Current Research Projects

Intentional Defaults: Interventions to alleviate biases in multi-stakeholder decisions

Experiments test the extent to which behavioral science theories translate to upstream, multi-stakeholder decisions, in particular whether choice defaults influence such decisions, and through which of three channels: the cognitive energy required to make a decision; perceptions that the default is the recommended or social norm option; and by framing the outcome as a loss or gain. Experiments also explore whether disclosing interventions diminishes their effect.


Leidy Klotz

University of Virginia

Elke Weber

Princeton University

Eric Johnson

Columbia University

Ruth Bell

Wilson Center

Engineering Students' Belief in Climate Change

Engineers are an essential part of solving the effects of climate change and must not only be aware of the issues but empowered to make change to reduce and shift the impact of humans on the planet. This research investigates engineering students’ experiences during undergraduate programs that predict their beliefs about climate change and empowerment to address its related implications for sustainability in their careers. This study is the first of its kind to explore how experiences in college impact students’ climate change beliefs and interest to address related implications for sustainability. To advance understanding, undergraduate engineering seniors’ attitudes, empowerment, career goals, and experiences are measured using a nationally representative survey just prior to students entering the workforce.


Allison Godwin

Purdue University

Systems versus Linear Thinking: Measuring Cognitive Network Coordination for Tasks about Sustainability

Solving sustainability challenges like poverty, climate change, and water availability will require a new way of thinking. This research provides a novel method to measure the type of thinking required to solve these problems and to help us get there more quickly.


Elise Barrella

Wake Forest

Measuring The Engineers’ Brain: Using Cognitive Neuroscience to Better Understand the Formation of Engineering Design and Problem Solving Skills

The aim of this research project is to understand the effects of contextual complexity on design processes and problem solving of undergraduate engineering students and impacts of the undergraduate experience on engineering student ability to treat contextual complexity in engineering design and ill-structured problems. Our specific research questions are: (Q1) How do students cognitively manage contextual complexity in engineering design and problem-solving tasks? And (Q2) are cognitive loads and activity in brain regions significantly different based on years of educational training?


Jake Grohs

Virginia Tech

Robin Panneton

Virginia Tech