W(h)ither the Oracle? Cognitive biases and other human challenges of integrated environmental modeling

Edited by: D.P. AmesN. W. T. Quinn, and A.E. Rizzoli



Integrated environmental modeling (IEM) can organize and increase our knowledge of the complex, dynamic ecosystems that house our natural resources and control the quality of our environments. Human behavior, however, must be taken into account. Human biases/heuristics reflect adaptation over our evolutionary past to frequently experienced situations that affected our survival and that provided sharply distinguished feedbacks at the level of the individual. Unfortunately, human behavior is not adapted to the more diffusely experienced, less frequently encountered, problems and issues that IEM typically seeks to address in the simulation of natural resources and environments. While seeking inspiration from the prophetic traditions of the Oracle of Delphi, several human biases are identified that may affect how the science base of IEM is assembled, and how IEM results are interpreted and used. These biases are supported by personal observations, and by the findings of behavioral scientists. A process for critical analysis is proposed that solicits explicit accounting and cognizance of potential human biases. A number of suggestions are made to address the human challenges of IEM, in addition to maintaining attitudes of watchful humility, open-mindedness, honesty, and transparent accountability. These include creating a new area of study in the behavioral biogeosciences, using structured processes for engaging the modeling and stakeholder community in IEM, and using “red teams” to increase resilience of IEM constructs and use.

Additional publication details

Publication type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Title W(h)ither the Oracle? Cognitive biases and other human challenges of integrated environmental modeling
Year Published 2014
Language English
Publisher International Environmental Modelling and Software Society
Contributing office(s) National Research Program - Eastern Branch
Description 8 p.
Larger Work Type Book
Larger Work Subtype Conference publication
Larger Work Title Proceedings of the 7th International Congress on Environmental Modelling and Software, June 15-19, San Diego, California, USA