Rationality and the exploitation of natural resources : a psychobiological conceptual model for sustainability

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Original languageEnglish
Journal / PublicationEnvironment, Development and Sustainability
Online published26 Jan 2024
Publication statusOnline published - 26 Jan 2024


This article proposes a psychobiological conceptual model that incorporates the vulnerability and exhaustibility of the ecosystem into the notion of rational behavior. After providing a review of relevant literature in economics, psychology and sociology, we analyze the theoretical and practical limitations of economic rationality under conditions of climate devastation. By employing a logical consequence approach, we describe and broaden the cognitive process of rational choice to include the influence of externalities, institutions, markets, and the ecosystem. We propose two existing constructs as perceptual conditions restraining the rational exploitation of natural resources: restitution and substitution. These constructs are conditioned by the degree of the irreplaceability of materials. Under these premises, we purport that individuals act in a rational manner subject to the extent of restitution and substitution of resources, depending on their perception of economic, environmental, and social risk.

© The Author(s) 2024

Research Area(s)

  • Rationality, Natural resources, Sustainable development, General system, theory, Institutional theory, Progress

Citation Format(s)