Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Humans May Be Losers If Technological Nature Replaces The Real Thing, Psychologists Warn

Date:
April 5, 2009
Source:
University of Washington
Summary:
Modern technology increasingly is encroaching into human connections with the natural world and psychologists believe this intrusion may emerge as one of the central psychological problems of our times.

The Cascade Mountains in southwestern Washington.
Credit: University of Washington, Mary Levin

There are Web cams focused on falcons, ferrets and fish, virtual tours of the Grand Canyon and Yosemite, and robotic dogs, seals and even dinosaurs. But what about the real deal: observing animals in their natural habitat, hiking the John Muir Trail or a playing with a live pet?

Modern technology increasingly is encroaching into human connections with the natural world and University of Washington psychologists believe this intrusion may emerge as one of the central psychological problems of our times.

"We are a technological species, but we also need a deep connection with nature in our lives," said Peter Kahn, a UW developmental psychologist and lead author of a new study exploring how humans connect with nature and technological nature.

Writing in the current issue of the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science, Kahn and two of his UW graduate students, Rachel Severson and Jolina Ruckert, look at the psychological effects of interacting with various forms of technological nature and explore humanity's growing estrangement from nature.

The UW researchers cite earlier experiments conducted by Kahn's laboratory, one with a plasma display "window" and several with AIBO, a robotic dog.

The plasma window study showed that people recovered better from low-level stress by looking at an actual view of nature rather than seeing the same real-time high-definition television scene displayed on a plasma window.

"What do we compare technology to? If we compare it to no nature, technological nature works pretty well. But if we compare it to actual nature, it doesn't seem to provide as many psychological benefits," Kahn said.

The AIBO studies showed that children were in some ways were treating the robots as other beings But compared to interacting with a real dog, their interactions with AIBO were not as social or deep.

"Robot and virtual pets are beginning to replace children's interactions with biologically live pets," said Ruckert. "The larger concern is that technological nature will shift the baseline of what people perceive as the full human experience of nature, and that it will contribute to what we call environmental generational amnesia."

This concept of amnesia proposes that people believe the natural environment they encounter during childhood is the norm, against which they measure environmental degradation later in their life. The problem with this is that each generation takes that degraded condition as a non-degraded baseline and is generally oblivious of changes and damages inflicted by previous generations.

"Poor air quality is a good example of physical degradation," said Kahn. "We can choke on the air, and some people suffer asthma, but we tend to think that's a pretty normal part of the human condition.

"Some people get the idea on one level if they are interested in environmental issues," said Severson. "They see the degradation, but they don't recognize their own experience is diminished. How many people today feel a loss such as the damming of the Columbia River compared to a wild Columbia River? A lot of us have no concept of it as a wild river and don't feel a loss."

Kahn likened the situation to the effort to convince people that climate change is a serious challenge. But unlike climate change, the threat posed by technological nature, isn't right in our faces.

"People might think that if technological nature is partly good that that's good enough," he said. "But it's not. Because across generations what will happen is that the good enough will become the good. If we don't change course, it will impoverish us as a species.

The National Science Foundation funded the research.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Washington. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Washington. "Humans May Be Losers If Technological Nature Replaces The Real Thing, Psychologists Warn." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 April 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090401181445.htm>.
University of Washington. (2009, April 5). Humans May Be Losers If Technological Nature Replaces The Real Thing, Psychologists Warn. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090401181445.htm
University of Washington. "Humans May Be Losers If Technological Nature Replaces The Real Thing, Psychologists Warn." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090401181445.htm (accessed September 1, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Monday, September 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) A new study suggests 100 percent of adult humans (those over 18 years of age) have Demodex mites living in their faces. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Washington Wildlife Center Goes Nuts Over Baby Squirrels

Washington Wildlife Center Goes Nuts Over Baby Squirrels

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 30, 2014) An animal rescue in Washington state receives an influx of orphaned squirrels, keeping workers busy as they nurse them back to health. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Experimental Ebola Drug ZMapp Cures Lab Monkeys Of Disease

Experimental Ebola Drug ZMapp Cures Lab Monkeys Of Disease

Newsy (Aug. 29, 2014) In a new study, a promising experimental treatment for Ebola managed to cure a group of infected macaque monkeys. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) State health officials say testing has confirmed the presence of a killer amoeba in a water system serving three St. John the Baptist Parish towns. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins