Biophilia and the Promotion of Pro-Environmental Behaviors

The biophilia hypothesis suggests that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life.  In his seminal book, Biophilia (1984) Edward O. Wilson introduced and popularized the hypothesis saying that we, as humans, all possess “the urge to affiliate with other forms of life.”

This hypothesis has become a movement, of sorts, especially within the field of urban design and the creation of biophilic cities with a growing network of cities classified as biophilic. See   For example: this downtown park in Shanghai is attempting to create an ecosytem in the center city.


There are many reasons that creating environments that are biophilic will influence people’s desire to be more environmental.  Psychologists have been heavily involved in developing ways to change people’s behaviors to be more pro-environmental.  These strategies include:

  1. Antecedent Strategies: Strategies that stop or encourage pro-environmental behavior before it happens.
    1. Prompts: Approach and Avoidance Prompts help encourage or discourage environmental behavior, such as this prompt to turn off the lights when exiting the classroom:
  2. Technological Strategies: Strategies that use technological advances to make our choices more environmental and not cost-prohibitive.  For example: packaging that reduces waste without us even realizing we are being more environmental is a great way to work toward a healthier environment! Photo:
  3. Fun Strategies: Making pro-environmental choices fun can encourage them to happen!     
    1. garbage bin
    2.   stairs
    3. bottles