It has been hypothesized that the presence of infantile physical and behavioral features in companion or pet animals i. Preliminary evidence has indeed shown that the human attentional bias toward the baby schema may extend to animal facial configurations. In this review, the role of facial cues, specifically of infantile traits and facial signals i.
Particular emphasis is given to the neuroendocrine regulation of the social bond between humans and animals through oxytocin secretion. Instead of considering companion animals as mere baby substitutes for their owners, in this review we highlight the central role of cats and dogs in human lives. Specifically, we consider the ability of companion animals to bond with humans as fulfilling the need for attention and emotional intimacy, thus serving similar psychological and adaptive functions as human-human friendships.
To conclude, the impact of this information for applied disciplines is briefly described, particularly in consideration of the increasing evidence of the beneficial effects of contacts with animals for human health and wellbeing.
As shown by a number of experimental studies, a general proneness toward animals and animal stimuli seems to emerge from early childhood onward DeLoache et al.
Even in subjects with a deficit in the social domain i. It can also refer to human tendency to interact and form close association and emotional bond with the other forms of life in nature.
Based on this theory, the Biophilia is considered to be innate and felt universally by humans. Why animals constitute such an attractive stimulus for humans has not been completely clarified. Although it may seem as if the environmental movement has taken off, research indicates that there has been no substantial change in pro-environmental behavior Kilbourne and Pickett , This dilemma, referred to as the attitude-behavior gap Kilbourne and Pickett or the attitude-action gap Kollmuss and Agyeman , is particularly frustrating for environmentalists.
And while it should be noted that this problem is admittedly influenced by a complex interaction of factors including demographic factors, internal factors e. Specifically, both self-interested attitudes and life goals have been shown to have a negative effect on pro-environmental thoughts and actions Schultz and Zelenzy ; Kilbourne and Pickett The individuals who identified these correlations have stated that these trends do not necessarily lend themselves to any simple or apparent solution Kollmuss and Agyeman ; Kilbourne and Pickett That being said, a potential solution may lie simply in appealing to the interests of the majority.
Biologist E. Because self-interested values and materialistic culture are so widespread, it has been proposed that it may be beneficial to ground our conservation ethic and education programs exclusively on these values Wilson , ; Schultz and Zelenzy ; Kilbourne and Pickett , Consider the consequences of such a gamble: if we rely too heavily on those aspects of nature which provide some promise of personal or material gain to motivate conservation actions, the inevitable development of an artificial form of those services would render the natural world useless and conservation unnecessary.
We should be wary of allowing these values to mediate our treatment of the natural world. Aldo Leopold once cautioned against a system of conservation based on economic self-interest, saying that these values lead us to ignore aspects of the environment that lack commercial value, but which may in fact be crucial to its continual health and functioning Leopold, Over half a century later, these words hold incredible magnitude when we reflect on the situation we find ourselves in.
If the goal of this effort is to restore a harmonious relationship between humans and the natural world that will sustain itself over the grand scale of time, it is clear that right action will be insufficient without the right mindset motivating it. From this point, we can conclude that an important component to the development of a new environmental ethic will involve facilitating a shift in the social consensus ethic toward self-transcending values.
While this may sound challenging, we must keep in mind that our values are constantly shifting and being influenced by social constructs and ideals. Plato once argued that you cannot teach rationality to a person, you can only remind them Rollin , 39; Anastaplo and Berns This is precisely what we must do; rather than attempting to instruct societal values toward success, perhaps we need only remind humanity that the key to success is something that is already within all of us.
The existence of biophilia has been directly and indirectly acknowledged by academics in a range of fields, including philosophy, the social sciences, and the biological sciences Hill ; Wilson ; Joye and De Block Its existence signals an optimistic future for conservation efforts, as it suggests that some element of conservation-mindedness exists in all of us.
If this concern for nature were to be amplified on a large scale, conservation action would become a rewarding option in alignment with these self-transcendent values. It should be noted that criticism of the biophilia hypothesis tends to circulate around the origin or adaptive function of biophilia Hill ; Joye and De Block Although these arguments have revealed that the origin of biophilia is unclear, this paper makes no claim to support or dispute any of these claims.
It merely acknowledges, along with these authors, that it indeed exists, and, like other human traits, can be shaped to promote a greater good for the natural world Joye and De Block , From here, our task is simply to determine how biophilia can be utilized as a tool for conservation. In light of the conflicts previously identified, one of our priorities in developing a new environmental ethic is to minimize the gap between conservation-mindedness and behavior.
To generate this type of change, virtue ethics may be a particularly effective tool. It is unique from other ethical theories in that it places emphasis on the qualities of the person performing an action rather than the action itself, or the consequences of that action.
These qualities are classified either as virtues, which are defined as morally good or praiseworthy traits, or vices, which are morally bad or blameworthy traits Rowlands The potential for virtues and vices to manifest themselves exists, to varying degrees, within all of us. It is not the distinction between virtues and vices, however, that makes virtue ethics a suitable tool for conservation ethics.
Virtue ethics is an especially efficient tool for eliminating the gap between actions and values because of the prerequisites involved in becoming truly virtuous: in order to fully possess a virtue or vice, a person must constantly think and act in a manner that is consistent with that particular trait.
In other words, a person cannot simply think virtuously without also acting virtuously; knowledge necessitates action Rowlands , And so if a virtue or set of virtues were identified that would lead a person to conservation-mindedness, by necessity, they would also need to act in accordance with that mindset.
In light of this, it is beneficial to begin by prioritizing a foundational virtue or set of virtues for this specific cause. Classic virtues such as compassion, responsibility, and mercy are undoubtedly important to this discussion, but they fall short of being specifically linked to the goal of environmental ethics.
For this cause, one trait in particular seems address this cause perfectly: biophilia. Consider biophilia as a virtue in its own right. A biophilic person would, in theory, think and behave in a manner that a love for life and living systems would necessitate.
This obligation to behave morally for the sake of both the natural world and its human and nonhuman inhabitants solidifies its status as a morally good or praiseworthy trait i.
Furthermore, the biophilic love of nature is linked to other virtues such as love, compassion, responsibility, and respect. In light of this relationship, one could argue that biophilia is merely something that would develop as an extension of other virtues.
While this is certainly true, the same could also be said for any other virtue. Rowlands, for example, exemplifies the interrelationship between the virtue of mercy and other virtues such as kindness and loyalty Rowlands , He points out that it is difficult to carefully distinguish specific characteristics as one virtue and not another.
For example, while we may attempt to imagine a situation in which a person behaves kindly without behaving mercifully, we realize that the action does not, in fact, seem like a genuine act of kindness at all without some element of mercy. Rather than concluding from this relationship that mercy is a mere product of the possession of other virtues, Rowlands instead concludes that by encompassing the characteristics of other virtues, mercy is somewhat fundamental to those virtues.
This is precisely the case with biophilia: while biophilia corresponds with characteristics of other virtues, these virtues do not seem to truly exist without biophilia. For example, when we imagine a situation where a person behaves kindly in many contexts, but does not behave biophilically for example, the person is cruel to nonhuman animals that person does not, in fact, seem to be genuinely kind after all.
In this way, biophilia like mercy is fundamental to kindness, rather than a byproduct of it. This also illuminates a different sort of virtuousness that could be said to precede the true possession of biophilia: love and concern of nonhuman animals. We will revisit this concept later on. In general, it is important to remain aware of the often interwoven relationship between virtues. Because virtues are, by nature, interrelated, to question the true status of biophilia as a virtue would be to question the status of all other virtues.
Doing so would essentially place the entirety of virtue ethics into question, opening up a debate that is beyond the scope of this paper.
Like other virtues, biophilic potential also appears to be possessed by the majority of humanity Hill ; Wilson ; Wilson ; Joye and De Block In this regard, the process of becoming more or less virtuous is analogous to muscle mass.
The process of gaining or losing muscle varies due to genetic traits, patterns of use, and nutrition. For all animals, however, muscles grow and strengthen through use and atrophy when they are not used though they will never disappear altogether.
Virtues, like muscles, atrophy when they are not exercised, but only to the point where they first began. And herein lies the explanation for our current relationship with the environment which may also shed light on a potential cause for its widespread degradation. It may be that direct, impactful experiences have become too scarce to cultivate biophilia.
Over time, as society has prioritized self-interest and materialistic values, we have developed a lifestyle that draws us away from the natural world.
We are able to manipulate the environment in such a way that we are hardly at its mercy Potts As a result, we have come to see ourselves as transcendent beings — both separate from nature and above it. In order to reestablish our connection with the natural world, it is imperative that we begin to broaden our sense of responsibility and progress toward a more inclusive sense of conservation. However, we must be mindful that the jump to environmental concern is, for some, a big leap.
In order to bridge that gap, we are brought back to the notion of nurturing a love for nonhuman animals, first. The development of concern for other-than-human life will serve as a critical antecedent for those who are unconcerned with the conservation of the natural world as a whole. For example, it is conceivably easier to give moral consideration to other sentient beings than it is to give moral consideration to abiotic factors.
Likewise, it is much easier to convince someone that nonhuman animals deserve moral consideration than it is to convince them that rocks do.
Because of this, our relationship with nonhuman animals will serve as the foundation on which we can begin to cultivate a broader sense of responsibility that extends beyond the human species. From here, this insight will bring us closer to a holistic ecocentric ethic. This suggests that animal rights and holistic ecocentric ethics are mutually contradictory. Logically, it should follow that moral concern for any of the three would coincide inseparably with moral concern for the others.
Unfortunately, our actions in relation to nonhuman animals and the environment rarely indicate that we have reached this conclusion. Instead, we tend to prioritize our own moral status to the point where we have forgotten that the human race is a part of something much greater. In order to expand our moral sphere and acknowledge our role in this relationship, a holistic ecocentric ethic would serve the purpose of blurring distinctions between ourselves, other animals, and the environment.
Holistic ecocentric ethics may prioritize the wellbeing of the whole over that of the individual, but it does not do so with the intention of denying moral rights to individuals altogether, as Regan suggests. This is simply one of the primary differences between animal rights and holistic ecocentric ethics that causes them to butt heads; while an animal ethicist may analyze the repercussions of a particular action based on how it would directly affect individual animals and relationships, a holistic ecocentric ethicist would evaluate the repercussions of that decision based on the broader ecological relationships that would be affected Callicott ; Fix , In some cases, this concern for the wellbeing of the greater ecological community takes precedence over that of individual animals, but it does not by any means cause them to be forgotten altogether.
It must then follow that in order to truly give moral consideration to individuals, we must ensure that they are provided a means of continuing to exist on this earth.Wilson eds. Google Scholar Ingram, R. Google Scholar Phillips, K.
Google Scholar Neale, M. Google Scholar Chokor, B.
Aldo Leopold once cautioned against a system of conservation based on economic self-interest, saying that these values lead us to ignore aspects of the environment that lack commercial value, but which may in fact be crucial to its continual health and functioning Leopold, If this concern for nature were to be amplified on a large scale, conservation action would become a rewarding option in alignment with these self-transcendent values. Kendall, Henry W. Google Scholar Saunders, P. Rowlands, for example, exemplifies the interrelationship between the virtue of mercy and other virtues such as kindness and loyalty Rowlands , In other words, our natural love for life helps sustain life.
In this regard, the development of concern for nonhuman animals serves as much more than a mere stepping-stone to reach biophilia — it is essential. Not only are people attracted to nature but it appears that focus has positive health effects Kellert and Wilson, ; Ulrich, It may be that direct, impactful experiences have become too scarce to cultivate biophilia.
Environment and Behavior 23, pp. Nothing seems to hold the attention of Alzheimer's disease patients but fish tanks; apparently noticing nature, biophilia, survives even dementia. Davey: ,'A test of a disease-avoidance model of animal phobias', Behaviour Research and Therapy 29, pp. People interacting with a dog have a decline in blood pressure compared with interacting with a person, or even just resting Katcher et al. We should be wary of allowing these values to mediate our treatment of the natural world. Therefore, reestablishing a connection with nature has become more important in the field of conservation.
Google Scholar Brinkerhoff, M. In order to bridge that gap, we are brought back to the notion of nurturing a love for nonhuman animals, first. The large eyes and small features of any young mammal face are far more appealing than those of the mature adults.