Integrative Complexity and Attitudes Toward Fire Management in the Wildland Urban Interface


  • Randall T. Burtz
  • Alan D. Bright


integrative complexity, attitude direction, attitude extremity


Understanding how citizens perceive management decisions is essential to land managers’ success in negotiating management plans that are acceptable to the public. Beyond what the public thinks (e.g., attitudes toward a natural resource issue), it is important to understand how they think about the issue. In order to study how people think about natural resource issues, we employed the use of integrative complexity. The measurement of integrative complexity, developed by cognitive psychologists, is based on the number of dimensions that people view related to an issue, how they integrate those dimensions, and focuses primarily on the structure of thought an individual has about an issue rather than content. We measured the integrative complexity of perceptions of wildfire near wildland-urban interface and its management. Examining how integrative complexity was related to two attitudinal dimensions, direction and extremity, we found that integrative complexity was related to attitude extremity, but not attitude direction. Implications lie in understanding the nature of the public’s attitudes toward a natural resource management issue. The controversial and complex nature of many natural resource management issues makes it important that researchers and managers acknowledge the extent to which people are able to understand the intricacies of those issues. The application of this study brings to light one alternative avenue for further exploring and understanding public perceptions of natural resource management.