A Growing Disconnection From Nature Is Evident in Cultural Products

Perspect Psychol Sci. 2017 Mar;12(2):258-269. doi: 10.1177/1745691616662473.


Human connection with nature is widely believed to be in decline even though empirical evidence is scarce on the magnitude and historical pattern of the change. Studying works of popular culture in English throughout the 20th century and later, we have documented a cultural shift away from nature that begins in the 1950s. Since then, references to nature have been decreasing steadily in fiction books, song lyrics, and film storylines, whereas references to the human-made environment have not. The observed temporal pattern is consistent with the explanatory role of increased virtual and indoors recreation options (e.g., television, video games) in the disconnect from nature, and it is inconsistent with a pure urbanization account. These findings are cause for concern, not only because they imply foregone physical and psychological benefits from engagement with nature, but also because cultural products are agents of socialization that can evoke curiosity, respect, and concern for the natural world.

Keywords: content analysis; cultural change; culture; language; nature; sustainability; well-being.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Culture*
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Nature*