I have been involved in various field research projects studying how individuals and groups manage social dilemmas and foster prosocial behaviour in the real-world, specifically with regard to environmental problems like transportation, water conservation, and recycling. Recently, I have also looked at topics such as charity support, philanthropy, organ donation, and community cohesion in Britain an the Netherlands. In this research I apply insights from evolutionary and social psychology to understand these issues and offer suggestions for interventions.

My consultancy work uses the PATH-methodology, which consists of four simple steps: 
 

Problem: Identifying and defining the problem
Analysis: Conducting a theory-based problem analysis
Test: Testing the explanatory model
Help: Developing and evaluating a programme of interventions

 

Step 1 - Problem:  Identifying the Problem
A good problem definition identifies (1) what the problem is, (2) why it is a problem, (3) for whom it is a problem, (4) what are the possible causes of the problem, and (5) whether the problem can be influenced by social-psychological intervention.

Step 2 - Analysis:  Conducting a theory-based problem analysis
Generate as many possible explanations for the problem (divergence) and select the most plausible ones (convergence).  Explanations are derived from the research literature. Three approaches to finding a suitable explanatory framework are identified: (1) a topic-specific approach, (2) a concept-specific approach, and (c) a generic approach.

For example, finding an explanation for a problem involving burn-out among nurses at a hospital could involve (a) looking at literature on stress among nurses (topic-specific), (b) looking at the literature on burn-out among people in caring professions (concept-specific), (c) looking at the stress and coping literature in general (generic approach).

Step 3 - Test:  Testing the explanatory model
Formulate a process model for the problem.  The process model identifies the relevant proximal and distal causes of the problem.  The process model is depicted visually in a flow diagram, in which we work our way back from the problem to the more proximal causes and, ultimately, the more distal causes of the problem.  Suggestions and recommendations are given for an empirical test of the model.

Step 4 - Help:   Developing and testing an intervention programme
The process model is scrutinized for finding intervention opportunities.  Each plausible cause is carefully assessed in terms of intervention "potential."  In the divergence phase as many possible interventions are being generated.  In the convergence phase an intervention programme is being developed.  The possible implications (both intended and unintended) of the intervention programme are being assessed.  Furthermore, guidelines are given for a systematic, empirical evaluation of the intervention programme.

 

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