Research aiding the process of localization

Restoring and managing a mental resource needed
for environmentally resilient living

Raymond De Young
School of Natural Resources and Environment
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109


Energy supplies are tightening. Persistent pollutants are accumulating. Food security is declining. There is no going back to the days of reckless consumption, but there is a possibility — already being realized in communities across North America and around the world — of localizing, of living well as we learn to live well within immutable constraints.

The localization papers, and the related book The Localization Reader, anticipate a dramatic drop in natural resource and net energy availability, likely by mid-century. One implication of this historic change is the need for each one of us to become behavioral entrepreneurs. We must learn to cope with what may be dramatic, and at times unnerving, behavior change. We must plan for, motivate and maintain place-based environmental stewardship. And we must pre-familiarize ourselves with living within the limits of local ecosystems. See here for an audio interview (, 27 March 2012).

To transition well to this new biophysical reality requires a mental state called vitality. Unfortunately, this mental resource easily fatigues and at times seems to be in short supply. One goal of the research outlined here is to help restore and maintain mental vitality so that we can transition, in a civil manner, to durable living.

Online tests

Mental vitality is, at its core, the capacity to voluntarily direct our attention. Below are a few online tasks for measuring this capacity. They were developed or adapted by the Environmental Psychology Lab (EPLab) at the University of Michigan. These are demonstrations only. Actual research tests are run on a separate EPLab server and include these and other tests. The tests shown below are those for which practice has minimal or no effect on the test outcome.

TEST  (Click to load)

Necker Cube Pattern Control Measures the capacity to inhibit reversals in a wire-frame pattern. Calculated as the ratio of reversals experienced on two controlled trials (when participants are asked to prevent reversals) to the number of reversals experiences on two baseline trials. Each trial lasts 30 seconds. The score is a measure of the proportionate reduction in perceived reversals. Thus, lower scores are indications of more directed attention capacity.

Version 6.1 - Task NT0

Written in server-side PHP

Free Recall Recall is primarily a method of measuring memory capacity. In free recall, you are shown a list of items which must then be recalled in any order, Typically, through a process called subjective organization, people group similar items together during recall. And, in many cases, a serial position effect is produced, in which people recall more items from the beginning (primacy) and end (recency) of the list.

Version 6.4 - Task FR0

Written in client-side JavaScript

Stroop Effect

The task takes advantage of our ability to read words more quickly and automatically than we can name colors. If a word is printed or displayed in a color different from the color it actually names; for example, if the word "green" is written in blue ink we will say the word "green" more readily than we can name the color in which it is displayed, which in this case is "blue." The cognitive mechanism involved in this task is called inhibition, you have to inhibit or stop one response and say or do something else.

Version 8.1 - Task ST0

Written for Shockwave


Hosted and maintained by the Environmental Psychology Lab at the School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1041.

Part of ongoing research on the process of localization aimed at: (a) helping to plan for, motivate and maintain environmental stewardship and (b) pre-familiarizing ourselves with living well within the limits of local ecosystems.

This document is part of The Localization Papers.

Documents maintained on the ResearchGate system and the University of Michigan's Deep Blue archive.

EPLab OnLine Measures (EPLab OLM)
Document version: January 21, 2014 2:46