Environmental Management

, Volume 15, Issue 5, pp 603–612 | Cite as

Problem-Framing: A perspective on environmental problem-solving

  • Lisa V. Bardwell


The specter of environmental calamity calls for the best efforts of an involved public. Ironically, the way people understand the issues all too often serves to discourage and frustrate rather than motivate them to action. This article draws from problem-solving perspectives offered by cognitive psychology and conflict management to examine a framework for thinking about environmental problems that promises to help rather than hinder efforts to address them.

Problem-framing emphasizes focusing on the problem definition. Since how one defines a problem determines one's understanding of and approach to that problem, being able to redefine or reframe a problem and to explore the “problem space” can help broaden the range of alternatives and solutions examined.

Problem-framing incorporates a cognitive perspective on how people respond to information. It explains why an emphasis on problem definition is not part of people's typical approach to problems. It recognizes the importance of structure and of having ways to organize that information on one's problem-solving effort. Finally, problem-framing draws on both cognitive psychology and conflict management for strategies to manage information and to create a problem-solving environment that not only encourages participation but can yield better approaches to our environmental problems.

Key words

Conflict management Environmental problem-solving Environmental dispute resolution Helplessness Metacognition Problem definition Problem-framing 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lisa V. Bardwell
    • 1
  1. 1.University of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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