Journal Article

Mental models, communication, and engagement in marine projects

Fabio Boschetti and Matthew Andreotta

in ICES Journal of Marine Science

Volume 74, issue 7, pages 2034-2039
Published in print October 2017 | ISSN: 1054-3139
Published online January 2017 | e-ISSN: 1095-9289 | DOI:
Mental models, communication, and engagement in marine projects

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  • Environmental Science
  • Marine and Estuarine Biology


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In a hypothetical decision-making situation in which a unique truth exists and each party’s aim in acquiring knowledge is to approach the truth, argumentation would be unnecessary because the best scientific theory would win the argument. Likewise, if truth is irrelevant and a perfect persuasion method is available, argumentation would also be pointless, because arguing parties, each possessing the perfect recipe, would lead a third party to switch sides endlessly. In the real world, argumentation matters because a unique truth rarely exists, information can be uncertain or vague, aims are often ambiguous if not contradictory, and acquiring knowledge can have other purposes besides approaching the truth. Marine scientists are increasingly expected to contribute to complex decision-making by providing not only scientific evidence, but also impact in the form of effective communication and persuasion. Here we review insights from different disciplines on how humans organise knowledge, beliefs, opinions, assumptions and worldviews, how these interrelate and how they affect decision-making as well as the reception of information. By focussing on the theory of mental models and the Causal Layered Analysis we also show how the structure underlying the organisation of scientific and non-scientific knowledge can be reduced to a fairly common framework. We conclude by reviewing some tools a marine scientist can employ in a stakeholder engagement process in order to better understand the audience to which scientific information needs to be delivered.

Journal Article.  5531 words. 

Subjects: Environmental Science ; Marine and Estuarine Biology

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