Adjunct Associate Professor
- Early roots of adult environmental attitudes and behaviors
- Experimental methods in social science research
To what extent do experiences during a person’s preschool years (ages 0-5) affect the decisions that they make as an adult (ages 30-60), particularly regarding the global environment?
Our research focuses on the associations between early childhood experiences and later environmentally significant behavior. In our work, we define “environmentally significant behavior” as actions that have a significant, direct or indirect influence on issues such as climate change, including choices about transportation, housing, food, employment, volunteer activities, policy, etc.
Because of the timespan of interest (3-6 decades) between a person’s early childhood experiences and their later adult behavior, normal longitudinal methods take too long. On the other hand, traditional retrospective methods are limited by infantile amnesia (the inability of most humans to recall memories before the age of 4-5). Furthermore, cross-sectional studies of different individuals at different life stages have obvious methodological limitations.
As a result of these methodological challenges, we are experimenting with an alternative way of conducting our research, which we refer to as the “Folded Longitudinal” approach. In this method, we survey adults about their current environmental behaviors and then survey a living parent about the people, activities, and places that their child (now an adult) experienced during their early years. With this two-generation approach, we can obtain data about the early childhood experiences of adults that would be impossible to obtain from them directly.
We are currently testing and refining the folded longitudinal approach to assess its applicability for large-scale studies.
COURSE: Psych 4700 - Independent Research for Undergraduates in Psychology