Daniel A. DeCaro, PhD

Assistant Professor

Urban & Public Affairs 218

Psychological & Brain Sciences


(502) 852-2927

Curriculum Vitae


Postdoctoral Research, Vincent & Elinor Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory & Policy Analysis, Indiana University - Bloomington, 2010-2013

Ph.D. Social Cognition, Miami University, 2010

Visiting Scholar (Political Psychology), Summer Institute in Political Psychology, Stanford University, 2008

Research Interests

My research focuses on motivational and social decision making processes that underlie people's ability to cooperatively solve social dilemmas in environmental and human governance situations (e.g., sustainable management of environmental resources and voluntary contributions to public goods). I am also interested in factors that promote environmentally responsible behavior, and conduct research on social justice dimensions of community-based governance and public participation in environmental decision making. My recent work pertains to water governance, and resilient management of complex rivers and streams.

Social Decision Making and Sustainability Lab

We conduct laboratory and field research on social cooperation in group and community-based social dilemmas.

Are you interested in being an Undergraduate Research Assistant in our lab? Please complete this application.

Research Grants

National Science Foundation (NSF), Decision, Risk, and Management Sciences (Award #1658608), $690,551 (2017-2022). Psychosocial, motivational, and cooperative effects of communication, enforcement, and participatory decision making in resource dilemmas. Lead PI, with Co-PIs Marco Janssen and Allen Lee (ASU).

Now accepting applications for a 5-Year Grant Funded Interdisciplinary PhD Student Assistantship (deadline March 1, 2017). Click here for application details!

Sustainability Roundtable Speaker Series

I organize the Sustainability Roundtable Speaker Series. Held every-other Friday, 11am-12noon. If you would like to participate in the roundtable discussion, attend the talk, or present, please click here for more information.

Selected Publications

DeCaro, D. A. , Chaffin, B. C., Schlager, E., Garmestani, A. S. , & Ruhl, J. B. (2017). Legal and institutional foundations of adaptive environmental governance. Ecology and Society 22(1):32. [online] https://doi.org/10.5751/ES-09036-220132

DeCaro, D. A. , Arnold, C. A., Boamah, E., & Garmestani, A. S. (2017). Understanding and applying principles of social cognition and decision making in adaptive environmental governance. Ecology and Society 22(1):33. https://doi.org/10.5751/ES-09154-220133

DeCaro, D. A., Janssen, M. A., & Lee, A. (2015). Synergistic effects of voting and enforcement on internalized motivation to cooperate in a resource dilemma. Judgment and Decision Making, 10(6), 511-537.http://journal.sjdm.org/vol10.6.html

  • Media Coverage: Interview at The Methodology for Psychology Podcast (click to view)

Arnold, C. A., Green, O. O., DeCaro, D. A., Chase, A., & Ewa, J.-G. (2014). The social-ecological resilience of an eastern urban-suburban watershed: the Anacostia River Basin. Idaho Law Review, 51(1), 29-90.

DeCaro, D. A., & Stokes, M. K. (2013). Public participation and institutional fit: a social–psychological perspective. Ecology and Society, 18(4), 40. [online] http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-05837-180440

DeCaro, D. A., & Stokes, M. (2008). Social-psychological principles of community-based conservation and conservancy motivation: attaining goals within an autonomy-supportive environment.Conservation Biology, 22(6), 1443-1451

Courses Taught


  • Quantitative Methods in Psychology
  • Environmental Psychology (WR)

Graduate Seminars

  • Introduction to Sustainability
  • Sustainable Social-Ecological Systems
  • Behavioral Dimensions of Urban Sustainability (Environmental Decision Making)

Public Resources

Educational (for Teachers)

  • Lesson Plans to Teach Psychological (Behavioral) Aspects of Sustainability to College and Elementary School Students (click to download)

Sustainability Policy

  • Vision: Social Sustainability Guidelines and Metrics for Transportation in Louisville: A Proposal for TARC's APTA Sustainability Commitment (click to download)