Nicolas Fulghum

Nicolas’s research investigates the link between scarcity, cognitive burden and environmentally conscious behaviour.

Photo Credit: Nicolas Fulghum




I have a background in Political Science and Geography and have a degree from the University of Heidelberg in these subjects. I have conducted both quantitative research with statistical and spatial data and qualitative research.

My research interests range from behavioural patterns in migration in the MENA region to institutional structures and how these affect resource use and consumer practices.

Currently, my academic focus lies on behavioural patterns that guide decision making with a focus on environmentally related consumer choices.

Project Title

Examining the impact of poverty on behavioural patterns that fundamentally influence (consumer) choices with environmental impacts

Project description

My project seeks to determine the influence of poverty and financial concerns on the likelihood of environmentally conscious behaviour. I will address this through a psychological lens.

Environmentally conscious behaviour requires a high amount of self-control in a variety of decisions that people face every day. The self-control needed for recycling practices or reducing meat consumption in one’s diet fundamentally hinges on the availability of cognitive resources. If the cognitive resources that are needed to elicit potential future benefits or negative impacts of choices aren’t available, the default choice becomes more likely which in most cases is less environmentally friendly than proposed alternatives.

In this context, scarcity refers to the psychological state one is put in if budgetary concerns, lack of available time or other sources of stress create a mental burden that captures the individual’s attention, leaving less cognitive resources to deal with other cognitively taxing problems. In this case, these other cognitively burdensome problems are choices with relevance to the environment.

Poverty is one state that can lead to, or enhance the likelihood of, this psychological state. Similar impacts of financial or other stress on cognitive function have been observed in studies about irrational loan choices or more general approaches to the impact of poverty on cognitive function.


Aidan Keane (University of Edinburgh, School of GeoSciences)


MSc. Environment and Development