Avoiding negativity bias: Towards a positive psychology of human–wildlife relationships

Buijs, A.E.; Jacobs, M.H.


Recently, new approaches to wildlife management are being developed, such as coexistence management and convivial conservation. These approaches aim to shift management practices from mitigating human–wildlife conflicts towards cohabitation and explore mutual benefits. To align empirical research to these new approaches, we argue for the relevance of positive psychology theory to inspire and structure research into the benefits of human–wildlife interactions. Positive psychology suggests three pathways through which human–wildlife interactions may lead to happiness and well-being: pleasure, engagement, and meaning. Applying these pathways to human–wildlife research may (i) structure existing research into the benefits of human–wildlife interactions, (ii) disclose unidentified benefits of human–wildlife interactions, and (iii) unravel mechanisms which make experiencing and protecting wildlife worthwhile and rewarding. Also, we suggest a potential feedback loop between wildlife experiences, happiness and well-being, and pro-environmental behaviours. More in-depth research into these mechanisms may improve our understanding of attitudes towards conservation of wildlife and its habitat and may suggest strategies to strengthen stewardship actions and public support for conservation strategies. Together, these strands of research could initiate research into what could be called a “Positive Ecology”.