The Mental Demands of Marine Ecosystem-Based Management: Assessing Cognitive Capcity of Environmental Decision-Makers

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If one thinks of the emerging paradigm of marine ecosystem-based management (EBM) as a curriculum, what is the complexity of understanding needed by individuals who try to implement it? Are decision-makers up to the task from a cognitive developmental perspective? In other words, there are scientific, social, and institutional changes that must take place to move beyond a resource-by-resource approach to coastal ocean management. Little research, if any, is looking at the mental capabilities of the individuals responsible for change. In essence, EBM is characterized as a comprehensive approach that considers the whole ecosystem, including humans in decision-making. To take an EBM approach, decision-makers must:
• Have a holistic orientation and conceptualize more variables in decision-making and how those variables change over time and space scales.
• Start to understand the impact of their sector’s activities on other sectors and in addition, the cumulative, environmental impacts of each sector.
• Be open to change and accept a structurally different type of decision-making process.
This presentation will discuss research on a diversely representative group of stakeholders in the northeastern U.S. who are trying to prepare for this new approach. The state of Massachusetts will be the first in the country to mandate marine, ecosystem-based management. Specifically, the research assessed the aspirations of EBM and investigated whether a cognitive lens (particularly, ego/self development) offered insight into how stakeholders understood it conceptually. It looked at how participants’ meaning-making (or mindset) influenced how they made sense of the underlying principles of ecosystem-based management and how those meanings played out in this collaborative decision-making process.
Preliminary findings suggest that developmental differences manifested in three significant areas: Perspective-taking of self and others, comfort with personal and institutional change, and the workings of the process itself.


Keywords: Psychology, Cognition, Learning, Growth, Marine, Coast, Ocean, Policy
Stream: Psychology, Cognitive Science and Behavioural Sciences
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Verna DeLauer

Student, Ocean Processes Analysis Laboratory, University of New Hampshire
Durham, New Hampshire, USA

As a student and staff member at the University of New Hampshire, Verna DeLauer is interested in the psychology of environmental decision-making. She investigates how people make decisions about public goods and how they reason through moral disagreement and dilemma. For her dissertation, she is focusing specifically on people’s cognitive understanding of marine, ecosystem-based management decision-making. In addition, she is the Science and Policy Coordinator for COMPASS who works to make scientific research applicable and relevant to current management and policy practices.

Ref: I08P0676