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Creativity in the Wild: Improving Creative Reasoning through Immersion in Natural Settings



Adults and children are spending more time interacting with media and technology and less time participating in activities in nature. This life-style change clearly has ramifications for our physical well-being, but what impact does this change have on cognition? Higher order cognitive functions including selective attention, problem solving, inhibition, and multi-tasking are all heavily utilized in our modern technology-rich society. Attention Restoration Theory (ART) suggests that exposure to nature can restore prefrontal cortex-mediated executive processes such as these. Consistent with ART, research indicates that exposure to natural settings seems to replenish some, lower-level modules of the executive attentional system. However, the impact of nature on higher-level tasks such as creative problem solving has not been explored. Here we show that four days of immersion in nature, and the corresponding disconnection from multi-media and technology, increases performance on a creativity, problem-solving task by a full 50% in a group of naive hikers. Our results demonstrate that there is a cognitive advantage to be realized if we spend time immersed in a natural setting. We anticipate that this advantage comes from an increase in exposure to natural stimuli that are both emotionally positive and low-arousing and a corresponding decrease in exposure to attention demanding technology, which regularly requires that we attend to sudden events, switch amongst tasks, maintain task goals, and inhibit irrelevant actions or cognitions. A limitation of the current research is the inability to determine if the effects are due to an increased exposure to nature, a decreased exposure to technology, or to other factors associated with spending three days immersed in nature.
Creativity in the Wild: Improving Creative Reasoning
through Immersion in Natural Settings
Ruth Ann Atchley
, David L. Strayer
*, Paul Atchley
1 Department of Psychology, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, United States of America, 2 Department of Psychology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah,
United States of America
Adults and children are spending more time interacting with media and technology and less time participating in activities
in nature. This life-style change clearly has ramifications for our physical well-being, but what impact does this change have
on cognition? Higher order cognitive functions including selective attention, problem solving, inhibition, and multi-tasking
are all heavily utilized in our modern technology-rich society. Attention Restoration Theory (ART) suggests that exposure to
nature can restore prefrontal cortex-mediated executive processes such as these. Consistent with ART, research indicates
that exposure to natural settings seems to replenish some, lower-level modules of the executive attentional system.
However, the impact of nature on higher-level tasks such as creative problem solving has not been explored. Here we show
that four days of immersion in nature, and the corresponding disconnection from multi-media and technology, increases
performance on a creativity, problem-solving task by a full 50% in a group of naive hikers. Our results demonstrate that
there is a cognitive advantage to be realized if we spend time immersed in a natural setting. We anticipate that this
advantage comes from an increase in exposure to natural stimuli that are both emotionally positive and low-arousing and a
corresponding decrease in exposure to attention demanding technology, which regularly requires that we attend to sudden
events, switch amongst tasks, maintain task goals, and inhibit irrelevant actions or cognitions. A limitation of the current
research is the inability to determine if the effects are due to an increased exposure to nature, a decreased exposure to
technology, or to other factors associated with spending three days immersed in nature.
Citation: Atchley RA, Strayer DL, Atchley P (2012) Creativity in the Wild: Improving Creative Reasoning through Immersion in Natural Settings. PLoS ONE 7(12):
e51474. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0051474
Editor: Jan de Fockert, Goldsmiths, University of London, United Kingdom
Received April 23, 2012; Accepted November 5, 2012; Published December 12, 2012
Copyright: ! 2012 Atchley et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits
unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Funding: The authors have no support or funding to report.
Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.
* E-mail:
Our environment plays a critical role in how we think and
behave. The modern environment experienced by most individ-
uals living in urban or suburban settings can be characterized by a
dramatic decrease in our exposure to natural settings and a
correlated increase in exposure to a technology intense environ-
ment. Data suggest that children today spend only 15–25 minutes
a day in outdoor play and sports [1] and this number continues to
decline. There has been a 20% decline in per capita visits to
national parks since 1988, and a 18–25% decline in nature-based
recreation since 1981 [2]. Concurrently, eighty percent of
kindergarten aged children are computer users (USDE, 2005)
and the average 8–18 year old now spends over seven and a half
hours per day using one or more types of media (TV, cell phones,
computers) [3], while adults likely spend more time engaged with
different forms of media technology (for example see OFCOM
Communications Market Report) [4].
Attention Restoration Theory (ART) [5] suggests that nature
has specific restorative effects on the prefrontal cortex-mediated
executive attentional system, which can become depleted with
overuse. High levels of engagement with technology and
multitasking place demands on executive attention to switch
amongst tasks, maintain task goals, and inhibit irrelevant actions
or cognitions. ART suggests that interactions with nature are
particularly effective in replenishing depleted attentional resources.
Our modern society is filled with sudden events (sirens, horns,
ringing phones, alarms, television, etc.) that hijack attention. By
contrast, natural environments are associated with a gentle, soft
fascination, allowing the executive attentional system to replenish.
In fact, early studies have found that interacting with nature (e.g.,
a wilderness hike) led to improvements in proof reading [6],
control of Necker Cube pattern reversals [7,8], and performance
on the backwards digit span task [9]. Laboratory-based studies
have also reported that viewing slides of nature improved
sustained attention [10] and the suppression of distracting
information [9]. However, the impact of more sustained exposure
to natural environments on higher-level cognitive function such as
creative problem solving has not been explored.
To empirically test the intriguing hypotheses that complex
cognition is facilitated by prolonged exposure to natural settings
and the parallel release from technology immersion, the current
research utilized a simple and ecologically valid paradigm of
measuring higher order cognitive production in a pre-post design
looking at the cognitive facilitative effects of immersion in nature.
To the best of our knowledge, this is the first attempt to examine
changes in higher-order cognitive production after sustained
exposure to nature, while participants are still in the natural
environment. The higher order cognitive task used was the
Remote Associates Test (RAT) developed by Mednick [11,12],
which has been widely used as a measure of creative thinking and
PLOS ONE | 1 December 2012 | Volume 7 | Issue 12 | e51474
insight problem-solving. Utilizing insight, problem solving, and
convergent creative reasoning to effectively connect the cues
provided through a mediated relationship (for example: SAME/
TENNIS/HEAD = MATCH) is thought to draw on the same pre-
frontal cortical structures that are hypothesized to be overtaxed by
the constant demands on our selective attention and threat
detection systems from our modern, technology-intensive envi-
Fifty-six (26 Female, average age = 28 years) adults involved in
wilderness expeditions run by Outward Bound (http://www. participated in the study. Informed voluntary
consent was provided in writing by the Outward Bound
organization and was obtained for all participants in the study.
The study utilized a between subjects design with 8 hiking groups
(half randomly assigned to the pre-hike group and half to the in-
hike group). The pre-hike groups backpacked in Alaska (n = 8),
Colorado (n = 10), or Maine (n = 6) and the in-hike groups
backpacked in Alaska (n = 9), Colorado (n = 14) or Washington
(n = 9) and there was no communication between hiking groups.
All hikes involved backpacking in the wilderness for 4–6 days and
all participants were prohibited from using any electronic
technology during the outing. A between-subjects design was
selected to avoid unwanted carry-over effects (including collabo-
ration between participants).
The pre-hike participant sample was composed of twenty-four
participants (11 Female, average age = 34) and the in-hike group
was made up of 32 participants (15 Female, average age = 24).
Because age has an effect on the task, age was run as a covariate in
subsequent analyses. The pre-hike group completed the RAT
measure on the morning before they began their backpacking trip.
The in-hike group completed the RAT measure in the morning of
the fourth day or their trip. All participants were given an
unlimited amount of time to complete 10 Remote Associate Items
[13] and the primary dependent variable was the number of
correct items provided out of 10 possible. All RAT tasks were
completed independently and both analysis of the responses
provided and Outward Bound councilors indicated that no
collaboration happened between participants.
A simple between-participant ANOVA was utilized. As
anticipated, age of participant did significantly influence hit rate
for the RAT measure (F(1,53) = 7.20, p,.01, MS = 32.88) and
therefore was included as a covariate in the analysis of Group
effects. In this analysis we found that the pre-hike group were able
to answer fewer RAT items (M = 4.14, SD = .46) than the in-hike
group (M = 6.08, SD = .39), F(1,53) = 9.71, p,.01, MS = 44.33,
Cohen’s D = 0.86. This represents a 50% increase in performance
after four days of exposure to nature.
Testing higher-order cognitive skills in a natural environment is
a challenge. The current study is unique in that participants were
exposed to nature over a sustained period and they were still in
that natural setting during testing. Despite the challenging testing
environment, the current research indicates that there is a real,
measurable cognitive advantage to be realized if we spend time
truly immersed in a natural setting. Further, unlike previous
research in which cognitive changes were measured with
laboratory tests of attentional function and/or laboratory surro-
gates for exposure to nature, the current work demonstrates that
higher-order cognitive skills improve with sustained exposure to a
natural environment. The current study lays the groundwork for
further work examining the mechanism of this effect by providing
evidence and a method by which improved cognitive performance
can be examined in the wild.
There are multiple candidates for potential mechanisms
underlying the effects observed here and in other studies. It is
likely that the cognitive benefits of nature are due to a range of
these mechanisms and it will require a sustained program of
research to fully understand this phenomenon. One suggestion is
that natural environments, like the environment that we evolved
in, are associated with exposure to stimuli that elicit a kind of
gentle, soft fascination, and are both emotionally positive and low-
arousing [9]. It is also worth noting that with exposure to nature in
decline, there is a reciprocal increase in the adoption of, use, and
dependency upon technology [14]. Thus, the effects observed here
could represent either removal of the costs associated with over-
connection or a benefit associated with a return to a more
positive/low-arousing restorative environment.
Exposure to nature may also engage what has been termed the
‘‘default mode’’ networks of the brain, which an emerging
literature suggests may be important for peak psychosocial health
[15]. The default mode network is a set of brain areas that are
active during restful introspection and that have been implicated
in efficient performance on tasks requiring frontal lobe function
such as the divergent thinking task used here [16]. On a hike or
during exposure to natural stimuli which produce soft-fascination,
the mind may be more able to enter a state of introspection and
mind wandering which can engage the default mode. Interestingly,
engaging the default mode has been shown to be disrupted by
multimedia use, which requires an external attentional focus,
again pointing to the possibility that natural environments such as
those experienced by the current participants may have both
removed a cost (technology) and added a benefit (activation of
brain systems that aid divergent thinking).
This study is the first to document systematic changes in higher-
level cognitive function associated with immersion in nature.
There is clearly much more research to be done in this area, but
the current work shows that effects are measurable, even in
completely disconnected natural environments, laying the ground-
work for further studies. Much about our cognitive and social
experience has changed in our current technology-rich society and
it is challenging to fully assess the health costs associated with these
changes. Nevertheless, the current research establishes that there
are cognitive costs associated with constant exposure to a
technology-rich, suburban or urban environment, as contrasted
with exposure to the natural environment that we experience
when we are immersed in nature. When our research participants
spent four days in a natural setting, absent all the tools of
technology, the surrounding natural setting allowed them to bring
a wide range of cognitive resources to bear when asked to engage
in a task that requires creativity and complex convergent problem
A limitation to the current research is the inability to determine
if the effects are due to an increased exposure to nature, to a
decreased exposure to technology, or to other factors associated
with spending three days immersed in nature. In the majority of
real-world multi-day hiking experiences, the exposure to nature
and technology are inversely related and we cannot determine if
one factor has more influence than another. From a scientific
perspective, it may prove theoretically important to understand
the unique influences of nature and technology on creative
problem solving; however, from a pragmatic perspective these two
Creativity in the Wild
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factors are often so strongly interrelated that they may be
considered to be different sides of the same coin. We suggest that
attempts to meaningfully dissociate the highly correlated real-
world effects of nature and technology may be like asking Gestalt
psychologists whether figure or ground is more important in
perceptual grouping.
In principle, a 262 factorial study with high or low levels of
nature (N+ or N2, respectively) and high or low levels of
technology (T+ or T2, respectively) could shed light on the issue
of dissociating the effects of nature and technology on complex
problem solving. In the majority of real-world urban environ-
ments, T+N2 is the norm whereas T2N+ is more common in the
outdoor settings. Our research demonstrates that interacting for
three days in T2N+ environments (i.e., the in-hike group) results
in significant improvements in creative problem solving compared
to T+N2 environments (i.e., the pre-hike group). The T+N+
condition reflects an interesting situation where the interloper
brings technology with them on the hike (assuming there is service
and power) and, based on ART, we predict that interacting in this
sort of environment would not benefit creative problem solving.
The T2N2 condition reflects a different scenario in which people
interact in urban settings without the use of technology a
condition that is becoming increasingly rare in the modern world.
Based upon ART, which places an emphasis on natural
environments for maximal restoration, we predict that T2N+
condition would result in superior creative problem solving
compared to T2N2 condition (assuming that we could convince
people to part with their digital technology for three full days).
Future research will be required to evaluate these latter
We wish to thank Mr. Jon Frankel and the Outward Bound Organization
for their valuable contributions to this work and for their willingness to
collaborate with us on this project.
Author Contributions
Conceived and designed the experiments: RAA DLS PA. Performed the
experiments: RAA DLS PA. Analyzed the data: RAA PA DLS. Wrote the
paper: RAA DLS PA.
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... Studies have shown a significant direct link between nature and creativity, with effects having been observed in adults who reported their emotions after visiting an outdoor recreation area (Pasanen et al., 2018), hikers who spent four days immersed in nature (Atchley et al., 2012), children who attended schools with natural schoolyards (Dankiw et al., 2020;Dennis et al., 2014), and professionals of creative industries (e.g., performing arts, arts and crafts, architecture, design) who discussed nature as a source of inspiration and creativity (Plambech and Van Den Bosch, 2015). Further, creative thinking among preschoolers increased after spending an academic year in a nature-based school, while preschoolers in a traditional school did not show increases in creative thinking over the same period (Ernst and Burcak, 2019;Wojciehowski and Ernst, 2018). ...
... Williams and colleagues stated that, in addition to attention restoration, mind wandering may be another mechanism through which nature promotes creativity (Williams et al., 2018). Drawing on the theory of creativity (Beaty et al., 2014), it is stated that nature can be a situational factor that enable mind-wandering to occur (Atchley et al., 2012), which trigger the formation of associations between unconnected ideas that are creative (Williams et al., 2018). ...
Nature deficit poses critical developmental challenges to the future generations. Louv, for example, stated that children needs adequate nature exposure for healthy development of their sense, learning, and creativity. However, it remains unknown whether individuals having various levels of nature access during childhood may develop different sensory processing patterns. The current study reports relationships between retrospective life course measure of childhood nature exposure and sensory profiles in young adulthood. A cross-sectional survey was conducted in Shanghai, China, with 700 Chinese young adults (18–25 years old) who grew up in diverse geographies across the country. Sensory Profile was measured using the Adolescent/Adult Sensory Profile (AASP) with four quadrants; creativity using the Alternative Uses Task (AUT), and nature-relatedness using the Nature-Relatedness (NR) scale. Perceived childhood nature exposure was calculated as a cumulative score from up to three childhood home locations, weighted by duration of residency. Ordinary least square (OLS) and structural equation models (SEM) were fitted to examine the direct and indirect relationships. After adjusting for socio-demographic characteristics, low childhood nature exposure was associated with low sensory registration. Regarding the relationship between childhood nature exposure and adulthood creativity and nature-relatedness, significant direct paths and indirect paths through low sensory registration were observed. Results suggested that children who had lower levels of nature exposure grew up to exhibit a high tendency to miss subtle sensory stimuli, and this sensory processing pattern in turn is associated with lower levels of affinity to nature and creativity. Notwithstanding the preliminary nature of these findings, this study offers implications for designing child-friendly urban space that facilitates sensory explorations and allows children to acquire the ability to recognize various sensory inputs.
... Exploring the degree of naturalness in urban green spaces would help us understand the effect on creative thinking and to understand the benefits of restorativeness. Past research has shown that natural environments, or environments with natural elements, enhance creative performance more than urban environments (4)(5)(6)(7). Dealing with the daily work process and preparing and understanding new work problems could consume our directed attention, leading to attention fatigue. Exposure to environments with restorative characteristics (i.e., being away, fascination, extent, compatibility) compared with artificial environments can promote recovery from attention fatigue (1). ...
... During a creative incubation period, nature walks foster calmness and spiritual rejuvenation, providing opportunities to rest and review problematic issues in a new light (11). Numerous studies have discussed the relationship between creativity and natural environments, including actual nature experience (4,28), indoor plants, natural window views or natural environmental images (3,6,8,26,29), natural environments experienced through immersive virtual devices (30), and even quick design practice in an actual outdoor natural environment (7). All the above studies found that creativity improves in natural settings or the presence of natural elements. ...
Full-text available
This study investigated the effects of different natural environments on attention restoration and creativity. To compare the restorative benefits based on the degrees of perceived naturalness in urban areas, this study categorized environments into three types of perceived naturalness and tested the effect on one's creativity. The urban campus was selected as the study site, representing high-, medium-, and low-perceived naturalness photosets downloaded from Google Street Map images as experimental stimuli. The study invited 100 subjects to take the Abbreviated Torrance Test for Adults (ATTA), which measures creative thinking by viewing the onscreen photosets of the experimental stimuli. In addition, this study asked participants to complete the Perceived Restoration Scale (PRS) questionnaires. The results showed that high- and medium-perceived naturalness in the urban-campus site was superior to low-perceived naturalness in creative performance. In addition, there were significant differences in elaboration and flexibility for different degrees of perceived naturalness. Various degrees of perceived naturalness showed a substantial correlation between PRS scores and ATTA scores. The attention restoration benefits of high- and medium-naturalness environments improve creativity. Our study indicates that viewing natural environments stimulates curiosity and fosters flexibility and imagination, highly natural environments distract our minds from work, and the benefits of attention restoration can improve the uniqueness and diversity of creative ideas. This study provides a reference for creative environmental design and supports further understanding of nature's health and creativity benefits in urban areas.
... Indeed, several studies have shown that exposure to nature increased creativity 37-41 . Participants can benefit from experiencing exposure to nature prior to subsequent creative tasks 37,38,42 and immersing in an environment with natural elements during tasks 39,43,44 . Meanwhile, wild (real nature) and indoor (pseudo-nature with natural elements) natural environments can induce the effect of exposure to nature, although the effect in an indoor environment was only evident among female participants 39 and is unlikely to induce as large an effect as that from wild natural environments. ...
... SD age = 2.42). A minimum sample size of 32 was estimated via a priori power analysis 50 using G*Power (with settings of power = 0.80, alpha = 0.05, and effect size f = 0.4) based on a previous report 37 (Cohen's d = 0.86). Twenty-seven were right-handed, four were left-handed, and one was ambidextrous. ...
Full-text available
In today’s advanced information society, creativity in work is highly valued, and there is growing interest in the kinds of work environments that produce more creative outcomes. Recent researchers have demonstrated that when environmental factors change a worker’s attentional state to a diffused state, the worker has access to more information than usual, which can contribute to creativity. Here, we examined whether manipulating environmental factors (the presence of a cell phone and exposure to natural environment) that could affect such attention states would improve performance on the Remote Associates Task, a measure of creativity. Our results showed that the presence of a cell phone increased creative performance regardless of immersion in natural environment. In contrast, exposure to nature did not facilitate creative performance; instead, feelings of pleasure increased, and frustration decreased. These results suggest that the presence of a cell phone can enhance creativity by influencing workers’ attentional states. The current study provides a meaningful approach to enhancing creativity by modulating attentional states through environmental factors. It also highlights the essential features of environmental factors that can moderate creative abilities.
... Research in the environmental psychology and creativity literature has shown that a heightened connectedness to nature increases our capacity for innovation and is indicative of holistic cognitive styles and pro-environmental attitudes and beliefs, which often lead individuals to self-identify as environmentalist and to adapt a more eco-centric worldview, leading to pro-environmental behavior [18][19][20][21]. Connectedness to natural environments has also been shown to have restorative effects on directed attention [22,23], enabling more focused attention and higher-level cognitive function such as creative problem solving [24]. This focused creative problem solving coupled with a pro-environmental belief and eco-centric worldview could be the behavioral change required to tackle the current climate crisis. ...
... Intrinsic motivation has also been positively correlated with creative performance [69], while exposure to natural environments has been demonstrated to promote creative cog-nitive styles [22,24]. This unfortunately was not supported in the current study. ...
Full-text available
Employees play a critical role in the success of corporate sustainability initiatives, yet sustained employee engagement is a constant challenge. The psychology literature states that to intrinsically motivate employees to engage in sustainability, there must be opportunity for employees to engage in practices that are directly relevant to their job duties. Traditional ad hoc initiatives such as Earth Week events, recycling challenges and so on, are not sufficient to derive this type of intrinsic motivation. Therefore, the goal of this study was to examine the psychological impact of a biomimicry sustainable innovation training program, to intrinsically motivate R&D employees to reconnect with nature and identify whether this promotes creative thinking and employee engagement. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the current study conducted virtual workshops with R&D employees and demonstrated that biomimicry training was intrinsically motivating to employees and was valued as a practice that could be incorporated into R&D job duties. In conclusion, this study provides an adaptable procedural template for biomimicry training with a corporate audience. The results demonstrate a strong business case for organizations to experiment with biomimicry by illustrating its potential to create positive change across several business units beyond sustainable innovation to include human resources and sustainable marketing.
... A large body of evidence about attention restoration properties of nature can be found. A key study published by Atchley et al. (2012) exposed the benefits of being immersed in nature for creative complex problem solving following a 4-day trip into nature. Other studies also found positive impacts of nature exposure on other attention-related cognitive tasks such as proofreading (Hartig et al. 1991), control of Necker cube patterns (Tennessen and Cimprich 1995), and backward digit span task (Berman et al. 2008, Exp. ...
Full-text available
Efforts have always been deployed to surpass limitations in human cognitive abilities to enhance aspects such as task accuracy, work effectiveness, and error management. Cognitive enhancement is a field aiming at improving human cognition to overcome those limitations. It bears important interest from the human factors community given its potential for reducing errors in complex operational environments, but also for occupational psychology to improve work performance, mitigate risks, and improve job stress/well-being. Yet, cognitive enhancement strategies are still marginally used in practice. The current narrative review presents a brief summary of the literature on human cognitive enhancement and discusses key implications as well as operational applications of the main methods and technologies reported in this field. Using a human factors perspective, the paper also outlines how such techniques could be integrated into intelligent support systems to help operators facing cognitive challenges in complex operational domains, including those experiencing functional limitations preventing them to contribute to the workforce. We also discuss the implications of integrating such techniques into the workplace and the consequences this might incur for workers and stakeholders. Then, we briefly present a five-step guideline to discuss ways of optimally integrating cognitive enhancement methods into the workplace.
... Trees, grass, flowers and even just fresh (crisp winter) air offer us a sense of being away from our routine, everyday settings and allow our brains to rest. The catch is that our devices actually counteract the benefits we reap from natural settings (Atchley, Strayer and Atchley 2012;Jiang, Schmillen and Sullivan 2019). ...
Byra, M. (2020). Teaching SPECTRUM style – Part 3: Learning through critical thinking. Runner Journal: Alberta Health and Physical Education Council, 51(1), 27-33. ABSTRACT: This article is the third in a series of three articles on the Spectrum of Teaching Styles (Mosston & Ashworth 2008). The primary purpose of this three article series is to help teachers expand their toolbox of instructional strategies to meet the diverse needs of their students and the multiple learning outcomes associated with teaching physical education K-12. The focus of this third article is on the Spectrum’s production cluster of teaching styles, styles that require the learners to discover knowledge through inductive and deductive reasoning, inquiry, and problem solving, styles that evoke “cognitive dissonance” (Mosston & Ashworth 2008). Within this cluster of teaching styles, there appear to be two groupings, styles F-H (student discovery learning) and styles I-K (student initiated learning). Styles F (Guided Discovery), G (Convergent Discovery), and H (Divergent Discovery) are based upon the premise of learners discovering knowledge. These three styles emphasize students’ cognitive development, triggering specific thinking processes like comparing, contrasting, hypothesizing, discovering, and creating (Chatoupis, 2013; Cleland, 1994; McBride, 1992). Styles I (Learner-designed Individual Program), J (Learner-initiated), and K (Self-teaching) also emphasize learners’ activation to seek knowledge, but through self-initiated learning. It has been found that styles I-K impact students’ perceptions of autonomy more than the act of discovering knowledge (Papaioannou, Theodorakis, & Goudas, 2011). In the remainder of this article, I describe Styles F-K within the structure of these two sub-groupings (F-H and I-K), provide example scenarios for the styles, and discuss them in light of Alberta’s K–12 physical education learning outcomes (Alberta Learning, 2000).
... Natural environments are among the most restorative (Berto, 2014;Herzog et al., 2003), although restoration has also been demonstrated in environments such as museums ), monasteries (Ouelette et al., 2005, and spiritual retreats (Gill et al., 2019). A significant amount of literature on restoration has focused on forests (Belinis et al., 2018), wilderness areas (Atchley et al., 2012), and other natural green spaces (Buchecker & Degenhardt, 2015). Studies have also found that water is particularly effective in enhancing restoration (Karmanov & Hamel, 2008;Völker & Kistermann, 2011;White et al., 2010). ...
Virtual reality is providing new opportunities for health and well-being, organizational learning, and tourism management. The study reported in this paper aims to examine whether engaging in a virtual reality tourism experience could function as a restorative intervention strategy to enhance mental well-being of employees in the workplace. The study employed a lab-based pre–post experimental design to test the effectiveness of a virtual reality tourism experience, involving a nature-based marine setting, to enhance mental restoration and reduce mental fatigue. The results show that 3 minutes of a virtual tourism experience can lead to enhanced concentration while boosting the mental well-being of employees, while, at the same time, providing destinations with an opportunity to promote “real” experiences.
This study, based on the theory of restorative environmental, uses virtual reality (VR) technology to construct interactive restorative environments and discusses the influence of the experience of virtual restorative environment on individual creativity. A total of 72 college students were selected as participants in the study. Through psychological scales, three creativity tests, and EEG feedback data, the following conclusions were drawn: (1) The VR restorative environment experience improves individual creativity, especially the creative quality of cohesion; (2) the experience of the VR restorative environment enables participants to experience a desirable sense of presence. Compared with the restorative scene experience without interactive activities, the addition of interactive activities improves the individual sensory fidelity to a greater extent. (3) We cannot simply assume that the experience of the VR restorative environment with interactive activities will make individual creative performance better than non-interactive experience. Interaction with certain difficulty will increase cognitive load, thus disrupting individual creative performance. Garden scenes that can be explored freely and have no interaction can better promote individual creativity. (4) In the environmental experience, participants paid greater attention to natural elements, and the restorative environment they described was very similar to the environment they believed could foster creativity. This study’s results provide evidence for the positive effects of the VR restorative environment experience on individuals and contributes to the cognitive exploration of the interaction between restorative environments and individuals in the future.
This review adopts the conceptual framework of awe laid out by Keltner and Haidt (2003) to explore the relationship between awe and nature. It does so from two perspectives: awe as a self-transcendent emotion and awe as an epistemic emotion. In short, nature is a frequent elicitor of awe, and awe in turn motivates the exploration and explanation of the natural environment. The many benefits of being in nature to health and well-being may be, at least in part, attributable to the experience of awe.
Specific environmental features, such as natural settings or spatial design, can foster creativity. The effect of object-context congruency on creativity has not yet been investigated. While congruence between an object and its visual context provides meaning to the object, it may hamper creativity due to mental fixation effects. In the current study, virtual reality technology (VR) was employed to examine the hypothesis that people display more cognitive flexibility - a key element of creativity, representing the ability to overcome mental fixation - when thinking about an object while being in an incongruent than in a congruent environment. Participants (N = 184) performed an Alternative Uses Task, in which they had to name as many uses for a book as possible, while being immersed in a virtual environment that was either object-context congruent (i.e., places where you would expect a book; e.g., a library or a living room; n = 91) or object-context incongruent (i.e., places where a book is not expected; e.g., a clothing store or a car workshop; n = 93). The effect of object (in)congruency was also assessed for three other indices of creativity: fluency (i.e., the number of ideas generated), originality and usefulness. In line with our hypothesis, participants scored higher on pure cognitive flexibility in the object-context incongruent than in the object-context congruent environment. Moreover, participants in the object-context incongruent environment condition generated more original ideas. The theoretical and practical implications of the current findings are discussed.
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When people wakefully rest in the functional MRI scanner, their minds wander, and they engage a so-called default mode (DM) of neural processing that is relatively suppressed when attention is focused on the outside world. Accruing evidence suggests that DM brain systems activated during rest are also important for active, internally focused psychosocial mental processing, for example, when recalling personal memories, imagining the future, and feeling social emotions with moral connotations. Here the authors review evidence for the DM and relations to psychological functioning, including associations with mental health and cognitive abilities like reading comprehension and divergent thinking. This article calls for research into the dimensions of internally focused thought, ranging from free-form daydreaming and off-line consolidation to intensive, effortful abstract thinking, especially with socioemotional relevance. It is argued that the development of some socioemotional skills may be vulnerable to disruption by environmental distraction, for example, from certain educational practices or overuse of social media. The authors hypothesize that high environmental attention demands may bias youngsters to focus on the concrete, physical, and immediate aspects of social situations and self, which may be more compatible with external attention. They coin the term constructive internal reflection and advocate educational practices that promote effective balance between external attention and internal reflection. © The Author(s) 2012.
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We compare the restorative effects on cognitive functioning of interactions with natural versus urban environments. Attention restoration theory (ART) provides an analysis of the kinds of environments that lead to improvements in directed-attention abilities. Nature, which is filled with intriguing stimuli, modestly grabs attention in a bottom-up fashion, allowing top-down directed-attention abilities a chance to replenish. Unlike natural environments, urban environments are filled with stimulation that captures attention dramatically and additionally requires directed attention (e.g., to avoid being hit by a car), making them less restorative. We present two experiments that show that walking in nature or viewing pictures of nature can improve directed-attention abilities as measured with a backwards digit-span task and the Attention Network Task, thus validating attention restoration theory.
The utility of different theoretical models of restorative experience was explored in a quasi-experimental field study and a true experiment. The former included wilderness backpacking and nonwilderness vacation conditions, as well as a control condition in which participants continued with their daily routines. The latter had urban environment, natural environment, and passive relaxation conditions. Multimethod assessments of restoration consisted of self-reports of affective states, cognitive performance, and, in the latter study, physiological measures. Convergent self-report and performance results obtained in both studies offer evidence of greater restorative effects arising from experiences in nature. Implications for theory, methodology, and design are discussed.
Three experiments were designed to test the hypothesis that exposure to restorative environments facilitates recovery from mental fatigue. To this end, participants were first mentally fatigued by performing a sustained attention test; then they viewed photographs of restorative environments, nonrestorative environments or geometrical patterns; and finally they performed the sustained attention test again. Only participants exposed to the restorative environments improved their performance on the final attention test, and this improvement occurred whether they viewed the scenes in the standardized time condition or in the self-paced time condition. Results are in agreement with Kaplan's [(1995). The restorative benefits of nature: Toward an integrative framework. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 15, 169–182] attention restoration theory, and support the idea that restorative environments help maintain and restore the capacity to direct attention.
This study is based on a theoretical view which suggests that under increased demands for attention, individuals' capacity to direct attention may become fatigued. Once fatigued, attentional restoration must occur in order to return to an effectively functioning state. An attention-restoring experience can be as simple as looking at nature. The purpose of this study was to explore whether university dormitory residents with more natural views from their windows would score better than those with less natural views on tests of directed attention. Views from dormitory windows of 72 undergraduate students were categorized into four groups ranging from all natural to all built. The capacity to direct attention was measured using a battery of objective and subjective measures. Natural views were associated with better performance on attentional measures, providing support for the proposed theoretical view.
Directed attention plays an important role in human information processing; its fatigue, in turn, has far-reaching consequences. Attention Restoration Theory provides an analysis of the kinds of experiences that lead to recovery from such fatigue. Natural environments turn out to be particularly rich in the characteristics necessary for restorative experiences. An integrative framework is proposed that places both directed attention and stress in the larger context of human-environment relationships.
Our brain is a complex network in which information is continuously processed and transported between spatially distributed but functionally linked regions. Recent studies have shown that the functional connections of the brain network are organized in a highly efficient small-world manner, indicating a high level of local neighborhood clustering, together with the existence of more long-distance connections that ensure a high level of global communication efficiency within the overall network. Such an efficient network architecture of our functional brain raises the question of a possible association between how efficiently the regions of our brain are functionally connected and our level of intelligence. Examining the overall organization of the brain network using graph analysis, we show a strong negative association between the normalized characteristic path length lambda of the resting-state brain network and intelligence quotient (IQ). This suggests that human intellectual performance is likely to be related to how efficiently our brain integrates information between multiple brain regions. Most pronounced effects between normalized path length and IQ were found in frontal and parietal regions. Our findings indicate a strong positive association between the global efficiency of functional brain networks and intellectual performance.