Date of Award
Open Access Master's Thesis
Master of Science in Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors (MS)
Administrative Home Department
Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences
Committee Member 1
Crafting and enforcing conservation policy requires making normative judgements about what levels of risk are acceptable. These judgements include crucial decisions that impact which species qualify as “endangered.” If a government’s policies are going to represent the values of the public they govern, then public attitudes should be understood. Unfortunately, essentially nothing is known about public attitudes as they pertain to acceptable risk and the biodiversity crisis.
My research aims to address this gap using data from an internet-based survey (n=1050). I focused on the Endangered Species Act of 1973 which defines an endangered species as “any species which is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.” Because a species’ risk of extinction increases with decreasing geographic range, the phrase “significant portion of its range” requires a judgement about what level of risk is acceptable. I then examined how the public’s attitudes regarding risk differs both from the guidance provided by conservationists and the practices of government agencies.
I also explored the extent to which variation in attitudes could be explained by relevant knowledge, social identity, level of education, personality, moral foundations, and numeracy. I then used structural equation modeling to model the relationships between predictors.
Offer-Westort, Thomas, "Attitudes about Acceptable Risk in the Context of the Biodiversity Crisis", Open Access Master's Thesis, Michigan Technological University, 2019.