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School of Environment and Natural Resources


Alexander Heeren's Doctoral Scholarly Seminar

Oct 13, 2015, 4:00pm - 5:00pm

Alexander Heeren, PhD Candidate in Environmental Social Sciences, will present his Doctoral Scholarly Seminar, The More You Know?: Knowledge, Scientific Literacy, and Partisanship in Environmental and Natural Resources Management. His presentation will be held in 333 Kottman Hall.

A common belief is that people would change their behavior if they only knew better.  This assumption is often especially prevalent in the natural resource and environmental fields.  Often, managers and researchers assume that if the public, or resource users, are educated about a resource, they will act in an environmentally or sustainable way to preserve that resource.  This belief is often described as the “Knowledge Deficit Model” as it assumes that an undesirable behavior is the result of a lack, or deficit, of proper knowledge.  This model places an emphasis on raising scientific literacy of technical issues to address social problems.

However, environmental social science indicates that the link between knowledge, scientific literacy, and behavior is not as strong, or direct, as popular belief suggests.  Individuals do not simply receive scientific information and alter their behavior accordingly.  Instead, a number of motivations and biases influence the way that individuals (both members of the general public and experts) perceive and translate information.  The result of this “motivated reasoning” is that individuals can receive the same information about a scientific, or environmental problem, and still reach very different conclusions.  Partisanship and discord may still be challenges to solving environmental issues even among highly scientifically literate participants.  

The role of knowledge, scientific literacy, and behavior is especially relevant to natural resource and environmental issues in America as many federal and state land and wildlife agencies are mandated to include the public in their decisions.  Therefore, the understanding of scientific literacy and knowledge about environmental and natural resource issues has important implications for the democratic process of environmental policy decision making, as well as for sustainability and pro-environmental behavior.  This Doctoral Scholarly Seminar will investigate these implications and relationships that knowledge and scientific literacy play in the environment and natural resource disciplines.