Environmental Management

, Volume 62, Issue 2, pp 260–276 | Cite as

Integrating Qualitative and Quantitative Methods in Participatory Modeling to Elicit Behavioral Drivers in Environmental Dilemmas: the Case of Air Pollution in Talca, Chile

  • Franziska Meinherz
  • Nuno Videira


The aim of this paper is to contribute to the exploration of environmental modeling methods based on the elicitation of stakeholders’ mental models. This aim is motivated by the necessity to understand the dilemmas and behavioral rationales of individuals for supporting the management of environmental problems. The methodology developed for this paper integrates qualitative and quantitative methods by deploying focus groups for the elicitation of the behavioral rationales of the target population, and grounded theory to code the information gained in the focus groups and to guide the development of a dynamic simulation model. The approach is applied to a case of urban air pollution caused by residential heating with wood in central Chile. The results show how the households’ behavior interrelates with the governmental management strategies and provide valuable and novel insights into potential challenges to the implementation of policies to manage the local air pollution problem. The experience further shows that the developed participatory modeling approach allows to overcome some of the issues currently encountered in the elicitation of individuals’ behavioral rationales and in the quantification of qualitative information.


Behavioral drivers Qualitative research methods Participatory modeling System dynamics modeling Urban air pollution Talca, Chile 



The authors acknowledge the Corporación de Desarrollo of the city of Talca and Prof. Martin Schaffernicht from the Universidad de Talca for their help in initiating and setting up the case study, as well as the collaboration of the local participants. The authors also acknowledge the New University of Lisbon, Portugal, the University of Bergen, Norway, the University of Palermo, Italy, and the Radboud University, The Netherlands, for capacitating the undertaking of this research within the European Master Programme in System Dynamics (EMSD). The first author was supported by the EACEA (Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency of the European Commission) during the EMSD programme. CENSE is supported by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology through the strategic project UID/AMB/04085/2013.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

267_2018_1034_MOESM1_ESM.docx (17 kb)
Supplementary Material


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.HERUS, Laboratory for Human-Environment Relations in Urban Systems, Institut d’ingénierie de l’environnement IIE, Faculté de l’environnement naturel, architectural et construit ENAC, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de LausanneLausanneSwitzerland
  2. 2.CENSE, Center for Environmental and Sustainability Research, Departamento de Ciências e Engenharia do Ambiente, Faculdade de Ciências e TecnologiaUniversidade NOVA de LisboaCaparicaPortugal

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