Past research has shown that adults prefer natural scenes to urban ones, but it’s been unclear whether that preference is inherent, or if people learn it through experience. To help answer that question, a team of University of Chicago psychologists surveyed the 239 children aged 4 to 11.
The researchers found that those children preferred urban environments much more than the 167 adult participants. However, preferences for urban environments were significantly lower among older children—suggesting that an affinity for nature may develop gradually in life, rather than being inherent at a young age.
“We hypothesized that the kids would prefer nature because adults overwhelmingly do,” says University of Chicago doctoral student Kim Lewis Meidenbauer, lead author of the study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology. “We were incredibly surprised to find evidence to the contrary.”