Social Decision Making and Sustainability Lab

Welcome to the Social Decision Making and Sustainability Lab webpage!

We conduct laboratory and field research on cognitive and social cognitive aspects of cooperation and human decision making, or decision making in social dilemmas (situations where groups of people with different goals and interests need to cooperative in order to solve difficult societal problems). The primary type of dilemma we are researching at the moment is the common-pool resource dilemma, in which different stakeholders need to cooperatively manage a shared, but limited resource like a forest, oil reserve, or water system (e.g., river, lake). These situations are crucial because poorly managed resources often lead to societal conflict, war, and the destruction of valuable natural and human-made systems.

Our two main topics of research at the moment are:

  1. Cooperative Decision Making. We are trying to understand the psychological processes involved when groups work well together, versus not, when managing a shared resource. We are investigating the effects of different types of governance solutions, like stakeholder communication, enforcement, and democratic decision making. The goal of this research is to develop core principles that can be used to guide real-world solutions in environmental governance, and other areas of high societal importance.
  2. Adaptive Water Governance. I am working with a team of interdisciplinary researchers from ecology, law, geography, and other fields, to understand how water resources, such as rivers, lakes, and streams, can be managed in a more flexible and adaptive way, in order to cope with stressors like climate change, economic downturn, and social or political upheaval. For this research, we are examining historical records, as well as conducting interviews with key leaders and stakeholders in water systems locally and throughout the United States.

Research Facilities

Our research lab is located at the Department of Urban & Public Affairs. Dr. DeCaro directs a computer lab with 12 computer stations designed for group decision making experiments (Room 206), and a research assistant office (Room 207).

Experimenter Station Participant Computers
Experimenter Station Participant Computers



Graduate Research Assistants

Christopher Wales

Undergraduate Research Assistants

Jeremy Jackson Jeremy Jackson

Jeremy is an undergraduate student studying psychology, philosophy, sociology, and anthropology at the University of Louisville. His main research interests include cross cultural moral psychology, attitudes related to distributed justice, perception of rights and duties among different societal groups, and the cognitive and evolutionary elements related to empathic behaviors. He hopes to attend a graduate school program for moral psychology after the completion of his undergraduate career and go onto pursue a career in academic research.

  • In 2017, Jeremy was awarded a $2000 student research fellowship from UofL's Cooperative Consortium for Transdisciplinary Social Justice Research to assist Dr. DeCaro, and colleagues, in field research focusing participatory public engagement in West Louisville (see Dr. DeCaro's main webpage for more details).

Christopher Guest Christopher Guest

Christopher is an undergraduate psychology student attending the University of Louisville. He is interested in researching the use of emerging virtual reality technology in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders.  He is also interested in pursuing a clinical practice.

Jason Bush Jason Bush

Jason is an undergraduate student studying psychology and anthropology at the University of Louisville. His main research interests include decision making, interaction dynamics, and consciousness in an evolutionary framework. He hopes to attend a graduate school program for cognitive psychology after the completion of his undergraduate career and go on to pursue a career in behavioral analysis and decision modeling.