Using mental models to understand soil management

Katrin Prager* (Corresponding Author), Michiel Curfs

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)
17 Downloads (Pure)


Soil degradation continues to be a serious issue. This is partially due to the specific characteristics of soil and degradation, many of which are linked to how humans perceive their environment. How a person perceives soil degradation will influence how they interpret this phenomenon, what attitude they adopt towards it, and how they will ultimately decide to act. Mental models are understood as constructed by the human mind as a result of perception, experience, attitudes and knowledge, and the comprehension of discourse. Applying the concept of mental models allows an understanding of land manager decision-making with regard to soil management, linking perceptions, attitudes and beliefs with behaviour. We show how mental models can help identify consistencies and differences of perceptions of different soil-related stakeholders, such as farmers, scientists, administrators, advisors and policy makers. In a practical test of the concept, a diagram-based representation of mental models was applied in south-western Spain. We found that the occurrences of overlap in the mental model of soil-related stakeholders are the areas where communication should focus. It is in these areas where strategies to address the problem of soil degradation can be developed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-44
Number of pages9
JournalSoil Use & Management
Issue number1
Early online date13 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2016

Bibliographical note

Funded by: LEDDRA. Grant Number: 243857 and Scottish Government's RESAS. Grant Number: 2011‐16


  • cognitive maps
  • mindset
  • mentality
  • behaviour change
  • technology adoption


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