Environmental cognitions, land change, and social–ecological feedbacks : an overview


Understanding land use transitions requires analyzing how, when facing qualitative environmental change, human agents may modify their beliefs, values, and decision rules. This article first reviews some of the useful theories analyzing how environmental change can have a feedback effect on behaviors, via the environmental cognitions. Then, it discusses three propositions for more cognitively realistic agents in land change science: (i) land use choices result from multiple decision-making processes and rely on various motives, influenced by social norms, emotions, beliefs, and values toward the environment; (ii) social–ecological feedbacks are mediated by the environmental cognitions, that is, the perception, interpretation, evaluation of environmental change, and decision-making; (iii) human agents actively re-evaluate their beliefs, values, and functioning to adapt to unexpected environmental changes. Empirical and modeling studies in land change science can progress by linking the three components of the feedback loop, that is, environmental changes, environmental cognitions, and land use practices.

Journal of Land Use Science
Patrick Meyfroidt
Patrick Meyfroidt
Professor of Land Systems and Sustainability Science

My research focuses on how land systems can contribute to sustainability.