Reflections from the Tuesday morning theme session “Novel methods for studying human behavior and its interrelations with the environment”



Elke (another blogger of the Resilience conference 2017) and I rushed to the subway with eggs on the go for breakfast. An idea occurred, where we dreamed up the scenario of eggs on the go being sold at every metro in Stockholm for busy students/ bloggers.


When I got to the conference venue, it felt like another day at the Stockholm Resilience Centre with familiar faces in a larger location but with several guests. It was the first day of writing blogs for me (yesterday was spent doing some Instagram posts in case you missed them @sthlmresilience).


I took the front seat at C1/C2 (250) to write this blog on ‘Novel methods for studying human behaviour and its interrelations with the environment’. It was a full-house! Therese Lindahl  of the Stockholm Resilience Centre and the Beijer Institute for Ecological Economics, opened the session to introduce two examples of novel approaches to see what we can learn about human behaviour in the environment, challenges and future outlooks presented by two other fantastic women, Beth Fulton of CISRO, Australia and Suzy Moat of Warwick Business School.

Beth enlightened the audience about the new approaches used to understand human behaviours that are not so new. Which means that some of these approaches are inspired by age old (even some millennia) techniques.

Artificial intelligence is proving to be more useful. Quantum theory describes people well. How do we change our minds? It is a whole new branch of physics and math to describe human behaviour!

“Drawing up a sketch of what humans are like, we need to think about how they connect with social networks, what norms do they work under, what are their habits?”

Statistical tools help to understand how fishermen actually respond to situations. For example, Bayes Nets can reflect factors dictating how and when they went fishing.

Beth Fulton on how modelling can quantify qualitative data to understand human behavioural patterns

I can give you many more details on Beth’s talk, but being from a more qualitative background I’ll probably be getting it all wrong. So let’s hear from Beth herself. I asked her three questions which she responded to in the audio clip we recorded (below). Beth, was also very kind with her time and I would like to thank her.


Straight after, Suzy Moat jumped into her current project. It may sound a bit bizarre to think that people uploading pictures on social media is what inspired Suzy and her colleagues to come up with a project that provided large data sets on happiness and human wellbeing. “We want to use this data to know what people will do in the future”, she said.

Scenic-or-not website  holds a mind-blowing collection of photos from over 200,000 locations all across the UK. These are voted on based on how scenic they are on a scale of 1 to 10.  Suzy chuckled as she announced that Lake District which is one of her favourite places was highly popular among the voters.

”People who live in more scenic locations report better health” – but that can happen even in cities.

Scenic beauty was also related to features such as lakes or built up structures. Lakes and valleys are (obviously) popular. Built up industrial areas are (obviously) not popular but bridges like viaduct and cottages are highly rated! Trees improved ratings whereas grass did not.

An audience member asked, “in the “scenic” data set is there a demographic data set?” Suzy replied humbly, “We do not look at those differences, and I agree we have not picked up on individual practices.”

This project reminds me of Stockholm Resilience Centre PhD student Matteo’s work on ‘Where is your Stockholm’ which maps the way Stockholmers experience parts of the city to provide cues to better urban planning.

Below Suzy Moat tells more about her work:

For now I will take your leave and prepare my Instagramable chia-bowl-on-the-go for tomorrow morning, as I will make my way to attend the ‘Reconciling food security and biodiversity conservation in farming landscapes’ session.

Your Resilience2017 correspondent:

Radhika Gupta is from India, and she recently completed her Master’s at the Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC), Sweden. She has a BA in visual communication design from Lasalle College of the Arts, Singapore where she designed an interactive timeline about the Anthropocene which opened a new world of ideas. Her master’s thesis looked at the consequences of a one-size-fits-all approach to development, for small agricultural villages in the Himalayas in Sikkim, India. Currently, she is working on a creative research process at the SRC, to write a scientific article based on her thesis.

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