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Emotionally augmented mental models, connectivity and beaver reintroduction in Southwest England

Andrew Blewett, Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen, Netherlands
Maarten Jacobs, Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen, Netherlands
Kasper Kok, Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen, Netherlands
Natalie A. Jones, School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
Sharron Ogle, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
Edward Huijbens, Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen, Netherlands

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-12823-270133

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Abstract

Understanding the psychology of human-wildlife interactions has grown beyond cognitive frameworks to include appreciation of roles played by emotion in human responses to wildlife. From its beginnings as an essentially cognitively framed proposition, mental modeling has been shown readily applicable to representing and interpreting stakeholder perspectives on combined social and natural systems, but lacks an integrated approach to emotion. This is an important knowledge gap. To commence an investigation into the relationship focused on the requirements of wildlife conservation, we carried out a case study of perspectives toward a free-living Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber) reintroduction in Southwest England, ecologically significant as a generator of high-value wetland habitat while interacting strongly with local human interests. Using fuzzy cognitive mapping techniques, we report predictive relationships between model measurements and subjective emotional valence elicited in relation to stakeholder conceptual content. Significant interactions were identified between three measures of concept connective influence within mental models and associated emotional valence intensity: single model concept connective salience, aggregated model concept connective salience, and aggregated model predictive inferences made by dynamic analysis. A possible explanation for these findings is outlined in which we propose that criteria-based evaluations suggested by appraisal theory of emotion are sensitive to the strength and distribution of connective influences within mental models. Apart from its theoretical significance, the evidence presented in this paper highlights the importance of attending to conservation stakeholder emotional experiences, and may assist in new approaches to mitigation where conservation objectives require human adjustment.

Key words

Castor fiber; conservation; fuzzy cognitive maps; emotion; human-wildlife interactions; mental models

Copyright © 2022 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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