Cognitive Mapping as Participatory Engagement in Social Science Research on Sustainability

  • Meaghan L. Guckian
  • Erin Miller Hamilton
  • Raymond De Young
Part of the World Sustainability Series book series (WSUSE)


What does it mean to be a green citizen? To date, discussion of green citizenship has been heavily rooted in theory, drawing largely from political and consumer studies. The scant empirical evidence exploring the behavioral components of this concept has overwhelmingly focused on individuals’ identification as “green” via their role as consumers. However, little empirical research exists exploring participant-driven understandings of what it means to be a green citizen and how this role relates to and expands upon that of the green consumer. This study seeks to resolve these gaps by expanding the definition of green citizenship through a participatory process called the Conceptual Content Cognitive Mapping exercise (3CM). Through this modified card-sorting task, participants are able to visually communicate their lived understandings of green citizenship by arranging and categorizing labeled cards into networks of meaning that reflect their personal understandings of this abstract concept. This chapter will focus on the 3CM exercise as a fruitful methodology to promote participant engagement in social science research on sustainability in general, and green citizenship in particular.


Conceptual content cognitive map (3CM) 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Meaghan L. Guckian
    • 1
  • Erin Miller Hamilton
    • 2
  • Raymond De Young
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Environmental ConservationUniversity of MassachusettsAmherstUSA
  2. 2.School for Environment and SustainabilityUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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