The biophilia hypothesis (also called BET) suggests that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life. Edward O. Wilson introduced and popularized the hypothesis in his book, Biophilia (1984).[1] He defines biophilia as "the urge to affiliate with other forms of life".[2]

Natural affinity for living systems

"Biophilia" is an innate affinity of life or living systems. The term was first used by Erich Fromm to describe a psychological orientation of being attracted to all that is alive and vital.[3] Wilson uses the term in a related sense when he suggests that biophilia describes "the connections that human beings subconsciously seek with the rest of life." He proposed the possibility that the deep affiliations humans have with other life forms and nature as a whole are rooted in our biology. Both positive and negative (including phobic) affiliations toward natural objects (species, phenomenon) as compared to artificial objects are evidence for biophilia.

Although named by Fromm, the concept of biophilia has been proposed and defined many times over. Aristotle was one of many to put forward a concept that could be summarized as "love of life". Diving into the term philia, or friendship, Aristotle evokes the idea of reciprocity and how friendships are beneficial to both parties in more than just one way, but especially in the way of happiness.[4]

The hypothesis has since been developed as part of theories of evolutionary psychology.[5] Taking on an evolutionary perspective people are drawn towards life and nature can be explained in part due to our evolutionary history of residing in natural environments, only recently in our history have we shifted towards an urbanized lifestyle.[5] These connections to nature can still be seen in people today as people gravitate towards, identify with, and desire to connect with nature.[6] These connections are not limited to any one component part of nature, in general people show connections to a wide range of natural things including plants, animals, and environmental landscapes.[7] One possible explanation is that our ancestors who had stronger connections to nature would hold an evolutionary advantage over less connected people as they would have better knowledge and therefore access to food, water, and shelter. In a broader and more general sense research has suggested that our modern urban environments are not suited for minds that evolved in natural environments.[8]

Human preferences toward things in nature, while refined through experience and culture, are hypothetically the product of biological evolution. For example, adult mammals (especially humans) are generally attracted to baby mammal faces and find them appealing across species. The large eyes and small features of any young mammal face are far more appealing than those of the mature adults. Similarly, the hypothesis helps explain why[9] ordinary people care for and sometimes risk their lives to save domestic and wild animals, and keep plants and flowers in and around their homes. In the book Children and Nature: Psychological, Sociocultural, and Evolutionary Investigations edited by Peter Kahn and Stephen Kellert,[10] the importance of animals, especially those with which a child can develop a nurturing relationship, is emphasized particularly for early and middle childhood. Chapter 7 of the same book reports on the help that animals can provide to children with autistic-spectrum disorders.[11]

Biophilic design

Main article: Biophilic design

In architecture, biophilic design is a sustainable design strategy that incorporates reconnecting people with the natural environment.[12] It may be seen as a necessary complement to green architecture, which decreases the environmental impact of the built world but does not address human reconnection with the natural world.[13]

Caperna and Serafini[14] define biophilic design as that kind of architecture, which is able to supply our inborn need of connection to life and to the vital processes. Biophilic space has been defined as the environment that strengthens life and supports the sociological and psychological components.[15][16] These spaces can have positive health effects on people including reducing mental health issues in stressful spaces such as prisons,[17] reducing chronic pain,[18] improving memory, and lowering blood pressure.[19] Examples of this being studied in medical settings include having a window looking out to see living plants is also shown to help speed up the healing process of patients in hospitals.[20] Similarly, having plants in the same room as patients in hospitals also speeds up their healing process.[21]

Biophilia and conservation

Because of our technological advancements and more time spent inside buildings and cars disconnects us from nature, biophilic activities and time spent in nature may be strengthening our connections as humans to nature, so people continue to have strong urges to reconnect with nature. The concern for a lack of connection with the rest of nature outside of us, is that a stronger disregard for other plants, animals and less appealing wild areas could lead to further ecosystem degradation and species loss. Therefore, reestablishing a connection with nature has become more important in the field of conservation.[22][23][24] Examples would be more available green spaces in and around cities, more classes that revolve around nature and implementing smart design for greener cities that integrate ecosystems into them such as biophilic cities. These cities can also become part of wildlife corridors to help with migrational and territorial needs of other animals.[25]

Biophilia in fiction

Canadian author Hilary Scharper explicitly adapted E.O. Wilson's concept of biophilia for her ecogothic novel, Perdita.[26] In the novel, Perdita (meaning "the lost one") is a mythological figure who brings biophilia to humanity.

Biophilia and technology

American philosopher Francis Sanzaro has put forth the claim that because of advances in technological connectivity, especially the internet of things (IOT), our world is becoming increasingly driven by the biophilia hypothesis, namely, the desire to connect to forms of life.[27] Sanzaro applies Wilson's theories to trends in artificial intelligence and psychoanalysis and argues that technology is not an antithesis to nature, but simply another form of seeking intimacy with nature.

See also


  1. ^ Wilson, Edward O. (1984). Biophilia. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-07442-4.
  2. ^ Kellert & Wilson 1995, p. 416.
  3. ^ Fromm, Erich (1964). The Heart of Man. Harper & Row.
  4. ^ Santas, Aristotelis. "Aristotelian Ethics And Biophilia." Ethics & The Environment 19.1 (2014): 95-121.
  5. ^ a b The Biophilia hypothesis. Stephen R. Kellert, Edward O. Wilson. Washington, D.C. 1993. ISBN 1-55963-148-1. OCLC 28181961.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link) CS1 maint: others (link)
  6. ^ Riechers, Maraja; Martín-López, Berta; Fischer, Joern (2022). "Human–nature connectedness and other relational values are negatively affected by landscape simplification: insights from Lower Saxony, Germany". Sustainability Science. 17 (3): 865–877. doi:10.1007/s11625-021-00928-9. ISSN 1862-4065. S2CID 233187431.
  7. ^ Frumkin, Howard (2001). "Beyond toxicity: human health and the natural environment". American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 20 (3): 234–240. doi:10.1016/S0749-3797(00)00317-2. PMID 11275453.
  8. ^ Buss, David M. (2000). "The evolution of happiness". American Psychologist. 55 (1): 15–23. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.55.1.15. ISSN 1935-990X. PMID 11392858.
  9. ^ "Affiliate Program". 2022-05-19. Retrieved 2022-08-15.
  10. ^ Kahn, Peter; Kellert, Stephen (2002). Children and nature: psychological, sociocultural, and evolutionary investigations. MIT Press. p. 153. ISBN 0-262-11267-1.
  11. ^ Katcher, Aaron (2002). "Animals in Therapeutic Education: Guides into the Liminal State". In Kahn, Peter H.; Kellert, Stephen R (eds.). Children and Nature: Psychological, Sociocultural, and Evolutionary Investigations. MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-11267-1. Retrieved January 30, 2013.
  12. ^ Söderlund, Jana; Newman, Peter; Söderlund, Jana; Newman, Peter (2015). "Biophilic architecture: a review of the rationale and outcomes". AIMS Environmental Science. 2 (4): 950–969. doi:10.3934/environsci.2015.4.950. hdl:20.500.11937/8179. ISSN 2372-0352.
  13. ^ "Biophilic Design: The Architecture of Life". Archived from the original on 6 March 2016. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  14. ^ Caperna A., Serafini S. (2015). Biourbanism as new epistemological perspective between Science, Design and Nature Archived 2020-03-21 at the Wayback Machine. In Architecture & Sustainability: Critical Perspectives. "Generating sustainability concepts from an architectural perspective", KU Leuven - Faculty of Engineering, Belgium). ISBN 9789462920880
  15. ^ Caperna, A., Tracada, E. (2012). Biourbanism for a Healthy City. Biophilia and sustainable urban theories and practices Archived 2018-05-24 at the Wayback Machine. Bannari Amman Institute of Technology (BIT), Sathyamangalam, India, 3–5 September 2012
  16. ^ Joye, Yannick (2007). "Architectural Lessons from Environmental Psychology: The Case of Biophilic Architecture". Review of General Psychology. 11 (4): 305–328. doi:10.1037/1089-2680.11.4.305. ISSN 1089-2680. S2CID 14485090.
  17. ^ Söderlund, Jana; Newman, Peter (2017). "Improving Mental Health in Prisons Through Biophilic Design". The Prison Journal. 97 (6): 750–772. doi:10.1177/0032885517734516. ISSN 0032-8855. S2CID 149435309.
  18. ^ Huntsman, Dorothy Day; Bulaj, Grzegorz (2022-02-16). "Healthy Dwelling: Design of Biophilic Interior Environments Fostering Self-Care Practices for People Living with Migraines, Chronic Pain, and Depression". International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 19 (4): 2248. doi:10.3390/ijerph19042248. ISSN 1660-4601. PMC 8871637. PMID 35206441.
  19. ^ Yin, Jie; Zhu, Shihao; MacNaughton, Piers; Allen, Joseph G.; Spengler, John D. (2018). "Physiological and cognitive performance of exposure to biophilic indoor environment". Building and Environment. 132: 255–262. doi:10.1016/j.buildenv.2018.01.006.
  20. ^ "How Hospital Gardens Help Patients Heal". Scientific American. Archived from the original on 2023-06-21.
  21. ^ Park, SH; Mattson, RH (2009). "Ornamental indoor plants in hospital rooms enhanced health outcomes of patients recovering from surgery". J Altern Complement Med. 15 (9): 975–80. doi:10.1089/acm.2009.0075. PMID 19715461.
  22. ^ Miller, James R. (1 August 2005). "Biodiversity conservation and the extinction of experience". Trends in Ecology & Evolution. 20 (8): 430–434. doi:10.1016/j.tree.2005.05.013. ISSN 0169-5347. PMID 16701413. S2CID 11639153.
  23. ^ Rogers, Kara. "Biophilia Hypothesis". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 10 Feb 2015.
  24. ^ Milstein, T. & Castro-Sotomayor, J. (2020). Routledge Handbook of Ecocultural Identity. London, UK: Routledge.
  25. ^ "Biophilic Cities". Biophilic Cities. Retrieved 10 Mar 2015.
  26. ^ "Arousing Biophilia". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2015-11-03.
  27. ^ See Sanzaro's extended treatment of how algorithms are helping fuel techno-biophilia, "Society Elsewhere: Why the Gravest Threat to Humanity Will Come From Within."