Are social identity and cognitive diversity correlated among environmental actors? A new approach to measure cognitive distance within and between groups

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PLoS One. 2021 November 4; 16 (11): e0244907. doi: 10.1371 / journal.pone.0244907. Electronic collection 2021.


Groups with greater cognitive diversity – that is, variations in the way people think and solve problems – are believed to help improve performance in solving complex problems. However, embracing or even designing adequate cognitive diversity is not straightforward and can even compromise social inclusion. In response, those who want to promote cognitive diversity might make the simplified hypothesis that there is a link between identity diversity, i.e. the range of social characteristics, and variations in the way people perceive and solve problems. If this assumption is true, the incorporation of diverse identities can simultaneously achieve cognitive diversity to the extent essential to solving complex problems, while social inclusion is explicitly recognized. However, there is currently a lack of empirical evidence to support this hypothesis in the context of complex socio-ecological systems – a system in which human and environmental dimensions are interdependent, where common resources are used or managed by multiple types of parties. stakeholders. Using a fishing example, we examine the relationship between the identities of resource actors and their cognitive diversity. We used cognitive mapping techniques in conjunction with network analysis to measure cognitive distances within and between stakeholders of various social types (i.e. identities). Our results empirically show that groups with greater identity diversity also demonstrate greater cognitive diversity, as evidenced by the disparate characteristics of their cognitive maps that represent their understanding of fishing dynamics. These findings have important implications for the sustainable management of common resources, where the inclusion of diverse stakeholders is routine, while our study shows that it can also achieve higher cognitive coverage which can potentially lead to a more comprehensive understanding. , precise and innovative complex resources. dynamic.

PMID: 34735453 | DOI: 10.1371 / journal.pone.0244907

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