The values of biophilia: 9 fundamental ways by which we attribute meaning and benefit from nature | Verde Profilo (2024)

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The values of biophilia: 9 fundamental ways by which we attribute meaning and benefit from nature | Verde Profilo (1)

Have you ever asked yourself why after a long working week full of psychological or physical efforts, at some point you feel exhausted and become eager to give up everything and escape to some pleasant place in the middle of untouched Nature?

Why do we say “beautiful” or “now I can regenerate” when we are in a mountain landscape or on a fresh green space full of colourful flowers in an urban park, or in front of a vigorous vertical garden in our office?

Why do we fill our terraces with plants and take walks in the woods for no apparent reason, other than to keep fit and take a breath of fresh air?

Each of these situations bears witness in a unique way to our relationship with Nature and how it affects us in many aspects of our every day existence, even if many of us are no longer aware of it.

In this article:

  • What emotions does nature arouse in us?
  • Man and nature: a consolidated relationship
  • The nine values of Biophilia


We are attracted to everything that is alive, and living things can basically arouse two emotions in us:

  • affiliation (=BIOFILIA)
  • repulsion (=BIOFOBIA)

Biophobia may seem like the antithesis of biophilia, which literally translates as"LOVE FOR LIFE", but the latter reflects the inherent tendency to affiliate with Nature, atendencythatincludesbothpositive interest and affection, as well asapprehension and aversion to it.

Biophilia is innate, and it isa genetic predisposition that we all possess, butit must be stimulated and educatedto be able to express itself at its best. Direct contact with Nature has multiple positive effects on our health and on our psychophysical well-being, as shown by numerous scientific studies. The writer Jane Austen already sensed this, when in her novel Mansfield Park she wrote“I shall soon be rested, […] to sit in the shade on a fine day, and look upon verdure, is the most perfect refreshment.


Dealing with the strong bond between Human and Nature is not a current fashion, or a trend that will soon become obsolete, but a relationship that has developed and consolidated over the long years of our evolutionary history in close contact with Nature and still has today , without a doubt, a strong impact on our actions, choices and preferences. Numerous decisions and many daily gestures are guided by our biology and come from our adaptations to natural environments that occurred during the evolution of our species.

American ecologist,Stephen R. Kellert(1943-2016), who was a Professor at Yale University, as well as being the inventor ofBiophilic Design(a design discipline and applied science that deals with built environments that are able to stimulate our innate biophilia with regenerative and stress-reducing effects - we have talked about it in other contributions in the blog) - has tried to systematize thetheoretical framework of biophilia.

Together with Edward O. Wilson, Kellert developed thebiophilia hypothesis.ìIn his book "The Value of Life" (1996) he identified the 9 VALUES OF BIOPHILY.

For Kellert, biophilia reflectsthe human tendency to give importance and value to nature.We depend on the relationship with it, or rather on the quality of this relationship, from aUTILITY UTILITARIAN,NATURALISTIC,ECOLOGISTIC-SCIENTIFIC,AESTHETIC,SYMBOLIC,HUMANISTIC,MORALISTIC,DOMINIONISTICandNEGATIVISTICpoint of view. These values developed throughout our evolution because they were instrumental in promoting the health and well-being of our ancestors.

They are considered"weak" biological or intrinsic tendencies, which arestrongly influenced by the learning and experience of each of uswithin a cultural or community context.


Here you can find the9 VALUES OF BIOPHILYand what theirFUNCTIONSare for the human being (Kellert, 1996; Barbiero, 2016).

The hierarchical scale, and the intensity of these values, change from individual to individual and also within human communities, but their healthy and adaptive expression belongs to each individual of our species.

I would like to end this little excursus into the world of biophilic values with a sentence attributed to Leo Tolstoy:

"One of the first conditions for happiness is that the bond between Man and Nature is not interrupted"!

- - -

Bettina Bolten, Biophilic design consultant

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The values of biophilia: 9 fundamental ways by which we attribute meaning and benefit from nature | Verde Profilo (2024)


What are the 9 values of biophilia? ›

We depend on the relationship with it, or rather on the quality of this relationship, from a UTILITY UTILITARIAN, NATURALISTIC, ECOLOGISTIC-SCIENTIFIC, AESTHETIC, SYMBOLIC, HUMANISTIC, MORALISTIC, DOMINIONISTIC and NEGATIVISTIC point of view.

What are the 9 values of Kellert? ›

Kellert originally proposed nine value categories – utilitarian, scientific/ecologistic, naturalistic, aesthetic, humanistic, moralistic, symbolic, dominionistic, and negativistic. A tenth category, theistic, was added from work by Mordi (1991; quoted in Kellert, 1996, p. 148).

What is biophilia quizlet? ›

Biophilia. the attraction towards organisms, species, habitats, natural process and natural surroundings.

What is biophilia in simple words? ›

The word biophilia originates from the Greek, 'philia' meaning 'love of'. It literally means a love of life or living things. Humans have a deeply engrained love of nature which is an intuitive and natural drive imprinted into our DNA.

What are the main points of biophilic design? ›

Biophilic spaces often include well-recognized features of the natural world. Features like vegetation, water, sunlight, and natural materials create a more pleasing visual and tactile experience. This principle can be applied on different scales.

What are the values of nature according to Kellert? ›

Through numerous studies, Kellert developed a typology of 10 values that signify people's relationship to the natural world (Table 1). They are: aesthetic, dominionistic, ecologistic-scientific, humanistic, moralistic, naturalistic, negativistic, spiritual, symbolic, and utilitarian. ...

What is the biophilia summary? ›

The biophilia hypothesis is the belief that humans are genetically predisposed to be attracted to nature. It states that all humans inherently love the natural world. This idea that we are drawn to and need nature was first put forth by a man named Edward O. Wilson in his book, Biophilia, published in 1984.

What are some examples of biophilia in life? ›

Designing spaces with large windows or views of greenery, trees, open parkland and flowering plants is an example of biophilic design, as is installing a living moss wall or large planting installation in an office in the middle of a city.

What is biophilia for kids? ›

Children have an innate biological tendency to bond with the natural world known as biophilia. For children's natural inclination of biophilia to develop they must be given developmentally appropriate opportunities to learn about the natural world based on sound principles of child development and learning.

What is biophilia connection to nature? ›

The human relationship with nature

Anecdotal and qualitative evidence suggests that humans are innately attracted to nature. For example, the appearance of the natural world, with its rich diversity of shapes, colours, and life, is universally appreciated. This appreciation is often invoked as evidence of biophilia.

What are the 5 senses of biophilic design? ›

Biophilic design comprises the 5 senses; sight, smell, touch, taste and hearing.

What is the belief of biophilia? ›

The Biophilia Hypothesis: What is it? The biophilia hypothesis is the belief that humans are genetically predisposed to be attracted to nature.

What is the biophilia hypothesis in Wilson's 1984? ›

Wilson's (1984) biophilia hypothesis adopts an evolutionary interpretation and offers a phylogenetic perspective to our love for life. Wilson defines biophilia as “our innate tendency to focus upon life and life-like forms and, in some instances, to affiliate with them emotionally” (Wilson, 2002, p. 134).

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