Open for all! CEES Friday seminar (Note the time: 11.15!): Homo Urbanus – How Environments Shape Our Behaviour

By Elisabeth Oberzaucher from University of Vienna, Austria (winner of the Ig Nobel Prize!)


Evolutionary history has shaped human perception, cognition and behaviour. Specific human responses to surroundings can be linked to evolved adaptations. Biophilia not only leads to a preference for natural elements in landscapes and environments, but affects human wellbeing, health and cognition. Human territorial functioning can be explained by the characteristics of the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness. The EEA is characterised by physical and social parameters and constitutes the environment that shaped our ancestors most in the course of hominid evolution. In the savannah of east Africa, the most relevant resources were water, plants and gregarious animals, with the greatest threats being predators and poisonous animals. Human perception and cognition evolved biases that allowed to adaptively respond to survival-relevant environmental stimuli. Evolutionary aesthetics describe the perceptional biases favouring certain stimulus characteristics that are perceived as attractive because those characteristics were especially relevant for the survival of our ancestors.

Present-day urban environments pose a great challenge for us, as city surroundings have little in common with the environments we evolved in. This talk will provide an overview of adaptations to our evolutionary past. I will discuss how they affect our behaviour in urban surroundings, and make suggestions as to how the design of urban landscapes could help increase the well-being of inhabitants.

Dr. Elisabeth Oberzaucher
University of Vienna, Austria

Published Feb. 29, 2016 7:11 PM - Last modified Mar. 8, 2021 10:48 AM