Research Overview

I use insights and methods from behavioral science and behavioral economics to study peoples’ perceptions, preferences, and behavior and the relevancy of these for environmental policy. I collaborate with physical scientists to answer interdisciplinary questions at the intersection of human behavior and the environment.

 
 
 Malian farmer surveying maize field

Malian farmer surveying maize field

Climate adaptation decision making

How do farmers perceive climate change and how does the way they process information about climate change influence their agricultural decisions? Understanding these cognitive dimensions of adaptation and their interaction with institutions and policies in facilitating climate adaptation are critical for food security and stability. I have a series of articles that explore different dimensions of judgement and decision-making among farmers, ranging from climate perceptions to processing of climate information to climate adaptation behavior. These papers illustrate that as a result of environmental and policy uncertainty farmers base fundamental agricultural and food security decisions on incomplete or biased information and heuristics.

 
 Ratooned perennial pigeon pea

Ratooned perennial pigeon pea

 sustainable behavior and policy design

Understanding preferences for sustainable agricultural technology adoption and production methods are central to understanding design of sustainable policy. A series of publications use experimental auctions and choice experiments, to quantify preferences and assess the policy implications for various environmentally friendly agricultural production practices, such as intercropping techniques and using water saving perennial crops for drought adaptation in Africa. A related thread of research investigates consumer behavior, information, and environmental sustainability in the US-- from consumer labeling of commodity crops to consumer preferences for unpasteurized cheese. These papers highlight the disconnect between preferences and policies and demonstrate how a more nuanced understanding of environmental behavior and appropriately designed policies can facilitate or delimit environmental behavior.

 
 Zambian farmer responding to text message survey

Zambian farmer responding to text message survey

Intra-seasonal decision-making

The ubiquity of cell phones and social media has led to an accumulation of vast sums of data. Big data techniques have been underused in developing countries to understand critical problems like food insecurity. Combining in-depth household surveys with the breadth of high frequency text message surveys make is possible to examine urgent agricultural decisions in real time. A series of working papers uses weekly text message surveys and high frequency environmental sensors with farmers in Kenya and Zambia to understand intra- and inter-seasonal agricultural decision-making.