Underestimating nearby nature: affective forecasting errors obscure the happy path to sustainability

Psychol Sci. 2011 Sep;22(9):1101-6. doi: 10.1177/0956797611418527. Epub 2011 Aug 9.

Abstract

Modern lifestyles disconnect people from nature, and this may have adverse consequences for the well-being of both humans and the environment. In two experiments, we found that although outdoor walks in nearby nature made participants much happier than indoor walks did, participants made affective forecasting errors, such that they systematically underestimated nature's hedonic benefit. The pleasant moods experienced on outdoor nature walks facilitated a subjective sense of connection with nature, a construct strongly linked with concern for the environment and environmentally sustainable behavior. To the extent that affective forecasts determine choices, our findings suggest that people fail to maximize their time in nearby nature and thus miss opportunities to increase their happiness and relatedness to nature. Our findings suggest a happy path to sustainability, whereby contact with nature fosters individual happiness and environmentally responsible behavior.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affect*
  • Conservation of Natural Resources*
  • Environment
  • Female
  • Happiness*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nature*
  • Young Adult