Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Tacit working models of human behavioural change I: Implementation of conservation projects


The “human dimension” of conservation is increasingly recognised as critical for success. Most conservation research involving people is based not on explicit “theories of change”, but tacit local knowledge or folk theories guiding programme design.In this study, I propose a schematization of the local socioecological knowledge and folk theories about the “human dimension” of conservation into tacit working models, comprised of individual factors and systemic factors influencing human behaviour in conservation contexts. These are called the Persuasion, Normative, Involvement and Uniformity tacit working models. I review a set of conservation interventions and programmes, in order to assess which of the implicit working models inform their design. I argue that in order to better understand how a project may arrive at different outcomes, the underlying assumptions about human behaviour and the implicit “theory of change” that went into programme design need to be made explicit. This schema does not evaluate different approaches to conservation, but it can help point out the underlying assumptions that structure interventions and that may be more or less suited to particular situations. This can allow researchers to recognise their own assumptions and test them explicitly, leading to the formulation of more reflective and explicit theories, and improving the quality of both discourse and practice in conservation.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2


  1. Adams, W.M., and J. Hutton. 2007. People, parks and poverty: Political ecology and biodiversity conservation. Conservation and Society 5: 147–183.

  2. Agrawal, B. 2009. Gender and forest conservation: The impact of women’s participation in community forest governance. Ecological Economics 68: 2785–2799.

  3. Auld, G., L.H. Gulbrandsen, and C.L. McDermott. 2008. Certification schemes and the impacts on forests and forestry. Annual Review of Environment and Resources 33: 187–211.

  4. Ballantyne, R., J. Packer, K. Hughes, and L. Dierking. 2007. Conservation learning in wildlife tourism settings: Lessons from research in zoos and aquariums. Environmental Education Research 13: 367–383.

  5. Ballantyne, R., J. Packer, and J. Falk. 2011. Visitors’ learning for environmental sustainability: Testing short-and long-term impacts of wildlife tourism experiences using structural equation modelling. Tourism Management 32: 1243–1252.

  6. Balmford, A., L. Cole, C. Sandbrook, and B. Fisher. 2017. The environmental footprints of conservationists, economists and medics compared. Biological Conservation 214: 260–269.

  7. Barca, B., A. Lindon, and M. Root-Bernstein. 2016. Environmentalism in the crosshairs: Perspectives on migratory bird hunting and poaching conflicts in Italy. Global Ecology and Conservation 6: 189–207.

  8. Barrow, E., and M. Murphree. 2001. Community conservation: From concept to practice. In African wildlife and livelihoods: The promise and performance of community conservation, ed. E. Barrow, P. Bergen, M. Infield, and P. Lembuya, 24–37. Nairobi: African Wildlife Foundation.

  9. Barua, M., M. Root-Bernstein, R. Ladle, and P. Jepson. 2011. Defining flagship uses is critical for flagship selection: A critique of the IUCN climate change flagship fleet. Ambio 40: 431–434.

  10. Baumeister, R.F., and J. Tierney. 2011. Willpower: Rediscovering the greatest human strength. New York: The Penguin Press.

  11. Baynham-Herd, Z., S. Redpath, N. Bunnefeld, T. Molony, and A. Keane. 2018. Conservation conflicts: Behavioural threats, frames, and intervention recommendations. Biological Conservation 222: 180–188.

  12. Berkes, F. 2004. Rethinking community-based conservation. Conservation Biology 18: 621–630.

  13. Bixler, R.P., J. Dell’Angelo, O. Mfune, and H. Roba. 2015. The political ecology of participatory conservation: Institutions and discourse. Journal of Political Ecology 22: 165–182.

  14. Blackman, A., and J.E. Rivera. 2010. The evidence base for environmental and socioeconomic impacts of ‘sustainable’ certification. Discussion paper. Washington, DC: Resources for the Future.

  15. Börner, J., K. Baylis, E. Corbera, D. Ezzine-de-Blas, J. Honey-Rosés, U.M. Persson, and S. Wunder. 2017. The effectiveness of payments for environmental services. World Development 96: 359–374.

  16. Brockington, D. 2001. Women’s income and the livelihood strategies of dispossessed pastoralists near the Mkomazi Game Reserve, Tanzania. Human Ecology 29: 307–338.

  17. Brockington, D. 2004. Community conservation, inequality and injustice: Myths of power in protected area management. Conservation and Society 2: 411.

  18. Broman Toft, M., G. Schuitema, and J. Thøgersen. 2014. The importance of framing for consumer acceptance of the Smart Grid: A comparative study of Denmark, Norway and Switzerland. Energy Resources Society and Science 3: 113–123.

  19. Brooks, J.S., and K.A. Waylen. 2012. How national context, project design, and local community characteristics influence success in community-based conservation projects. Proceedings of the National academy of Sciences of the United States of America 109: 21265–21270.

  20. Brown, K. 2003. Three challenges for a real people-centred conservation. Global Ecology and Biogeography 12: 89–92.

  21. Bruner, A.G., R.E. Gullison, R.E. Rice, and G.A. Da Fonseca. 2001. Effectiveness of parks in protecting tropical biodiversity. Science 291: 125–128.

  22. Buckwell, A. 1997. Rural Europe: A policy overview. Built Environment 23: 170–183.

  23. Burivalova, Z., F. Hua, L.P. Koh, C. Garcia, and F. Putz. 2017. A critical comparison of conventional, certified, and community management of tropical forests for timber in terms of environmental, economic, and social variables. Conservation Letters 10: 4–14.

  24. Burton, R.J., C. Kuczera, and G. Schwarz. 2008. Exploring farmers’ cultural resistance to voluntary agri-environmental schemes. Sociologia Ruralis 48: 16–37.

  25. Burton, R.J., and G. Schwarz. 2013. Result-oriented agri-environmental schemes in Europe and their potential for promoting behavioural change. Land Use Policy 30: 628–641.

  26. Campbell, L.M., and A. Vainio-Mattila. 2003. Participatory development and community-based conservation: Opportunities missed for lessons learned? Human Ecology 31: 417–437.

  27. Chan, K.M., E. Anderson, M. Chapman, K. Jespersen, and P. Olmsted. 2017. Payments for ecosystem services: Rife with problems and potential—For transformation towards sustainability. Ecological Economics 140: 110–122.

  28. Chan, K.M.A., P. Balvanera, K. Benessaiah, M. Chapman, S. Díaz, E. Gómez-Baggethun, R. Gould, N. Hannahs, et al. 2016. Why protect nature? Rethinking values and the environment. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 113: 1462–1465.

  29. Clark, J.R.A., A. Jones, C.A. Potter, and M. Lobley. 1997. Conceptualising the evolution of the European Union’s agri-environment policy: A discourse approach. Environment and Planning A 29: 1869–1885.

  30. Clements, C.F. 2013. Public interest in the extinction of a species may lead to an increase in donations to a large conservation charity. Biodiversity and Conservation 22: 2695–2699.

  31. Daniels, A.E., K. Bagstad, V. Esposito, A. Moulaert, and C.M. Rodriguez. 2010. Understanding the impacts of Costa Rica’s PES: Are we asking the right questions? Ecological Economics 69: 2116–2126.

  32. De Snoo, G.R., I. Herzon, H. Staats, R.J. Burton, S. Schindler, J. van Dijk, A.M. Lokhorst, J.M. Bullock, et al. 2013. Toward effective nature conservation on farmland: Making farmers matter. Conservation Letters 6: 66–72.

  33. De Young, R. 1993. Changing behavior and making it stick: The conceptualization and management of conservation behavior. Environment and Behavior 25: 485–505.

  34. Deci, E.L., R. Koestner, and R.M. Ryan. 1999. A meta-analytic review of experiments examining the effects of extrinsic rewards on intrinsic motivation. Psychological Bulletin 125: 627–668.

  35. Defrancesco, E., P. Gatto, F. Runge, and S. Trestini. 2008. Factors affecting farmers’ participation in agri-environmental measures: A northern Italian perspective. Journal of Agricultural Economics 59: 114–131.

  36. Di Giminiani, P., and M. Fonck. 2018. Emerging landscapes of private conservation: Enclosure and mediation in southern Chilean protected areas. Geoforum 97: 305–314.

  37. Douglas, L.R., and D. Veríssimo. 2013. Flagships or battleships: Deconstructing the relationship between social conflict and conservation flagship species. Environment and Society 4: 98–116.

  38. Dudley, N. (ed.). 2008. Guidelines for applying protected area management categories. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN.

  39. Duffy, R., F.A. St John, B. Büscher, and D. Brockington. 2015. The militarization of anti-poaching: Undermining long term goals? Environmental Conservation 42: 345–348.

  40. Duflo, E., M. Kremer, and J. Robinson. 2011. Nudging farmers to use fertilizer: Theory and experimental evidence from Kenya. American Economics Review 101: 2350–2390.

  41. Ekroos, J., J. Heliölä, and M. Kuussaari. 2010. Homogenization of lepidopteran communities in intensively cultivated agricultural landscapes. Journal of Applied Ecology 47: 459–467.

  42. Engel, S., S. Pagiola, and S. Wunder. 2008. Designing payments for environmental services in theory and practice: An overview of the issues. Ecological Economics 65: 663–674.

  43. Evely, A.C., M. Pinard, M.S. Reed, and I. Fazey. 2011. High levels of participation in conservation projects enhance learning. Conservation Letters 4: 116–126.

  44. Farley, J., A. Aquino, A. Daniels, A. Moulaert, D. Lee, and A. Krause. 2010. Global mechanisms for sustaining and enhancing PES schemes. Ecological Economics 69: 2075–2084.

  45. Fischer, A., V. Kerezi, B. Arroyo, M. Mateos-Delibes, D. Tadie, A. Lowassa, O. Krange, and K. Skogen. 2013. (De)legitimising hunting—Discourses over the morality of hunting in Europe and eastern Africa. Land Use Policy 32: 261–270.

  46. Fletcher, R. 2018. License to kill: Contesting the legitimacy of green violence. Conservation and Society 16: 147–156.

  47. Galvin, K., T. Beeton, and M. Luizza. 2018. African community-based conservation: A systematic review of social and ecological outcomes. Ecology and Society 23: 588–597.

  48. Gibbons, J.M., E. Nicholson, E.J. Milner-Gulland, and J.P. Jones. 2011. Should payments for biodiversity conservation be based on action or results? Journal of Applied Ecology 48: 1218–1226.

  49. Giovannucci, D., and S. Ponte. 2005. Standards as a new form of social contract? Sustainability initiatives in the coffee industry. Food Policy 30: 284–301.

  50. Gómez-Baggethun, E., R. De Groot, P.L. Lomas, and C. Montes. 2010. The history of ecosystem services in economic theory and practice: From early notions to markets and payment schemes. Ecological Economics 69: 1209–1218.

  51. Gregory, G.D., and M.D. Leo. 2003. Repeated behavior and environmental psychology: The role of personal involvement and habit formation in explaining water consumption. Journal of Applied Social Psychology 33: 1261–1296.

  52. Guthman, J. 2007. The Polanyian way? Voluntary food labels as neoliberal governance. Antipode 39: 456–478.

  53. Hackel, J.D. 1999. Community conservation and the future of Africa’s wildlife. Conservation Biology 13: 726–734.

  54. Hainmueller, J., M.J. Hiscox, and S. Sequeira. 2015. Consumer demand for fair trade: Evidence from a multistore field experiment. Review of Economics and Statistics 97: 242–256.

  55. Ham, S.H., D.S. Sutherland, and R.A. Meganck. 1993. Applying environmental interpretation in protected areas of developing countries: problems in exporting a US model. Environmental Conservation 20: 232–242.

  56. Harrison, C., and G. Davies. 2002. Conserving biodiversity that matters: Practitioners’ perspectives on brownfield development and urban nature conservation in London. Journal of Environmental Management 65: 95–108.

  57. Hasund, K.P. 2013. Indicator-based agri-environmental payments: A payment-by-result model for public goods with a Swedish application. Land Use Policy 30: 223–233.

  58. Hayes, T.M. 2006. Parks, people, and forest protection: An institutional assessment of the effectiveness of protected areas. World Development 34: 2064–2075.

  59. Hazzah, L., S. Dolrenry, L. Naughton, C.T. Edwards, O. Mwebi, F. Kearney, and L. Frank. 2014. Efficacy of two lion conservation programs in Maasailand, Kenya. Conservation Biology 28: 851–860.

  60. Heberlein, T.A. 2012. Navigating environmental attitudes. Conservation Biology 26: 583–585.

  61. Heinich, N. 2017. Des valeurs. Une approche sociologique. Paris: Editions Gallimard.

  62. Herzon, I., and M. Mikk. 2007. Farmers’ perceptions of biodiversity and their willingness to enhance it through agri-environment schemes: A comparative study from Estonia and Finland. Journal for Nature Conservation 15: 10–25.

  63. Heyman, J.Mc.C. 1995. Putting power in the anthropology of bureaucracy: The immigration and naturalization service at the Mexico-United States border. Current Anthropology 36: 261–287.

  64. Hoag, C. 2011. Assembling partial perspectives: Thoughts on the anthropology of bureaucracy. PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review 34: 81–94.

  65. Hoag, C. 2014. Dereliction at the South African Department of Home Affairs: Time for the anthropology of bureaucracy. Critique of Anthropology 34: 410–428.

  66. Hodge, I. 2013. Agri-environment policy in an era of lower government expenditure: CAP reform and conservation payments. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management 56: 254–270.

  67. Hvenegaard, G.T., E.A. Halpenny, and S.F. McCool. 2012. Protected area tourism and the Aichi Targets. Parks 18: 6.

  68. Infield, M., and A. Namara. 2001. Community attitudes and behaviour towards conservation: an assessment of a community conservation programme around Lake Mburo National Park, Uganda. Oryx 35: 48–60.

  69. Jager, E., and E.A. Halpenny. 2012. Supporting the CBD AICHI biodiversity conservation targets through park tourism: A case study of Parks Canada’s visitor experience programme. Parks 18: 78–91.

  70. Jepson, P., and S. Canney. 2003. Values led conservation. Global Ecology and Biogeography 12: 271–274.

  71. Johnson-Laird, P.N., and K. Oatley. 1992. Basic emotions, rationality, and folk theory. Cognition and Emotion 6: 201–223.

  72. Jongman, R.H. 2002. Homogenisation and fragmentation of the European landscape: Ecological consequences and solutions. Landscape and Urban Planning 58: 211–221.

  73. Kahneman, D., and A. Tversky (eds.). 2000. Choices, values, frames. Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press.

  74. Kashima, Y., P. Bain, N. Haslam, K. Peters, S. Laham, J. Whelan, B. Bastian, S. Loughnan, L. Kaufmann, and J. Fernando. 2009. Folk theory of social change. Asian Journal of Social Psychology 12: 227–246.

  75. Kollmuss, A., and J. Agyeman. 2002. Mind the gap: Why do people act environmentally and what are the barriers to pro-environmental behavior? Environmental Education Research 8: 239–260.

  76. Kremer M., A. Ahuja, and A.P. Peterson-Zwane. 2010. Providing safe water: Evidence from randomized evaluations. Discussion paper, 10–23. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Environmental Economics Program.

  77. Lele, S., P. Wilshusen, D. Brockington, R. Seidler, and K. Bawa. 2010. Beyond exclusion: Alternative approaches to biodiversity conservation in the developing tropics. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 2: 94–100.

  78. Lindon, A., and M. Root-Bernstein. 2015. Pheonix flagships: Conservation values and guanaco reintroduction in an anthropogenic landscape. Ambio 44: 458–471.

  79. Lorimer, J. 2007. Nonhuman charisma. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 25: 911–932.

  80. Lorimer, J., and C. Driessen. 2014. Wild experiments at the Oostvaardersplassen: Rethinking environmentalism in the Anthropocene. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 39: 169–181.

  81. Ma, S., S.M. Swinton, F. Lupi, and C. Jolejole-Foreman. 2012. Farmers’ willingness to participate in payment for environmental services programmes. Journal of Agricultural Economics 63: 604–626.

  82. Mace, G.M. 2014. Whose conservation? Changes in the perception and goals of nature conservation require a solid scientific basis. Science 345: 1558–1560.

  83. Margulies, J.D. 2018. The conservation ideological state apparatus. Conservation and Society 16: 181–192.

  84. Mathews, A.S. 2008. State making, knowledge, and ignorance: Translation and concealment in Mexican forestry institutions. American Anthropologist 110: 484–494.

  85. Moon, K., and D. Blackman. 2014. A guide to understanding social science research for natural scientists. Conservation Biology 28: 1167–1177.

  86. Morris, C. 2004. Networks of agri-environmental policy implementatio: A case of England’s Countryside Stewardship Scheme. Land Use Policy 21: 177–191.

  87. Mosse, D. 2004. Is good policy unimplementable? Reflections on the ethnography of aid policy and practice. Development and Change 35: 639–671.

  88. Munro, J.K., A. Morrison-Saunders, and M. Hughes. 2008. Environmental interpretation evaluation in natural areas. Journal of Ecotourism 7: 1–14.

  89. Nazarea, V.D. 2006. Local knowledge and memory in biodiversity conservation. Annual Review of Anthropology 35: 317–335.

  90. Nelson, F., and A. Agrawal. 2008. Patronage or participation? Community-based natural resource management reform in sub-Saharan Africa. Development and Change 39: 557–585.

  91. Ochoa-Ochoa, L., J.N. Urbina-Cardona, B. Vázquez, O. Flores-Villela, and J. Bezaury-Creel. 2009. The effects of governmental protected areas and social initiatives for land protection on the conservation of Mexican amphibians. PLoS ONE 4: e6878.

  92. Opdam, P., J.I. Nassauer, Z. Wang, C. Albert, G. Bentrup, C.J. Castella, C. McAlpine, J. Liu, et al. 2013. Science for action at the local landscape scale. Landscape Ecology 28: 1439–1445.

  93. Paulson, S., L.L. Gezon, and M. Watts. 2003. Locating the political in political ecology: An introduction. Journal of Political Ecology 62: 205–217.

  94. Peluso, N.L. 1993. Coercing conservation: The politics of state resource control. Global Environmental Change 3: 199–218.

  95. Ribot, J.C., J.F. Lund, and T. Treue. 2010. Democratic decentralization in sub-Saharan Africa: Its contribution to forest management, livelihoods, and enfranchisement. Environmental Conservation 37: 35–44.

  96. Rocheleau, D.E. 2008. Political ecology in the key of policy: From chains of explaination to webs of relation. Geoforum 39: 716–727.

  97. Rodrigues, A.S., S.J. Andelman, M.I. Bakarr, L. Boitani, T.M. Brooks, R.M. Cowling, L.D. Fishpool, G.A. da Fonseca, et al. 2004. Effectiveness of the global protected area network in representing species diversity. Nature 428: 640.

  98. Roe, D., F. Booker, M. Day, W. Zhou, S. Allebone-Webb, N.A. Hill, N. Kumpel, and G. Petrokofsky. 2015. Are alternative livelihood projects effective at reducing local threats to specified elements of biodiversity and/or improving or maintaining the conservation status of those elements? Environmental Evidence 4: 22.

  99. Rogers, P. 2014. Theory of change, methodological briefs: impact evaluation 2. Florence: UNICEF Office of Research.

  100. Romero, C., E.O. Sills, M.R. Guariguata, P.O. Cerutti, G. Lescuyer, and F.E. Putz. 2017. Evaluation of the impacts of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification of natural forest management in the tropics: a rigorous approach to assessment of a complex conservation intervention. International Forestry Review 19: 1.

  101. Root-Bernstein, M. 2014. Nostalgia, the fleeting and the rare in Chilean relationships to nature and non human animals. Society & Animals 22: 560–579.

  102. Root-Bernstein, M., and J. Armesto. 2013. Selection and implementation of a flagship fleet in a locally undervalued region of high endemicity. Ambio 42: 776–787.

  103. Root-Bernstein, M., A. Bondoux, M. Guerrero-Gatica, and F. Zorondo-Rodriguez. 2020. Tacit working models of human behavioural change II: Farmers’ folk theories of conservation programme design. Ambio.

  104. Root-Bernstein, M., J. Gooden, and A. Boyes. 2018. Rewilding in practice and in policy. Geoforum 97: 292–304.

  105. Root-Bernstein, M., M. Root-Bernstein, and R. Root-Bernstein. 2014. Tools for thinking applied to nature provide an inclusive pedagogical framework for environmental education. Oryx 48: 584–592.

  106. Ruiz-Mallén, I., C. Schunko, E. Corbera, M. Rös, and V. Reyes-García. 2015. Meanings, drivers, and motivations for community-based conservation in Latin America. Ecology and Society 20: 393–406.

  107. Russell, C.S. 2004. Environmental labeling and consumers’ choice—An empirical analysis of the effect of the Nordic Swan. Journal of Environmental Economics and Management 47: 411–434.

  108. Saito-Jensen, M., I. Nathan, and T. Treue. 2010. Beyond elite capture? Community-based natural resource management and power in Mohammed Nagar village, Andhra Pradesh, India. Environmental Conservation 37: 327–335.

  109. Schomers, S., and B. Matzdorf. 2013. Payments for ecosystem services: A review and comparison of developing and industrialized countries. Ecosystem Services 6: 16–30.

  110. Schultz, P.W. 2011. Conservation means behavior. Conservation Biology 25: 1080–1083.

  111. Schwanen, T., D. Banister, and J. Anable. 2012. Rethinking habits and their role in behaviour change: The case of low-carbon mobility. Journal of Transport Geography 24: 522–532.

  112. Sheng, J., and H. Qiu. 2018. Governmentality within REDD + : Optimizing incentives and efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation. Land Use Policy 76: 611–622.

  113. Siebert, R., M. Toogood, and A. Knierim. 2006. Factors affecting European farmers’ participation in biodiversity policies. Sociologia Ruralis 46: 318–340.

  114. Slocum, R. 2004. Polar bears and energy-efficient lightbulbs: Strategies to bring climate change home. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 22: 413–438.

  115. Svarstad, H., T.A. Benjaminsen, and R. Overå. 2018. Power theories in political ecology. Journal of Political Ecology 25: 350–425.

  116. Tallis, H., J. Lubchenko, et al. 2014. A call for inclusive conservation. Nature 515: 27–28.

  117. Telesca, J.E. 2015. Consensus for whom? Gaming the market for Atlantic Bluefin Tuna through the empire of bureaucracy. The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology 33: 49–64.

  118. Thaler, R., and C. Sustein. 2008. Nudge: Improving decisions about health, wealth and happiness. London: Yale University Press.

  119. Titz, A., T. Cannon, and F. Krüger. 2018. Uncovering ‘community’: Challenging an elusive concept in development and disaster related work. Societies 8: 71.

  120. Tree, I. 2018. Wilding. London: Picador Books.

  121. Vaccaro, I., O. Beltran, and P.E. Paquet. 2013. Political ecology and conservation policies: Some theoretical genealogies. Journal of Political Ecology 20: 255–272.

  122. Van Loo, E.J., V. Caputo, R.M. Nayga, H.S. Seo, B. Zhang, and W. Verbeke. 2015. Sustainability labels on coffee: Consumer preferences, willingness-to-pay and visual attention to attributes. Ecological Economics 118: 215–225.

  123. Vellend, M., K. Verheyen, K.M. Flinn, H. Jacquemyn, A. Kolb, H. Van Calster, G. Peterken, B.J. Graae, et al. 2007. Homogenization of forest plant communities and weakening of species–environment relationships via agricultural land use. Journal of Ecology 95: 565–573.

  124. Veríssimo, D., H.A. Campbell, S. Tollington, D.C. MacMillan, and R.J. Smith. 2018. Why do people donate to conservation? Insights from a ‘real world’ campaign. PLoS ONE 13: e0191888.

  125. Veríssimo, D., G. Vaughan, M. Ridout, C. Waterman, D. MacMillan, and R.J. Smith. 2017. Increased conservation marketing effort has major fundraising benefits for even the least popular species. Biological Conservation 211: 95–101.

  126. Vermeulen, S., and D. Sheil. 2007. Partnerships for tropical conservation. Oryx 41: 434–440.

  127. Verplanken, B., I. Walker, A. Davis, and M. Jurasek. 2008. Context change and travel mode choice: Combining the habit discontinuity and self-activation hypotheses. Journal of Environmental Psychology 28: 121–127.

  128. Vlaeminck, P., T. Jiang, and L. Vranken. 2014. Food labeling and eco-friendly consumption: Experimental evidence from a Belgian supermarket. Ecological Economics 108: 180–190.

  129. Waage, E.R., and K. Benediktsson. 2010. Performing expertise: Landscape, governmentality and conservation planning in Iceland. Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning 12: 1–22.

  130. Wallen, K.E., and E. Daut. 2018. The challenge and opportunity of behaviour change methods and frameworks to reduce demand for illegal wildlife. Nature Conservation 26: 55.

  131. Watson, R.T. 2005. Turning science into policy: Challenges and experiences from the science-policy interface. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences 360: 471–477.

  132. Wells, N.M., and K.S. Lekies. 2006. Nature and the life course: Pathways from childhood nature experiences to adult environmentalism. Children, Youth and Environments 16: 1–24.

  133. Western, D., and R.M. Wright. 1994. Natural connections: Perspectives in community-based conservation. Washington, DC: Island.

  134. Wilson, T.A. 2011. Redirect: The surprising new science of psychological change. New York: Little, Brown and Company.

  135. Wilson, E.O. 2016. Half-earth: Our planet’s fight for life. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

  136. Wright, A.J., D. Veríssimo, K. Pilfold, E.C.M. Parsons, K. Ventre, J. Cousins, R. Jefferson, and H. Koldewey. 2015. Competitive outreach in the 21st century: Why we need conservation marketing. Ocean and Coastal Management 115: 41–48.

  137. Wunder, S. 2007. The efficiency of payments for environmental services in tropical conservation. Conservation Biology 21: 48–58.

  138. Yasué, M., A. Nellas, and A.C.J. Vincent. 2012. Seahorses helped drive creation of marine protected areas, so what did these protected areas do for the seahorses? Environmental Conservation 39: 183–193.

Download references


Countless people have listened to me try to express versions of these ideas over several years, and their feedback has been helpful in refining my argument; particular thanks go to Anne-Caroline Prevot for her supportiveness and Colin Hoag for an introduction to anthropology of bureaucracy. I acknowledge funding from a Marie Curie FP7 COFUND Agreenskills Plus Fellowship, and support from the Center of Applied Ecology and Sustainability (CONICYT PIA/BASAL FB0002) during the preparation of the manuscript.

Author information

Correspondence to Meredith Root-Bernstein.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Root-Bernstein, M. Tacit working models of human behavioural change I: Implementation of conservation projects. Ambio (2020).

Download citation


  • Conservation
  • Folk theories
  • Human behaviour
  • Human dimension
  • Tacit knowledge
  • Theory of change