Sustainability & The Environment

The Social Side of Sustainability

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Are you curious about how behavioral insights can contribute to climate solutions? What do psychologists have to say about improving people’s understanding of sustainability and motivating others to do their part in combating climate change? Join three behavioral scientists from USC and ASU for a discussion about the social side of protecting our planet.

This seminar on the psychology of sustainability features Joe Árvaz, USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies director; Wändi Bruine de Bruin, USC Provost Professor of Public Policy, Psychology and Behavioral Science; and Caitlin Drummond, ASU assistant professor of decision science.

Who Will Benefit

– Those who want to understand how behavioral scientists can help increase the visibility of sustainability initiatives
– Sustainability experts looking to uncover how emotions affect consumer behavior
– Those questioning the different ways in which younger and older people address environmental losses

About Our Featured Faculty

Wändi Bruine de Bruin is a Provost Professor of Public Policy, Psychology and Behavioral Science. She has published more than 125 peer-reviewed publications on the psychology of risk perception and communication, as applied to personal health, sustainability and climate change, as well as household finances. Across USC, she holds affiliations with the Sol Price School of Public Policy, the Department of Psychology, the Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics, the Center for Economic and Social Research, the Center for Sustainability Solutions and the National Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE). She is a member of the editorial boards of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, the Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, Decision, Medical Decision Making, the Journal of Risk Research, and Psychology and Aging.

Her research on age differences in decision making was recently covered by Psychology Today and the BBC World’s Why Factor. She currently serves on the National Academy of Sciences committee on mask use and respiratory health. She has served on expert panels for the National Academy of Sciences on Communicating Science Effectively and for the Council of the Canadian Academies on Health Product Risk Communication. With colleagues in the Center for Economic and Social Research, she is running a national longitudinal survey to track symptoms, risk perceptions, protective behaviors, food insecurity and political polarization during the COVID-19 pandemic in the US. She is also studying how people’s expectations of others’ behaviors can improve predictions of election outcomes and vaccination behavior.

Joe Árvai is a USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences professor of psychology and director of the USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies. Árvai’s research focuses on improving the critical thinking, judgment and decision-making capabilities of people. His research focuses primarily on contexts where people must make judgments and decisions under conditions of risk and uncertainty, and where they must confront tradeoffs across conflicting social, economic and environmental objectives. His research also focuses on situations where people’s instinctive approach to judgment and decision-making is biased by unchecked emotions and motivated reasoning.

In advance of this agenda, Árvai and his lab of post-doctoral scholars and graduate students conduct research aimed at improving our understanding of how people intuitively make judgments and decisions about, primarily, environmental issues and sustainability. They couple this research with the development and testing of tools and approaches that can be used by people to improve decision quality across a broad range of environmental, social and economic contexts.

In addition to Árvai’s wok at USC, he is a frequent advisor to government, business and NGOs. He is a former member of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Chartered Science Advisory Board and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences’ Board on Environmental Change and Society. He is also a senior researcher at the Decision Science Research Institute in Eugene, OR, and he is an adjunct professor in engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA.