Panel Paper: The Effect of Organizational Affiliation On Learning As Policy Belief Change and Belief Reinforcement

Saturday, November 9, 2013 : 4:10 PM
Plaza II (Ritz Carlton)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Andrew Pattison, California Lutheran University
Conflicts in environmental policy processes often involve a diversity of individual beliefs regarding issues such as the role of ecosystem protection, economic development, and social-equity issues. Moving towards sustainability demands that scientific and technical data be examined and weighed along with the values we hold as a society regarding environmental, economic, and social issues, and that we learn and adapt in ways that can respond to changes in all of these factors. Thus, if we are to work towards sustainable and adaptive management of social-ecological systems and respond to changes in biophysical and socio-cultural factors overtime, we must understand the influences that shape learning, including both belief change and belief reinforcement, in policy actors. The complexity of scientific and technical information, and uncertainty regarding problem definition and policy alternatives, are two categories of constraints that shape how individuals involved in policy processes will learn from newly acquired information (Mazur, 1981). But beliefs may change or be reinforced based on other constraints, for example limited cognitive abilities, perceptual filters, or existing belief structures (Simon, 1985). Other constraining factors may result from organizational affiliation and from politics between ally and opponent coalitions that advocate different policy goals (Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith 1993, 1999). Policy responses to environmental problems such as climate change will require collective action and cooperation across the public, private, and non-profit sector and society more broadly, and this will involve deliberation among and between various stakeholder groups and coalitions that may have much to learn from each other. Building on previous application of the Advocacy Coalition Framework (ACF) we hypothesize that: 1) Policy actors will report belief change, as opposed to belief reinforcement, more so in secondary belief levels and less so in policy core beliefs, 2) Policy actors from ideological  / purposive groups will report more extreme beliefs than policy actors from material groups, 3) Policy actors from ideological / purposive groups, and policy actors from material groups, will report more extreme beliefs than policy actors from administrative / government agencies, and lastly 5) Individuals with more extreme beliefs will report more belief reinforcement than individuals with less extreme beliefs. This study will use the ACF and data from an original survey of 272 policy actors in the climate and energy policy subsystem of Colorado to examine organizational and coalition affiliation factors that affect learning, including both belief change and belief reinforcement as dimensions of learning.