Understanding acceptability of fuel management to reduce wildfire risk

Informing communication through understanding complexity of thinking

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Understanding the social acceptability of managing forest fuels to reduce wildfire risk is essential to achieving long-term investment in fuel management that is supported publicly and politically. Integrative Complexity Theory (ICT) examines how people think about complex issues, and provides a way to better understand acceptability of potentially controversial issues, and inform design of communication that can achieve more stable social and political support; higher integrative complexity (IC) is argued to result in more moderate, but resilient attitudes. However, existing IC measures have limitations in identifying the distribution of IC across a population, restricting their usefulness for informing communication strategies targeted to differing levels of complex thinking. We propose a modified IC measure that aligns more closely with IC theory to better understand IC across a population, and test it using a sample of 435 Australians. The modified IC measure enables better identification of the groups who have lower complexity of thinking, and their preferred ways of receiving information: those with lower IC preferred information about fuel management delivered via traditional one-way mediums that typically use simpler styles of messaging. To achieve long-term resilient attitudes to fuel management, communication may need to use these mediums to both build complexity of thinking, and to encourage a shift to accessing information via mediums that are better suited to communicating the complexities of fuel management.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102120
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalForest Policy and Economics
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020


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