Exploring the psychology of trade-off decision-making in environmental impact assessment
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Dealing with trade-offs lies at the heart of environmental impact assessment (EIA). However, there has been scant reflection to date on the concept of trade-offs within the EIA literature. This paper aims to contribute to the thinking about trade-offs by distilling key learning points from research conducted within the field of psychology. In particular, the paper explores three interrelated questions namely: When are trade-off decisions difficult? How do we react when faced with difficult trade-off decisions? And how can we deal with difficult trade-off decisions? The research confirms that EIA functions within a very difficult trade-off decision-making context and that observed behaviour related to these difficult decisions can be explained from a psychology perspective. In order to deal better with trade-off decisions, it is helpful to be able to predict decision difficulty and anticipate resultant behaviour. Moreover, the way we present and frame decisions affects their outcomes.