Understanding stakeholder risk perceptions in fire-adapted communities using Fuzzy Cognitive Maps
In collaboration with social scientists (Drs. Antonie Jetter at Portland State University and Steven Gray at Michigan State University), we are working on a Joint Fire Science Social Science Initiative Project to improve fire adaptation at the community level by: i) understanding the degree of agreement of community members’ perceptions about wildfire risks; ii) assessing how any differences in understanding influence the community’s support for wildfire management practices; and iii) determining local policy options for fire adaptation that incorporate these differences in stakeholder perceptions. To achieve these goals, this research builds on recent work in social science that highlights the importance of understanding and measuring ‘mental models’ of stakeholder groups. Mental models are simplified representations of reality that allow humans to make decisions without being overcome by the complexity of the real world. Mental models can be elicited from stakeholders, documented, and mathematically modeled through a novel cognitive mapping method called Fuzzy Cognitive Mapping (FCM). In this application of FCM, we are using the Ashland, Oregon area as a model of a forest fire prone community, and will elucidate insights into community level risk perception and resultant acceptance of forest fire management policies.