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Deciding to be Green Annual Hesburgh Lecture

Date: 3/10/2010

Deciding to be Green
Annual Hesburgh Lecture
Monday, April 12, 2010, 7:30 p.m.
Bernardine Franciscan Conference Center


It’s not easy to be green. More people are becoming aware of today’s ever-growing environmental problems each day. As we search for ways to “be green” we must also find ways to change our own habits, and the behaviors of those around us. Professor Laura Carlson will discuss the environment, decision-making research, and psychological research methods that can help make a difference for the future of our world.

Deciding to be Green is designed around the following dilemma:

On one hand, there is an increasing awareness of the ever-growing environmental problems, and the need to change our relationship to the environment. On the other hand, getting people to change their individual behaviors is difficult.

There is a common attitude that individual efforts won’t have much of an effect. Indeed, it is typically difficult to see any effect of one’s own action, because the environmental benefits are far off in the future. In addition, individual decisions are usually made without much thought or deliberation; if there is deliberation, then the deliberation takes into account many other dimensions that are typically prioritized over environmental influences, such as convenience, cost, and social influence.

Programs designed to get people to change their behaviors will need to incorporate what we know about how we make decisions, and should also involve a means of assessment, so that one can evaluate which components are successful and why.

This requires an application of psychological research methods, including three keys areas: the environment, decision-making research, and psychological research methods.

Dr Laura Carlson is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame and Associate Dean for Professional Development in the Graduate School.

She earned a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 1994, and has been at Notre Dame ever since.

Carlson’s research focuses on how people represent environments, focusing on how they are learned, which landmarks are remembered, how routes through these environments are described, and why we might get lost in these environments. She examines how these spatial representations are influenced by core cognitive processes of attention, memory, perception, and language; thus, the research projects in the lab fall at the intersection of spatial cognition and any of these other areas, leading to a broad and multi-faceted approach that includes empirical, computational, crosslinguistic, and psychophysiological methods.

Resources include virtual environments and an SR Research Eyelink II eyetracking suite. Dr. Carlson has received extramural funding from NSF and NIH to support her research. She is the author of over 40 articles and chapters and co-editor of a book.

Currently serving as Associate Editor for the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, Carlson is a past associate editor for Memory & Cognition, as well as serving on the editorial boards of Perception & Psychophysics, and Visual Cognition. She received the Edmund P. Joyce Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 2008, the Kaneb Center Teaching Award in 2001 and 2005, and was named a fellow of the Kaneb Center in 2002.

  • History: Established as a private four-year liberal arts college in 1958, Alvernia celebrated its 50th year by being awarded university status in 2008.
  • Heritage: Founded by the Bernardine Sisters, a Catholic religious order, the university embraces the Franciscan core values of service, humility, collegiality, contemplation and peacemaking.
  • Motto: “To Learn, To Love, To Serve”
  • Campus: The main campus in Reading is 121 acres, with two satellite campuses in Philadelphia and Pottsville (Schuylkill County).
  • Location: Our residential campus is situated three miles from center-city Reading, in the scenic Blue Mountain area of Eastern Pennsylvania.
  • Enrollment: 3,000 students attend Alvernia including 1,500 traditional undergraduates, 600 continuing education students, and 780 graduate students. Over 77% of first-year students live on campus.
  • Faculty: Our professors are accomplished scholars, experts in their fields, and supportive mentors. The student-to-faculty ratio is 14:1. Most classes are 20 students or fewer.
  • Athletics: NCAA Division III, member of the Commonwealth Conference of the Middle Atlantic States Athletic Corporation and member of Eastern College Athletic Conference, 8 men’s and 10 women’s intercollegiate sports.