Daniel A. DeCaro, PhD

Assistant Professor

Urban & Public Affairs, 210

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 human decision making and social cooperation (i.e., social dilemmas) (click the heading for more information).

Join my Lab!

UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS: Are you interested in being an Undergraduate Research Assistant in my lab? Please complete this application.
GRADUATE STUDENTS: I am accepting applications for new PhD graduate students for the Fall 2018 academic year (deadline December 1, 2017). Funding available for up to 5 years ($42,000 per year: includes stipend, tuition, and benefits).Click here for more details.

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).

  • Featured on UofL Today with Mark Hebert (10 minutes). Click here to listen.

University of Louisville's Cooperative Consortium for Transdisciplinary Social Justice Research, Faculty Grant Fellowship, $7500 (2017-2018). Learning how the community leads: evaluating and informing city-based participatory engagement in West Louisville. Angela Storey (Anthropology), Daniel DeCaro (Psychology and Urban & Public Affairs), David Johnson (Public Health), Allison Smith (Louisville Metro Government), Lauren Heberle (Center for Environmental Policy & Management), and Jeremy Jackson (undergraduate research assistant).

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

  • Featured in a Podcast, Brian Kissell's The Methodology for Psychology Podcast (click to download)

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

Sustainable Behavior Team: Partnership for a Green City

I co-chair the Partnership for a Green City's Sustainable Behavior Team, with Russ Barnett (Kentucky Institute for the Environment and Sustainable Development) and Brent Fryrear (Director). Our goal is to apply social science to address important social and policy problems in sustainability. For example, we recently started a city-wide energy conservation competition (Lou's Energy Challenge) to reduce energy use among the University of Louisville, Jefferson Community and Technical College, Louisville Metro Government, and the Jefferson County School District, in order to decrease public health impacts of energy consumption (e.g., reduced pollution, localized urban heat island effect). We also assist in public education on social aspects of sustainability, and consult with groups or organizations who need help with human behavior aspects of their programs (e.g., motivation, incentives, messaging advice). 

Courses Taught


  • Reasoning and Decision Making (Spring 2019)
  • Quantitative Methods in Psychology

Graduate Seminars/Undergraduate

  • Introduction to Sustainability (formerly, helped create)
  • 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)