new learning and research opportunities for psychology students.

Professor Vincent Reid, Head of School for Psychology at the University of Waikato adds that Associate Professor Milfont’s appointment is significant for the University of Waikato and New Zealand.

“Climate change is the most important crisis facing us as a species. The Appointment of Associate Professor Milfont to the Task Force is a major source of pride for the School of Psychology and for the University of Waikato. It really shows how we are out in front on the main issues,” says Professor Reid.

The Task Force is Chaired by Professor Gale Sinatra from the University of Southern California, where she heads the Motivated Change Research Lab that explores the role of motivation and emotion in teaching and learning about controversial topics such as climate change and biological evolution.

Associate Professor Milfont has certainly been working hard to make his mark and to use psychological knowledge in understanding and addressing the global climate change crisis, in a year that has been like no other our generation has experienced.


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