Sustainable energy transformation depends on learning processes, which allow us to cope with constantly changing environmental and social systems. Participation processes are viewed as a means of fostering social learning. In this paper, social learning is applied as an analytical concept to investigate the cognitive effects of participation such as knowledge acquisition, changes of perspective, and knowledge dissemination. Previous studies have indicated that certain characteristics of the participation process foster social learning. However, empirical evidence is still inconclusive, which is why this paper investigates which factors foster social learning. An empirical analysis was conducted on the basis of a quantitative online survey (N = 516), which questioned people who are in some way involved in the German energy transformation (Energiewende
). The results show that social learning can be enhanced through participation. In particular, moderated processes—which foster a productive exchange, encourage the building of trust among participants, and allow easy access to relevant information—are likely to provide the appropriate conditions for social learning. Personal characteristics such as an individual’s degree of knowledge might have a greater influence on why people change their perspectives than the intensity of participation.
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