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    We considered a common research tool for understanding the mental models behind conservation decisions: cognitive mapping. Developed by cognitive psychologists, the elicitation of mental models with cognitive mapping has been used to understand soil management in Spain, invasive grass management in Australia, community forest management in the Bolivian Amazon, and small-scale fisheries access in Belize, among others. A generalized cognitive mapping process considers specific factors associated with the design, data-collection, data-analyses, and interpretation phases of research. We applied this tool in a study about the integration of social data in shoreline master plans of Washington State. Fourteen policy makers and managers (approximately 85% of the region's potential sample) were asked to identify the factors they considered when making their plans. Researchers coded these factors into mental-model objects and summarized mental-object frequency and co-occurrence trends. Although managers prioritized the perceived needs of social groups in their mental model of shoreline master plans, they focused specifically on tribal and private property rights, even though existing social data identified a diversity of interests around timber harvesting, tourism, and agriculture. Understanding their mental models allowed us to more effectively present this social data so that it could fit within their existing thoughts around planning. Although our case study provides a description of the cognition of a particular policy process, cognitive mapping can be used to understand cognitive processes that influence any conservation planning context. © 2020 The Authors. Conservation Biology published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Society for Conservation Biology.


    Kelly Biedenweg, David Trimbach, Jackie Delie, Bessie Schwarz. Using cognitive mapping to understand conservation planning. Conservation biology : the journal of the Society for Conservation Biology. 2020 Dec;34(6):1364-1372

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    PMID: 33245810

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