The Value of Zoo Experiences for Connecting People with Nature
Zoos aspire to bring people closer to nature through visitor education and by creating environments that immerse visitors into naturalistic surroundings. Yet to date, the psychological and behavioral consequences of these attempts have not been well-documented through empirical study. The present study was designed to determine if visiting a zoo had a measurable impact on visitors' relationships with nature and to test whether this effect was moderated by the zoo setting and/or type of zoo experience. Data were collected from three different types of zoos in New York City. A total of 242 zoo visitors participated in this study by completing a set of scales measuring explicit and implicit self-nature associations. Findings suggest that zoo experiences do promote an increased implicit connectedness with nature, but no changes were found for self-reported explicit connectedness with nature. The authors found no evidence that this effect was moderated by a specific design strategy or scale of institution.