Instrumental and relational values of nature to people affect what is considered and portrayed as rational and aligned with moral foundations. Decision-making on natural resources involves individuals, collectives, and their modes of communication. Effective science-policy interfaces — to change the game and transform development trajectories — need to speak to both instrumental and relational rationality. It requires salient, credible, and legitimate syntheses of knowledge on recognized (or emerging) issues for public concern. Beyond the ‘instrumental’ aspects of avoidable harm (nature as protector) and cost-effective care provided to people by nature-based solutions, ‘relational values’ invoke further foundations of morality and of human priorities beyond physiological needs and primary security. Effective communication in issue-attention and policy decision cycles involves acknowledging the plurality of value perspectives and (associated) decision-making modes. We propose hypotheses on how the interaction of values and decision-making modes can be further understood and used.