Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Bias in Natural Resource Management

Natural resource managers must acknowledge the presence of bias and make a conscious effort to minimise its influence in their decisions.

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People in all walks of life – from town planners to judges and financial regulators – are subject to bias in their perceptions and judgements. This applies to environmental managers too. We recently explored the influence of bias in natural resource management and found that we may be able to improve our performance if we recognise these influences and work to reduce them.

Decision-makers do not always perceive things accurately. It has been shown that, in making judgments dealing with uncertainty, decision-makers are susceptible to different types of biases – beliefs that are inconsistent with reality or behaviours that compromise the achievement of objectives.

There is some research demonstrating a range of biases that influence people, but this has received little attention in the conservation literature. We set out to explore the consequences of these biases on natural resource management in general and adaptive management in particular.

Based on our survey of the economics and psychology literature, we explored the impacts of action bias, the planning fallacy, reliance on limited information, limited reliance on systematic learning, framing effect and reference-point bias. Each bias can have an adverse impact on our capacity to undertake effective adaptive natural resource management.

For example, the planning fallacy is the tendency of...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.