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Inhabitants' and Experts' Assessments of Environmental Quality for Urban Sustainability


*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Mirilia Bonnes, Department of Developmental and Social Psychology, University of Rome “La Sapienza”, Via dei Marsi 78, 00185 Rome, Italy [e-mail:].


In the context of sustainable urban development, we discuss the assessment of residential environmental quality and the importance of considering inhabitants' perceptions of natural resources in urban areas. Two series of studies, conducted in Guildford (United Kingdom) and in Rome (Italy), addressed the correspondence, or contrast, between inhabitants' and experts' assessment of urban quality concerning two crucial natural resources: air quality and biodiversity. The Guildford study emphasized the accuracy of the assessment of urban air quality by experts and the public. The Rome study focused on the evaluative criteria employed by scientists and the public in assessing the quality of urban green spaces. The results from both studies shed more, albeit complex, light on the simple conventional wisdom about public versus expert understanding and assessment of environmental quality. Study implications are discussed for the support of programs, methods, and tools for urban development, particularly with regard to effective communication and better structuring of residents' participation in urban environmental decision making.