Promoting Empathy and Collaborative Decision Making for Natural Resource Management using a Computer Mediated Scenario

Project: Research project

Description

Collaborative approaches to natural resource management have had their share of success and failure. The latter is often driven by the inability or unwillingness of interest groups to collaborate over the provision of public goods. Collaboration requires actors to forego egoistic behaviors in favor of more prosocial behavior. Therefore, to promote effective collaborative management, it is critical to develop interventions that promote empathy, which is a precursor to cooperative behavior, and to understand the contextual or individual boundary conditions (factors of the person or the environment) that may prevent empathy from resulting in collaborative action. Little is currently known about how to promote empathy and collaboration in the context of natural resource dilemmas, particularly in situations involving computer-mediated communication (CMC). The objective of this research is to explore the relationships between perspective taking, a key component of empathy, and collaboration over resource allocation, test hypotheses about why previous experiments using CMC resulted in egoistic behavior and test new CM simulations that foster perspective taking and collaborative behavior. We posit that incentives and constraints on participation, perceived social power, and willingness to cooperate are critical antecedents of perspective taking and prosocial behavior, but that efforts to generate these outcomes using CMC must be carefully designed to avoid participant reactance, concerns about risks, and an emphasis on divergent interests, which can contribute to egoistic behavior instead of collaboration. Our approach will be to conduct a cross-sectional public survey and a series of experiments using CM scenarios to mimic real-world collaborative management decisions.
Intellectual Merit
This proposed research will test and validate our integrated research model and CM scenarios. This research is significant, because it is expected to advance the use of CMC as a means of promoting collaborative behavior among diverse interest groups involved in complex decision-making processes over the sharing of resources and decision-making power. This research expands existing models of social cooperation, enhances collaborative, evidence-based decision making; and advances the use of CM simulations to encourage collaborative action to address social and environmental challenges. The proposed research will contribute a markedly improved and flexible CM approach that may be widely distributed and that integrates a comprehensive understanding of the antecedents of perspective taking and collaborative behavior, measures changes in perspective taking and collaborative behavior under experimental conditions, and promotes effective collaborative processes, reducing conflict over the management of common pool resources. By making the relationships between perspective taking and collaboration visible, testable, and actionable, this research will enhance the ability of future researchers to explore these constructs within a variety of decision-making contexts.
Broader Impacts
The future management of public goods and resources will require diverse participation and perspectives. As decision-making processes move toward more collaborative models, the public and private sector will be looking for effective methods to teach perspective taking skills and encourage cooperative management. This research aims to enhance efforts to measure, test and encourage perspective taking and collaborative behavior. This effort will include the development of interventions that can be used in undergraduate and graduate education in courses in public administration, conflict management, negotiation, sustainability, environmental management, and business. While applicable to many contexts, including health care delivery and education, we will emphasize collaborative natural resource management. New simulations will also be designed to connect to the web-based interface of WaterSim 5.0, currently being developed at Arizona State University, which will provide a critical social science component to the interface, allowing researchers to evaluate how the starting conditions of collaboration influence individual and group management decisions.
StatusFinished
Effective start/end date7/15/156/30/19

Funding

  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $449,090.00

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empathy
natural resources
scenario
decision making
management
computer-mediated communication
management decision
interest group
resources
decision-making process
simulation
willingness to cooperate
reactance
cooperative behavior
participation
group decision
conflict management
experiment
environmental management
public administration