In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Plant Blindness

  • Introduction

Ecology Plant Blindness
Dawn Sanders, Helen Ougham, Howard Thomas
  • LAST REVIEWED: 02 May 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 September 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199830060-0232


“Plant blindness” is the phrase introduced in an influential 1999 publication by James Wandersee and Elisabeth Schussler in connection with zoocentrism, initially in the context of biological education in the United States, but later addressed by researchers in a diversity of cultures. Wandersee and Schussler were much influenced by the psychology of perception and how it appeared to account for a general insensitivity to plants in the environment and dwindling understanding of the fundamental importance of plants for human survival and global ecology. The roots of plant blindness have been intensively analysed. Some studies conclude that it is an intrinsic trait, hardwired into human physiology and psychology. Others point to the consequences of historic trends in industrialization and urbanization and the progressive disconnection of people from the natural environment and primary sources of food, feed, fiber, and fuel. Much of the plant blindness literature confronts the need to remedy what it terms a specific condition, particularly at a time of climate and biodiversity crisis. Perhaps one of the challenges in this work is that those seeking to counteract plant blindness through education are often scientists or science educators who frequently perceive plant blindness as an ontological condition, which can be overcome by scientifically structured representations of plants using controlled vocabularies. But for those outside these communities plants are part of a worldview that is far more epistemological and thus the way plants enter, or fail to enter, an individual’s consciousness is constructed as a sociological event related to culture, experience, and environment. Understanding this is crucial if communicators and educators are to engage with the complexity of plant blindness effectively.

Plant Blindness: Foundational Works

The sources listed here cover the main features of the plant blindness phenomenon as defined in the original works by Wandersee and Schussler. They also include responses to, and developments from, that work; studies of the factors that perpetuate plant blindness; considerations of the ethical and philosophical implications; and accounts of interdisciplinary and popular science approaches to raising the profile of plants.

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