Understanding Environmental Cognition

Adam Douglas Henry, Thomas Dietz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Many research questions in environmental policy lead us to questions of environmental cognition-how do individuals structure their thinking about environmental issues, how are these cognitions learned, and how do they influence behaviors? Although these processes tend to be understudied and undertheorized, at least two theoretical perspectives are useful for illuminating different aspects of environmental cognition. The Advocacy Coalition Framework (ACF) was developed in the political science literature to explain major policy change in technically complex issue areas, and the Values-Beliefs-Norms (VBN) theory was developed in the social psychology literature to explain environmental activism among the lay public. Unfortunately, these literatures rarely communicate with one another. This article shows how integrating key aspects of the ACF and VBN can moves us toward a more robust theory to guide future empirical work on cognition, learning, and behavior in the context of environmental issues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)238-258
Number of pages21
JournalOrganization and Environment
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2012


  • advocacy coalition framework
  • belief systems
  • cognition
  • environmental policy
  • values
  • values-beliefs-norms theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


Dive into the research topics of 'Understanding Environmental Cognition'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this