The biophilia hypothesis asserts the existence of a fundamental, genetically based, human need and propensity to afﬁliate with life and life like processes. Consider, for example, that recent studies have shown that even minimal connection with nature—such as looking at it through a window—increases productivity and health in the workplace, promotes healing of patients in hospitals, and reduces the frequency of sickness in prisons. Other studies have begun to show that when given the option, humans choose landscapes such as prominences near water from which parkland can be viewed that ﬁt patterns laid down deep in human
history on the savannas of East Africa. Wilson (1992) points out that people crowd national parks to experience natural landscapes, and ‘‘travel long distances to stroll along the seashore, for reasons they can’t put into words’’. According to Wilson (1984), the biophilic instinct emerges, often unconsciously, in our cognition, emotions, art, and ethics, and unfolds ‘‘in the predictable fantasies and responses of individuals from early childhood onward. It cascades into repetitive patterns of culture across most or all societies’’. Thus, what makes the hypothesis particularly important is that it provides an overarching framework by which new scientiﬁc ground across many disciplines can be charted that bear on understanding the human relationship with nature.
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120 subjects were exposed to a stressful movie, and then to videotapes of either natural or urban settings. Data were collected not only by means of self-report, but through a battery of physiological measures that included heart period, muscle tension, skin conductance, and pulse transit time. Overall, ﬁndings showed greater stress recovery in nature than urban settings.
Other studies conducted in prisons, dental ofﬁces, and hospitals point to similar effects. For example, E. O. Moore (1982; cited in Ulrich, 1993) found that prison inmates whose cells looked out onto nearby farmlands and forests needed less health-care services than inmates whose cells looked out onto the prison yard. In a dental clinic, Heerwagen (1990) presented patients with either a large mural depicting a spatially open natural landscape or no mural at all. Patient data included heart-rate measurements and affective self-ratings. Results suggest that patients felt less stressed on days when the mural was present.
More generally, it has been found that experience with animals positively effects human welfare, especially for people who have organic or functional. For example,hundreds of clinical reports show that when animals enter the lives of aged patients with chronic brain syndrome (which follows from either Alzheimer’s disease or arteriosclerosis) that the patients smile and laugh more, and become less hostile to their caretakers and more socially communicative. A number of studies show similar ﬁndings with autistic children. Through interactions with animals (such as a dog, cat, bird, dolphin, or even small turtle), it has been shown that autistic children have more focused attention, social interaction, positive emotion, and speech. Similar results have been found for people with various functional mental disorders.
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