Different kinds and roles of environmental uncertainty
Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift, 1998

In environmental psychology different roles appears to be ascribed to the concept of environmental uncertainty: in environmental aesthetics optimization of environmental uncertainty is assumed to explain preferences, in environmental- stress research minimization of environmental uncertainty is assumed to reduce stress, and in research on resource dilemmas environmental uncertainty is assumed to be accurately monitored. An analysis of the different definitions in each area of research reveals that environmental uncertainty refers to both event- event and response- consequence covariation, that it is not assumed to be inherent but to relate to ignorance or faulty information processing, and that it is multifacet subsuming the concepts of probability, vagueness and ambiguity. Although the different research areas do not seem to differ importantly in their definitions of environmental uncertainty, there are differences in emphasis. A possible reconciliation rests on: (1) that in research on resource dilemmas it is incorrect that people accurately monitor environmental uncertainty but, in fact, are susceptible to a desirability bias; (2) that sensation seeking plays a role for risk taking in resource dilemmas; and (3) that in environmental- stress research conditions of high environmental uncertainty have primarily been investigated, thus leaving out conditions when an increase of uncertainty would be desirable. It may be concluded then that basically people are optimizers of environmental uncertainty. However, this does not rule out that they, under most of the prevailing conditions, want to reduce environmental uncertainty. To help them do that seems, therefore, more appropriate than to do the reverse.


environmental uncertainty

Environmental psychology


Tommy Gärling

Göteborgs universitet

Anders Biel

Göteborgs universitet

Mathias Petter Gustafsson

Göteborgs universitet

Journal of Environmental Psychology

0272-4944 (ISSN) 1522-9610 (eISSN)

Vol. 18 1 75-83





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