A more dynamic understanding of human behaviour for the Anthropocene


Human behaviour is of profound significance in shaping pathways towards sustainability. Yet, the approach to understanding human behaviour in many fields remains reliant on overly simplistic models. For a better understanding of the interface between human behaviour and sustainability, we take work in behavioural economics and cognitive psychology as a starting point, but argue for an expansion of this work by adopting a more dynamic and systemic understanding of human behaviour, that is, as part of complex adaptive systems. A complex adaptive systems approach allows us to capture behaviour as ‘enculturated’ and ‘enearthed’, co-evolving with socio–cultural and biophysical contexts. Connecting human behaviour and context through a complex adaptive systems lens is critical to inform environmental governance and management for sustainability, and ultimately to better understand the dynamics of the Anthropocene itself.


Theme affiliation: Interacting complexities
Publication info: Schill, C., J. M. Anderies, T. Lindahl, C. Folke, S. Polasky, J. C. Cárdenas, A.-S. Crépin, M. A. Janssen, J. Norberg, and M. Schlüter. 2019. A more dynamic understanding of human behaviour for the Anthropocene. Nature Sustainability 2:1075–1082.


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