Values and behaviours

It is increasingly argued that preferences and values for complex goods such as ecosystem services are not pre-formed but need to be generated through a process of deliberation and learning (Kenter et al. 2016). [Photo: Milford Track – Will Allen]
Most sustainability initiatives require at least some changes in human behavior. Most mainstream policies and programs designed to influence decision making have been shaped by the economic model of the “rational actor”.   However, there is ample evidence that people are sensitive to the behavior of others,  are not strictly self-interested and have a number of cognitive constraints and biases that influence decision-making. Moreover we respond not only to incentives, information, and other persuasive programmes – but how these interventions are framed and communicated are also important to us. For example if we appreciate that values do not exist outside of context, then we can appreciate that they can emerge and evolve through social processes of value formation and expression. By using dialogue within collaborative processes as a new context within which decisions are made, we can actively seek to co-design and encourage socially desirable behaviors and discourage socially undesirable ones. The social learning page points to a number of related concepts that contribute to this co-design in practice. Other related concepts include systemic design, behaviour change frameworks and co-innovation platforms. The links on this page point to recent papers that look at this more proactive way to work with values in the context of sustainability and sustainable development.

The importance of relational values in river management: understanding enablers and barriers for effective participation
Simon Mould, Kirstie Fryirs and Richard Howitt (2020) Ecology and Society
Participation by local communities is a key requirement of many environmental management policies globally. The authors develop a conceptual model to represent the dynamics of participation, identifying “enablers” and “barriers” to participation. They find that relational values, such as relationships between people and environment, motivate participation (or nonparticipation) in river management. Many of the enablers that translate motivating values into participatory actions are also relational in nature. Examples of relational enablers include supportive social networks and investment in relationships by river management practitioners. These findings form the basis for recommendations to help practitioners recognize relational values and prioritize enabling relationships as core activities. Understanding and working with relational values can generate possibilities for improved participation in pursuit of sustainable socio-environmental systems.

Three perspectives on relational values of nature
Sanna Stålhammar & Henrik Thorén (2019) Sustainability Science
Relational value (RV) has recently been introduced as a third class of values for understanding values of nature and are thought to sit alongside more familiar axiological categories such as instrumental and intrinsic value. Differences in these value concepts involve e.g., the descriptive question of how people value nature versus the normative questions of why nature should be valued. The authors show how the concept can be seen as solving the problem of narrow conceptualizations of intrinsic and instrumental value in ecosystem services valuation and suggest that RV can be conceived of as an epistemological framing rather than a values concept. The concept also has potential to function as a ‘boundary object’ to provide cross-fertilization of disciplinary perspectives.

From Values to Behavior: Proposition of an Integrating Model
Othmane Aride and Maria-del-Mar Pàmies-Pallisé (2019) Sustainability
Drawing from a range of disciplines, this article proposes an integrated model mapping the influence of human values on behavior. It also puts forward the concept of consequences as an emerging factor that could play  an important role in this relationship. Recommendations are to extend the research to an empirical investigation of the model and to develop the definition of the concept of consequences and the role they play in the influence of values on consumer behavior.

He ʻike ʻana ia i ka pono (it is a recognizing of the right thing): how one indigenous worldview informs relational values and social values
RK Gould, M Pai, B Muraca, KMA Chan (2019) Sustainability Science
The ideas of relational values and social values are gaining prominence in sustainability science. The relational values concept broadened conceptions of values beyond instrumental and intrinsic values to encompass preferences and principles about human relationships that involve more-than-humans. The social values concept, an umbrella idea, captures a plurality of values related to society and the common good. After a general description of these two concepts as expressed in the Western peer-reviewed literature, the authors adopt the lens of relational values to engage with decades of scholarly work and millennia of wisdom based on Indigenous Hawaiian worldviews. They point out that relational values concept may be particularly well positioned to represent elements often important to indigenous worldviews – elements such as reciprocity, balance, and extension of “society” beyond human beings.

Editorial overview: Relational values: what are they, and what’s the fuss about?
Kai Chan, Rachelle Gould and Unai Pascual (2018) Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability
Relational values—as preferences, principles and virtues about human-nature relationships—have attracted a great deal of attention in recent years. The term has been used to include concepts and knowledge from a wide range of social sciences and humanities, e.g., importantly making space for qualitative approaches often neglected within environmental management and science.  In this article, the authors address these issues, partly by providing context about how the RV term originated and how it has evolved to date. They go on to note that because of their somewhat unique combination of groundedness and moral relevance, positive relational values may offer important opportunities for the evolution of values that may be necessary for transformative change towards sustainability. The hope of the special issue on RVs is that the collection of paper facilitates a broad and productive interdisciplinary exchange to create and refine a reflective but powerful tool for sustainability and justice.

Caring for nature matters: a relational approach for understanding nature’s contributions to human well-being
Kurt Jax et al. (2018) Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability
In this paper, the authors ask specifically, first, how can ‘care’ be conceptualized with respect to nature, second, how does caring for nature matter both to protecting nature and to people’s well-being, and third, what are the implications for research and practice? They describe the theoretical background, drawing especially from (eco)feminist philosophy, and explore its (mostly) implicit uses in the conservation literature. Based on this analysis they propose a preliminary framework of caring for nature and discuss its potential to enrich the spectrum of moral relations to/with nature, exploring both its consequences for environmental research and for the practice of conservation.

Why social values cannot be changed for the sake of conservation
Michael Manfredo et al. (2017) Conservation Biology
Values define and bind groups, organizations, and societies; serve an adaptive role; and are typically stable across generations. When abrupt value changes occur, they are in response to substantial alterations in the social–ecological context. Such changes build on prior value structures and do not result in complete replacement. Given this understanding of values, we conclude that deliberate efforts to orchestrate value shifts for conservation are unlikely to be effective. Instead, there is an urgent need for research on values with a multilevel and dynamic view that can inform innovative conservation strategies for working within existing value structures. New directions facilitated by a systems approach will enhance understanding of the role values play in shaping conservation challenges and improve management of the human component of conservation.

Making sense of environmental values: a typology of concepts
Marc Tadaki, Jim Sinner and Kai M. A. Chan (2017) Ecology and Society
The paper argues that all forms of valuation—even those that are technical tools—constitute technologies of participation, and that values practitioners should consider themselves more as reflexive facilitators than objective experts who represent the public interest. The authors thus encourage debate about environmental values to pivot away from theoretical gridlock and toward a concern with citizen empowerment and environmental democracy. They distill four fundamental concepts of value (and valuation) from across the literature. These four concepts—value as a magnitude of preference, value as contribution to a goal, values as individual priorities, and values as relations—entail fundamentally different approaches to environmental valuation. Two notions of values (as magnitudes of preference or contributions to a goal) are often operationalized in technical tools, including monetary valuation, in which experts tightly structure (and thus limit) citizen participation in decision-making.

Shared values and deliberative valuation: Future directions
Jasper Kenter et al. (2016) Ecosystem Services
Valuation that focuses only on individual values evades the substantial collective and intersubjective meanings, significance and value from ecosystems. Shared, plural and cultural values of ecosystems constitute a diffuse and interdisciplinary field of research, covering an area that links questions around value ontology, elicitation and aggregation with questions of participation, ethics, and social justice. This paper takes a particular focus on deliberation and deliberative valuation,  and in this context discusses key findings and present 35 future research questions in eight topic areas: 1) the ontology of shared values; 2) the role of catalyst and conflict points; 3) shared values and cultural ecosystem services; 4) transcendental values; 5) the process and outcomes of deliberation; 6) deliberative monetary valuation; 7) value aggregation, meta-values and ‘rules of the game’; and 8) integrating valuation methods. Another useful 2016 paper by  Jasper Kenter and colleagues is: The impact of information, value-deliberation and group-based decision-making on values for ecosystem services: Integrating deliberative monetary valuation and storytelling.

Ecosystem services and the idea of shared values
Katherine Irvine, Liz O’Brien, et al. (2016) Ecosystem Services
This paper considers current understanding of shared values and develops a new metanarrative of shared values beyond the aggregated utilities of individuals. This metanarrative seeks to conceptualise how values can be held both individually and communally, and what this means for identifying their scale and means of enumeration. The paper argues that shared values need to be conceived as normative constructs that are derived through social processes of value formation and expression. Shared values thus do not necessarily exist a priori; they can be deliberated through formal and informal processes through which individuals can separate their own preferences from a broader metanarrative about what values ought to be shared.

Quantifying relational values – why not?
Schulz, C and Martin-Ortega, J (2018) Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability
Relational values have recently emerged as a novel concept for research on human-environment relationships, seeking to understand ethical principles that may foster environmental stewardship,  coupled with a recognition of nature’s contributions to people. At present, most empirical research on relational values uses qualitative methods. Here we review some of the reasons that may have contributed to the lack of quantitative research, besides noting that a lot of existing quantitative empirical research on human-environment relationships already deals with relational values, even if it does not use that terminology. The authors suggest that incorporating quantitative approaches into the methodological toolkit of relational values research has a number of benefits and is also in the spirit of integrated valuation and value pluralism.

The study of human values in understanding and managing social-ecological systems
Jones, N., Shaw, H. Ross, K. Witt, and B. Pinner (2016) Society and Ecology
The study of cognition can provide key insights into the social dimension of coupled social-ecological systems. Values are a fundamental aspect of cognition, which have largely been neglected within the social-ecological systems literature. Values represent the deeply held, emotional aspects of people’s cognition and can complement the use of other cognitive constructs, such as knowledge and mental models, which have so far been better represented in this area of study. This paper provides a review of the different conceptualizations of values that are relevant to the study of human-environment interactions: held, assigned, and relational values. The authors discuss the important contribution values research can make toward understanding how social-ecological systems function and to improving the management of these systems in a practical sense.

Introducing Relational Values as a Tool for Shark Conservation, Science, and Management
Rachel Skubel, Meryl Shriver-Rice and Gina Maranto (2019) Frontiers in Marine Science
Relational values (RV) are values that arise from a relationship with nature, encompassing a sense of place, feelings of well-being (mental and physical health), and cultural, community, or personal identities. With sharks, such values are formed by diverse groups that interact with these animals and their ecosystems, either physically or virtually, whether a scientist, student, fisher, or media-viewer. Further, these user groups may overlap or come into conflict over management plans, media portrayals of sharks, and their conservation status. To this end, this review considers studies capturing RV alongside those of economic value (increasingly, the value of a shark is appraised by their financial value in shark tourism) and the social and cultural roles of sharks. The authors conclude that via collaborative assessments of RV, with implicit inclusion of multiple values of sharks and by acknowledging their importance to all parties involved in user conflicts, the RV framework can lead to a constructive dialog on polarizing conservation and management issues.

Other pages on this site point to resources for using dialogue and negotiationmodels to facilitate dialogue, managing conflict, and developing new networks to support dialogue  among new groupings. Other related concepts include systemic design, behaviour change frameworks and co-innovation platforms.