Why Conservationists Should Heed Pokémon

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DOI: 10.1126/science.295.5564.2367b · Source: PubMed
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Abstract
overall score with a Poisson error structure and with child's age, age 2 , the child's sex, the organism type (wildlife or Pokémon), and their interactions as possible predictors accounted for 43.2% of the deviance in scores. Identification success showed a hump-shaped relation with age (age + age 2 : χ 2 = 105.0, df = 2, P < 0.001; see figure). On average, boys scored slightly better than girls (sex: χ 2 = 19.59, df = 1, P < 0.001), but only because of girls' poorer performance at Pokémon (organism type * sex: χ 2 = 23.92, df = 1, P < 0.001). The effect of age differed with organism type (organism type * age + organism type * age 2 : χ 2 = 18.85, df = 2, P < 0.001). For wildlife, mean identification success rose from 32% at age 4 to 53% at age 8 and then fell slightly; for Pokémon, it rose from 7% at age 4 to 78% by age 8, with children aged 8 and over typically identifying Pokémon "species" substantially better than organisms such as oak trees or badgers. Our findings carry two messages for conservationists. First, young children clearly have tremendous capacity for learning about creatures (whether natural or man-made), being able at age 8 to identify nearly 80% of a sample drawn from 150 synthetic "species." Second, it appears that conservationists are doing less well than the creators of Pokémon at inspiring interest in their subjects: During their primary school years, children apparently learn far more about Pokémon than about their native wildlife and enter secondary school being able to name less than 50% of common wildlife types. Evidence from elsewhere links loss of knowledge about the natural world to growing isolation from it ( 3, 4). People care about what they know. With the world's urban population rising by 160,000 people daily ( 8), conservationists need to reestablish children's links with nature if they are to win over the hearts and minds of the next generation. Is Ecomon the way ahead?
Tuesday, September 3, 2002 Science -- Balmford et al. 295 (5564): 2367b Page: 1
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Why Conservationists Should Heed Pokémon
According to E. O. Wilson's Biophilia hypothesis (1
), humans have an innate desire to catalog,
understand, and spend time with other life-forms. This in turn provides a powerful aesthetic argument
for combating the present extinction crisis. Yet, as industrialization and urbanization reduce our direct
interactions with nature, our interest in the variety of living things is perhaps becoming redirected
toward human artifacts, with potentially grave consequences for biodiversity conservation (2-5
). As
Robert Pyle writes, "what is the extinction of the condor to a child who has never seen a wren?" (6, p.
147).
To quantify children's knowledge of nature and shed light on the premise that their innate interest in
diversity is nowadays being met by man-made variety, we surveyed 109 UK primary schoolchildren
aged 4 to 11 to assess their knowledge of both natural and unnatural history. Each child was asked to
identify from flashcards 10 types of British wildlife and 10 "species" of Pokémon, characters in the card-trading game invented by Satoshi Tajiri to
give today's urban children a chance to collect creatures in the way he did as a child (7
). Each child's set of 10 wildlife cards included at least two
plants, two invertebrates, two mammals, and two birds picked randomly from a set of 100 common UK species, and the 10 Pokémon cards were
drawn randomly from among 100 of the basic set of 150 Pokémon types; the order of presentation of Pokemón and wildlife cards was randomized,
and a different card set was used for each child. Children aged 4 to 7 were interviewed orally, whereas older children wrote their answers down. For
wildlife, the level of detail needed for identifications to be scored as correct varied across taxa, with mammals requiring genus level identification (e.g.,
"hare") and invertebrates requiring only ordinal classification (e.g., "beetle").
Overall identification scores varied markedly across children, but there was only a moderate correlation between individuals' scores for wildlife and
for Pokémon (r
s corr
= 0.31, N = 109, P < 0.01), with the effects of pupils' age and sex differing between card types. A generalized linear model of
overall score with a Poisson error structure and with child's age, age
2
, the child's sex, the organism type (wildlife or Pokémon), and their interactions
as possible predictors accounted for 43.2% of the deviance in scores. Identification success showed a hump-shaped relation with age (age + age
2
: χ
2
= 105.0, df = 2, P < 0.001; see figure). On average, boys scored slightly better than girls (sex: χ
2
= 19.59, df = 1, P < 0.001), but only because of
girls' poorer performance at Pokémon (organism type * sex: χ
2
= 23.92, df = 1, P < 0.001). The effect of age differed with organism type
(organism type * age + organism type * age
2
: χ
2
= 18.85, df = 2, P < 0.001). For wildlife, mean identification success rose from 32% at age 4 to
53% at age 8 and then fell slightly; for Pokémon, it rose from 7% at age 4 to 78% by age 8, with children aged 8 and over typically identifying
Pokémon "species" substantially better than organisms such as oak trees or badgers.
Our findings carry two messages for conservationists. First, young children clearly have tremendous capacity for learning about creatures (whether
natural or man-made), being able at age 8 to identify nearly 80% of a sample drawn from 150 synthetic "species." Second, it appears that
conservationists are doing less well than the creators of Pokémon at inspiring interest in their subjects: During their primary school years, children
apparently learn far more about Pokémon than about their native wildlife and enter secondary school being able to name less than 50% of common
wildlife types. Evidence from elsewhere links loss of knowledge about the natural world to growing isolation from it (3
, 4). People care about what
they know. With the world's urban population rising by 160,000 people daily (8
), conservationists need to reestablish children's links with nature if
they are to win over the hearts and minds of the next generation. Is Ecomon the way ahead?
Andrew Balmford,
*
Lizzie Clegg, Tim Coulson,
Jennie Taylor
Department of Zoology,
University of Cambridge,
Downing Street,
Cambridge, CB2 3EJ, UK.
*
To whom correspondence should be addressed.
E-mail: a.balmford@zoo.cam.ac.uk
References and Notes
1. E. O. Wilson, Biophilia (Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, MA, 1984).
2. M. Gadgil, in The Biophilia Hypothesis , S. R. Kellert, E. O. Wilson, Eds. (Island Press, Washington, DC, 1993), pp. 365-377.
3. G. P. Nabhan, S. St. Antoine, in The Biophilia Hypothesis , S. R. Kellert, E. O. Wilson, Eds. (Island Press, Washington, DC, 1993), pp.
229-250.
4. G. P. Nabhan, S. Trimble, The Geography of Childhood: Why Children Need Wild Places (Beacon Press, Boston, 1994).
5. A. Balmford, Oryx 33, 87 (1999).
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Tuesday, September 3, 2002 Science -- Balmford et al. 295 (5564): 2367b Page: 2
http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/295/5564/2367b
6. R. M. Pyle, Thunder Tree: Lessons from a Secondhand Landscape (Houghton Mifflin, New York, 1993).
7. H. Chua-Eoan, T. Larimer, Time 154, 80 (22 November 1999).
8. World Resources Institute, World Resources 2000-2001 (Elsevier Science, Oxford, 2000).
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Volume 295, Number 5564, Issue of 29 Mar 2002, p. 2367.
Copyright © 2002 by The American Association for the Advancement of Science. All rights reserved.
  • ... Studien zeigen für Westeuropa, dass Artenkenntnisse und die Wahrnehmung von Pflanzen und Tieren im Siedlungsraum allgemein sehr gering sind (Balmford, Clegg, Coulson, & Taylor, 2002;Bebbington, 2005;Hesse & Lumer, 2000;Lindemann-Matthies, 2002b;Randler, 2008a). In einer Untersuchung mit fast 7000 Schülerinnen und Schülern der Grund-und Sekundarschule in der Schweiz konnten durchschnittlich nur fünf Pflanzen und sechs Tiere genannt werden. ...
    ... Jugendliche im Süden von Los Angeles können eine automatische Waffe am Schussgeräusch besser erkennen als eine Vogelart an ihrem Gesang (Nabhan & Trimble, 1994). Dass aber Kinder durchaus ein großes Potenzial besitzen, sich Arten und Artnamen zu merken, zeigt eine britische Studie (Balmford et al., 2002). Die Forscher legten 109 Kindern im Alter zwischen vier und elf Jahren Spielkarten vor, auf denen sowohl häufige einheimische Wildpflanzen und Wildtiere als auch Pokémonfiguren abgebildet waren. ...
    Thesis
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For the first time, pictures of a large number of species (69 plant and 67 animal species) were presented to 241 primary-school students in the Canton of Berne and their 14 teach-ers. Participants were asked to indicate whether they felt familiar with the species pre-sented and, if so, to identify the organisms by their common name. Moreover, data about students' age, gender, place of living, and nature experiences were collected. Guided in-terviews were used to investigate how students learn about species, what characteristics they look at when identifying plants and animals, and for how important they consider species knowledge to be. Overall, 47 of the 241 primary-school students participated in this part of the project. Five years later, 22 of the original 241 students were asked again about their species knowledge and its general relevance. There was a positive correlation between the correct naming of plant and animal species among both students and their teachers. Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), forest straw-berry (Fragaria vesca), raspberry (Rubus idaeus), great nettle (Urtica dioica) and horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) were the most often correctly named plant species, while red fox (Vulpes vulpes), hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus), dwarf bat (Pipistrellus pipistrellus), hare (Lepus europaeus) and wild boar (Sus scrofa) were the most often cor-rectly named animal species. With increasing age of the children, species knowledge de-creased. Boys could correctly identify more animal species than the girls. Children who spoke neither German nor Swiss-German with their parents at home, and children who investigated nature, plants and animals, and typical features of organisms mainly at school, had the lowest knowledge of species. The presence of trees and a garden, the re- sponsibility for living creatures, and the naming of local plants and animals by adults fostered species knowledge. Teachers could identify more plants and animals than their students. The older and thus more experienced they were, the more species they could correctly name. However, there was no significant correlation between the number of plant and animal species correctly identified by the teachers and that of their students. When children became acquainted with plants, they mainly remembered sensual experi-ences such as unpleasant encounters with stinging nettles, but also the preparation of meals. In case of animals, they especially mentioned observations that they had made alone or with other people. Parents and grandparents helped more than school or the me-dia in getting to know species. There was a positive correlation between children's knowledge of species and the number of characteristics they used when describing a plant or an animal. In case of plants, children paid particular attention to stems, hairs, leaves or fruits and less to flowers. 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If this is not the case, schools must take on this task more intensively in order to contribute to an under-standing of biological diversity. The imparting of organismic knowledge in pre-service and in-service teacher education plays thus an important role.
  • ... Moreover, studies in different countries have suggested that laypeople's ecological knowledge is decreasing [57]. There is a growing literature suggesting a general lack of biodiversity awareness in the lay public [58][59][60][61]. For instance, people may not be aware of species richness in their immediate environment [19,[62][63][64]. ...
    ... Moreover, the interviewees stated that Dutch laypeople have poor knowledge of native species, and several mentioned how the limited perceptions of biodiversity may lead people to normalize lower biodiversity levels than in the past. These findings corroborate previous studies that have reported low levels of awareness about native flora and fauna [58][59][60][61], and link to the shifting baseline syndrome [41,[45][46][47][48]. ...
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  • ... In addition, certain species are more likely to feature in press coverage on biological control and this may well affect farmers' perceptions. For example, ladybug appears more often in magazine articles related to biological control than other invertebrates (Riddick, 2017), and since 'people care about what they know' (Balmford et al., 2002(Balmford et al., , pp. 2367, this may explain why we found that ladybug was more often recognized as a natural enemy than other invertebrates. Newspaper and media coverage is also known to impact on public perceptions of biodiversity and the social acceptance of wildlife (Schakner et al., 2019;Fern� andez-Gil et al., 2016), and the higher likelihood of vertebrates rather than invertebrates featuring in news coverage and social media (Kidd et al., 2018;Willemen et al., 2015) might also play its part in explaining our results. ...
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  • ... They showed that the local species were less often identified than the exotic ones. Similarly, Balmford et al. (2002) surveyed UK schoolchildren, asking them to identify from flashcards 10 species of British common wildlife and 10 "species" of Pokémon. Overall, children aged 8 and over typically identifying Pokémon "species" substantially better than common organisms such as oak trees or badgers. ...
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  • ... BAlMForD et al. (2002)legten britischen Kindern im (2002) legten britischen Kindern im Kindern im Alter zwischen vier und elf Jahren Spielkarten vor, auf denen sowohl häufige einheimische �ildpflanzen und �ildtiere als auch Pokémonfiguren (bei Kindern beliebte Fantasiewesen, die gesammelt und getauscht werden kön� nen) abgebildet waren. Die Kinder wurden gebeten, die abgebildeten Objekte zu benennen, wobei zum Beispiel für 15 Wahrnehmung und Wertschätzung biologischer Vielfalt den Marienkäfer bereits «Käfer» als korrekte Bezeichnung gewertet wurde. ...
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  • ... Dass Kinder ab dem achten Lebensjahr heute mehr Pokémon-Karten identifizieren können als heimische Tiere und Pflanzen (vgl. Balmford et al. 2002) ...
    Chapter
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    Um die Kenntnisse lokaler Wildpflanzen und-tiere der Schülerinnen und Schülern ist es schlecht bestellt. Naturnah gestaltete Schulgelände und Schulgärten könnten Wahrnehmung und Wertschätzung biologischer Vielfalt positiv beeinflussen. Die Bereitstellung «biodiversitätsfreundlicher" Lernumgebungen ist zusammen mit entsprechend ausgebildeten Lehrkräften der Schlüsselfaktor auf dem Weg zu einem nachhaltigen Umgang mit Biodiversität. Vieles deutet darauf hin, dass Menschen den Rückgang an biologischer Vielfalt nur dann als Problem empfinden, wenn sie vorher Pflanzen und Tiere kennen und schätzen gelernt haben. Um die Wahrnehmung und Kenntnis von Arten und ihrer Vielfalt ist es allerdings derzeit schlecht bestellt. So konnten Schulkinder in der Schweiz ganze fünf Pflanzen-und sechs Tierarten benennen, die auf ihrem Schulweg vorkamen, wobei es sich vorwiegend um Zier-und Gartenpflanzen sowie Haustiere handelte (Lindemann-Matthies 2002). Als rund 800 britische Jugendliche aus Abschlussklassen von Gymnasien gebeten wurden, zehn häufige einheimische Pflanzenarten, die ihnen auf einem Poster gezeigt wurden, mit ihren Populärnamen wie zum Beispiel «Primel» oder «Veilchen» anzusprechen, konnte kein einziger Schüler diese Aufgabe vollständig erfüllen; 70 Prozent der Jugendlichen konnten weniger als drei Pflanzen beim Namen nennen (Bebbington 2005). Balmford et al. (2002) legten britischen Kindern im Alter zwischen vier und elf Jahren Spielkarten vor, auf denen sowohl häufige, einheimische Wildarten als auch Pokémonfiguren abgebildet waren. Die Kinder konnten fast 80 Prozent der Pokémonfiguren, aber nur rund 50 Prozent der ihnen gezeigten Wildpflanzen und Wildtiere korrekt benennen.
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