Jiaying Zhao, PhD

    Assistant Professor, Canada Research Chair (t2)

Welcome to the Behavioral Sustainability Lab!

Among the significant problems facing the world today, many involve an imbalance where capacity falls short of demand. Such imbalance violates sustainability and can be manifested as the depletion of natural resources, the struggle to meet financial deadlines, or the cognitive bottleneck under information overload.


To understand and solve these problems, here we ask: What is cognitive science good for? How can cognitive science contribute to sustainability? Specifically, how to increase capacity and reduce demand? To address these questions, we rely on a basic insight that human behavior is governed by a cascade of implicit and explicit cognitive processes that operate over external and internal inputs. This insight opens the possibility that we can target specific inputs and processes to change human behavior.


The goal of our research is to use cognitive principles to design behavioral solutions to address sustainability challenges. In reaching this goal, we aim to understand how cognitive mechanisms govern human behavior, and how to use behavioral insights to inform the design and the implementation of public policy. Our work draws upon principles and methods from cognitive science, judgment and decision making, behavioral economics, and social psychology, using experimental approaches in lab and field studies (e.g., randomized controlled trials), as well as large-scale data modeling. We are currently investigating the following four lines of research: