Cathy Teng ’22


Computer Science

Project Title

Environmental Dilemmas of Cooperation in Heterogeneous Populations

Presentation Link

View Cathy's Presentation

I explored environmental dilemmas of cooperation in heterogeneous populations. Environmental dilemmas can be represented as nonlinear public-goods games. Previous research has shown that participants’ decisions to cooperate or defect are influenced by what they perceive other people are doing. People tend to systematically underestimate the climate change consensus among scientists and the general public. I studied cooperation levels in a population composed of groups that can have different levels of bias. I introduced an arbitrary fraction of unbiased individuals into otherwise biased populations to evaluate the efficacy and extent to which, for example, providing accurate information to a fraction of the population recovers cooperation. I built a Python model to simulate the cooperation level in a nonlinear public-goods game with two groups: an unbiased group and a group exhibiting under-trust, pluralistic ignorance or false consensus. I found that we only need 20-30% of the population to be unbiased to obtain sufficient cooperation. I gained valuable insight into the perception biases that prevent us from tackling our environmental problems. I plan to seek more opportunities at the intersection of tech and the environment!

Internship Year


Project Category

Urban Systems and Planning for a Sustainable Future


Levin Lab, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University


Simon Levin, James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Elke Weber, Gerhard R. Andlinger Professor in Energy and the Environment, Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs; Fernando Santos, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Vitor Vasconcelos, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies