Mental models for conservation research and practice
Moon, K and Guerrero, AM and Adams, VM and Biggs, D and Blackman, DA and Craven, L and Dickinson, H and Ross, H, Mental models for conservation research and practice, Conservation Letters Article e12642. ISSN 1755-263X (2019) [Refereed Article]
Conservation practice requires an understanding of complex social‐ecological processes of a system and the different meanings and values that people attach to them. Mental models research offers a suite of methods that can be used to reveal these understandings and how they might affect conservation outcomes. Mental models are representations in people's minds of how parts of the world work. We seek to demonstrate their value to conservation and assist practitioners and researchers in navigating the choices of methods available to elicit them. We begin by explaining some of the dominant applications of mental models in conservation: revealing individual assumptions about a system, developing a stakeholder‐based model of the system, and creating a shared pathway to conservation. We then provide a framework to "walk through" the stepwise decisions in mental models research, with a focus on diagram‐based methods. Finally, we discuss some of the limitations of mental models research and application that are important to consider. This work extends the use of mental models research in improving our ability to understand social‐ecological systems, creating a powerful set of tools to inform and shape conservation initiatives.