The Mental Demands of Marine Ecosystem-Based Management: Assessing Cognitive Capcity of Environmental Decision-Makers
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
Student, Ocean Processes Analysis Laboratory, University of New Hampshire