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Beauty, memories and Symbolic meaning: Swedish student teachers´ views of their favourite plant and animal

Journal article
Authors Eva Nyberg
Irma Brkovic
Dawn Sanders
Published in Journal of Biological Education
ISSN 0021-9266
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Pedagogical, Curricular and Professional Studies
Language en
Keywords Plant Blindness, Favourite Organism, Student Teachers, Education, Survey
Subject categories


In the twenty years since the first theory of ‘plant blindness’ was published much discussion has ensued concerning this phenomenon. More recent research, not only demonstrates that humans appear to favour animals over plants but also indicates a preference for mammals with forward-facing eyes. For this paper, we analysed answers to an online survey conducted with 202 student primary teachers in Sweden collected over a period of two years. We focus on two open-ended questions concerning favourite plant and animal choices and motivations for these choices. Our intention in this study was not to contrast animal vs. plant, but rather to further explore differential appreciation of plants and animals. Our findings suggest that there are large variations regarding relationships with plants and that affective connections with plant-life are translated through expressions of beauty, symbolic meaning, emotions (life-long) memories, colour, smell and size, and that similar characteristics seem to attract humans to animals. Our results – in line with arguments presented in recent studies – strongly suggest that in biological education and conservation contexts we should rely more intentionally on cultural and personal factors, utilise pre-existing experiencebased human-plant bonds, and in so doing reinforce human recognition and appreciation of plants.

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