The way we think about power cuts can bring positive psychological and environmental benefits according to new research by psychologists.

The results of the study carried out by Dr Hannah Devine-Wright and Dr Patrick Devine-Wright of Manchester University were presented at the British Psychological Society's Annual Conference at the Royal Dublin Society on Friday 4 April 2008.

Their study explored the everyday thinking of 62 people about potential 'power cuts' and 'blackouts' in the UK as a result of modifications to the existing power networks in line with government policy to increase the generation of renewable energy.

The findings of the research demonstrate that power supply failure invoked both positive and negative associations by the participants at the levels of the individual, community and nation as a whole. Whilst participants viewed power supply failure as a local threat to personal comfort and convenience and more globally in relation to being able to maintain a national identity as part of an advanced first world, they also saw positive opportunities afforded by power supply failure.

The researchers heard of acts of celebration like "the reprobate in me just thinks 'ahh everything has gone wrong - great"; benevolence like "I think the village must have been off certainly our part of the village was off and nobody had any light or heat and most of the houses were heated by electricity and everyone came down and had soup but the wee lady next door was really quite poorly so we took her around and gave her loads of tea and soup and she was OK" and enjoyment, for instance "…we had candles and big fireplaces it was just fun".

This research has significant environmental implications, particularly in relation to the design of technical systems that encourage human behaviour which is currently considered challenging to existing social norms and practices.

Dr Hannah Devine-Wright said: "Our research sheds some positive light on the darkness and despair that is normally associated with electricity supply failure". Dr's Devine-Wright will also discuss future directions in applied research on electricity supply failure.

British Psychological Society