Bias number five is called anthropocentrism. This is a cognitive bias that governs the way human beings relate to their environment.
Anthropocentrism, or homocentrism, is the belief that human beings are the most important entities in the Universe. Many believe it is this bias that drives humanity to structure the Earth according to our own needs, disregarding the needs of other lifeforms like plants, invertebrates and mammals in the process.
Stated another way, anthropocentrism is a form of narcissism that has governed humanity’s justification for the repeated dominating attitude towards the planet’s ecosystem.
It goes some way to explaining why the planet has experienced a 60 percent decline (on average) in the number of vertebrates worldwide since 1970. Source: https://www.britannica.com/science/biodiversity-loss
What has this got to do with business?
Consider the ecosystems that have been completely destroyed in the name of human ingenuity and the pursuit of the almighty dollar (or euro or yen or ruble).
Imagine the Scottish Highlands covered in native silver birches at the start of the Victorian era. Land owners, discovering that deer hunting attracted a wealthy shooting clientele, introduced red deer to the area. Feasting on the fledgling birch shoots, the deer decimated the tree population.
What’s left? A starkly beautiful expanse of landscape, the natural habitat of which has been radically altered by humanity’s desire to encourage a hobby that proved too lucrative to worry about the effect it had on the ecosystem.
This is one of countless examples where the quest to fulfil a human desire for a buck (excuse the pun) has resulted in drastic and often unfortunate compromises for the natural state of the environment.
And we wonder why the planet is in the state it’s in. It boils down to the belief that life revolves around humanity. And we make business decisions as if this were true, disregarding the impact of those decisions on other beings.
In cognitive psychology, anthropocentrism refers to the tendency in humans to view living things through the lens of human characteristics, inappropriately making assumptions about other living things based on human experience. Sometimes we judge the behaviour of a pet based on the way we imagine we would respond. In other circumstances, we fail to recognise the similarities between other creatures and us.
Studied mostly in children, psychologists have discovered that anthropocentrism is more prevalent in urban environments where people have little to no regular contact with the natural world. Given many children's experience with nature comes through anthropomorphic books, it's no surprise.
As strange as it seems, the earth wasn’t created for human pleasure alone. It was created as a biodiverse playground for a whole host of weird and wonderful creatures. That’s what makes it special.
So, why are we dominating the species around us, including other human beings? Why, as a species, are we failing to celebrate the lives of all living beings?
Ignorance plays a large role in anthropocentrism. Disconnection from the natural world lies at the source of this ignorance. It makes sense that children who grow up in cities project human traits onto animals. They have no experience of living beings with which they can draw comparisons.
So what is the adult excuse? Greed and grasping, the need to make more money to make money make money. It’s an endless pursuit of gratification and self-aggrandisement at the expense of “lesser” beings.
It’s rather distasteful when you think about it. But here’s what it hides: a deep inferiority complex as a result of the experience of disconnection.
It’s not true that we are genuinely disconnected from our environment. A belief in being superior, though, generates the belief of being separate. The experience of separation, in turn, generates fear and competition.
And if you’ve been following my blogs, you’ll know that inappropriate and unnecessary fear might inflate a fragile ego for a brief moment, but ultimately it creates problems, including indiscriminate destruction of natural habitats. Our home, in fact.
So, how do we solve this problem? How do we treat our environment as if it was precious to us?
We start by acknowledging the impact our callous self-centredness has on the world around us. We open our hearts to feel compassion for the suffering we create by our wilful anthropocentricity. We clean up our messes. We take action to restore what was lost and to protect what is at threat of annihilation.
We give up the notion that ignorance is bliss and we start to relate to our surroundings as a reflection of ourselves. We choose to repair the false sense of separation and connect.
In short, we connect to our hearts and dare to care.
What a brilliant world that would be.