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The Cognitive Benefits of Interacting With Nature

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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.
Schematic diagram of the Attention Network Task (adapted from Fan, McCandliss, Fossella, Flombaum, & Posner, 2005). Initially, participants encountered one of the three cue types that are shown in the upper left of the figure: a centrally presented cue, warning that a target was approaching; a spatial cue, indicating where the target would appear; or no cue to provide spatial or anticipatory information. After a delay interval, participants saw a set of arrows either at the top or at the bottom of the display and were required to respond to the direction of the center arrow. The different target types are shown in the upper right of the figure. In congruent targets, all arrows pointed in the same direction, and in incongruent targets, the center arrow pointed in a different direction from the flanking arrows. Executive attention is represented as the difference in accuracy (ACC) and response time (RT) between congruent and incongruent targets, averaging over all preceding cue types (i.e., no cue, central cue, spatial cue). Orienting attention is represented as the difference in performance (ACC and RT) between spatial-cue trials and center-cue trials, averaging over all target types (i.e., congruent and incongruent targets). Alerting attention is represented as the difference in performance (ACC and RT) between center-cue trials and no-cue trials, averaging over all target types (i.e., congruent and incongruent targets). The intertrial interval (ITI) varied between 600 and 3,200 ms (averaging 2,400 ms) and depended in part on the participant's response. See Fan et al. (2005) for more details.
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Research Report
The Cognitive Benefits of
Interacting With Nature
Marc G. Berman,
1,2
John Jonides,
1
and Stephen Kaplan
1,3
1
Department of Psychology,
2
Department of Industrial and Operations Engineering, and
3
Department of Electrical
Engineering and Computer Science, University of Michigan
ABSTRACT—We compare the restorative effects on cognitive
functioning of interactions with natural versus urban
environments. Attention restoration theory (ART) pro-
vides 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 ad-
ditionally 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 resto-
ration theory.
Imagine a therapy that had no known side effects, was readily
available, and could improve your cognitive functioning at zero
cost. Such a therapy has been known to philosophers, writers,
and laypeople alike: interacting with nature. Many have sus-
pected that nature can promote improved cognitive functioning
and overall well-being, and these effects have recently been
documented.
Attention restoration theory (ART; Kaplan, 1995, 2001) offers
a novel approach to identifying and restoring a cognitive
mechanism. ART is based on past research showing the sepa-
ration of attention into two components: involuntary attention,
where attention is captured by inherently intriguing or important
stimuli, and voluntary or directed attention, where attention is
directed by cognitive-control processes. This separation was
proposed by James (1892), and subsequent research has vali-
dated James’ distinction between voluntary and involuntary
attention both behaviorally (Fan, McCandliss, Fossella, Flom-
baum, & Posner, 2002; Jonides, 1981) and neurally (Buschman
& Miller, 2007; Corbetta & Shulman, 2002; Fan, McCandliss,
Sommer, Raz, & Posner, 2005). In addition to top-down control,
directed attention
1
involves resolving conflict, when one needs
to suppress distracting stimulation. ART identifies directed
attention as the cognitive mechanism that is restored by inter-
actions with nature.
We are not the first to propose a crucial role for directed at-
tention in effective cognitive functioning. One of the main
themes of Posner and Rothbart’s recent Annual Review of
Psychology chapter (2007) is this very topic: how directed
attention plays a prominent role in successful cognitive and
emotional functioning. Additionally, recent research has im-
plicated an important role for directed attention in short-term
memory (see Jonides et al., 2008) and school success (Diamond,
Barnett, Thomas, & Munro, 2007).
According to ART, interacting with environments rich with
inherently fascinating stimuli (e.g., sunsets) invoke involuntary
attention modestly, allowing directed-attention mechanisms a
chance to replenish (Kaplan, 1995). That is, the requirement for
directed attention in such environments is minimized, and at-
tention is typically captured in a bottom-up fashion by features
of the environment itself. So, the logic is that, after an interaction
with natural environments, one is able to perform better on tasks
that depend on directed-attention abilities. Unlike natural en-
vironments, urban environments contain bottom-up stimulation
(e.g., car horns) that captures attention dramatically and addi-
tionally requires directed attention to overcome that stimulation
(e.g., avoiding traffic, ignoring advertising, etc.), making urban
environments less restorative.
Previous research has provided support for the hypothesis that
interactions with nature improve attention and memory (Berto,
2005; Cimprich, 1992, 1993; Cimprich & Ronis, 2003; Faber
Address correspondence to Marc G. Berman, Department of
Psychology, University of Michigan, 530 Church St., Ann Arbor, MI
48109-1043, e-mail: bermanm@umich.edu.
1
Fan et al. (2002, 2005) refer to this type of attention as executive attention.
PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE
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Taylor, Kuo, & Sullivan, 2002; Hartig et al., 2003; Ottosson &
Grahn, 2002; Tennessen & Cimprich, 1995). The present study
extends these results. First, we controlled the activities that
participants performed while interacting with nature. Second,
we used a within-subjects design to compare cognitive func-
tioning after interactions with nature or urban environments.
Most importantly, we directly tested ART by predicting which
trial-types in an attention task would benefit from interactions
with nature and which would not. Such predictions test whether
attention is improved in general or whether directed attention
specifically is improved after interacting with nature.
EXPERIMENT 1
Experiment 1 was designed to explore how interactions with
nature and urban areas would affect cognitive performance as
measured with a backwards digit-span task.
Method
Subjects
Thirty-eight
2
(23 females, 15 males; mean age 522.62 years)
University of Michigan students participated in this study. All
participants gave informed consent as overseen by the univer-
sity’s institutional review board. Participants were paid $20 per
session for their participation.
Measures
We used the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS;
Watson, Clark, & Tellegen, 1988) to assess participants’ mood.
Mood-related adjectives (e.g., enthusiastic) were rated on a scale
of 1 to 5 for how well each adjective described participants’
current mood (1 5very slightly or not at all,55extremely). We
analyzed only the positive-affect adjectives because these might
be related to improvements in cognitive functioning.
We used a backwards digit-span task as our assay of changes
in directed-attention performance. Participants heard digit se-
quences and were required to repeat them in backwards order.
Sequences were three to nine digits in length and were presented
in increasing length. Correct sequences were scored the same
independently of sequence length, with a maximum score of
14 (seven digit lengths times two repetitions of each length). The
backwards digit-span task depends on directed-attention abil-
ities because participants must move items in and out of their
attentional focus (Cowan, 2001), which is a major component of
short-term memory (Jonides et al., 2008).
Procedure
Participants first had their mood assessed with the PANAS.
Afterwards, participants performed the backwards digit-span
task. Then participants were given a directed-forgetting task
that involved the suppression of information in short-term
memory, which was used to fatigue participants further. The task
consisted of 144 trials and lasted for 35 min. It was thought
that taxing participants’ directed-attention abilities beyond the
backwards digit-span task would increase sensitivity to the
effects of the nature intervention.
Participants were then randomly assigned to take a 50- to
55-min walk in the Ann Arbor Arboretum (a park near campus)
or to walk in downtown Ann Arbor. The walks were predefined
for the participants and were equated in total length (2.8 miles).
Each participant was given a map displaying the path of each
walk and wore a GPS watch to ensure compliance. The arbore-
tum walk was tree-lined and secluded from traffic and people.
The downtown walk was largely on traffic-heavy Huron Street,
which is lined with university and office buildings.
After the walk, participants returned to the lab and performed
the backwards digit-span task, the PANAS, and answered
questions assessing their walk. A week later, participants re-
turned to the lab and repeated the procedure, walking in the
complementary location. The order of walking locations was
counterbalanced across participants.
Results and Discussion
As indicated in Table 1, performance on backwards digit-span
significantly improved when participants walked in nature, but
not when they walked downtown. In addition, these results were
not driven by changes in mood, nor were they affected by
different weather conditions.
To substantiate these conclusions, we conducted a repeated
measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) with two within-subjects
factors: walking location (nature vs. downtown) and time of
test (before walk vs. after walk). The location-by-time interac-
tion was of most interest and was reliable, F(1, 36) 56.055,
p
rep
5.95, showing that the improvement in backwards digit-
span performance was greater when walking in nature than
TABLE 1
Behavioral Results From Experiments 1 and 2
Natural setting Urban setting
Measure
Before
interaction
After
interaction
Before
interaction
After
interaction
Backward span
Experiment 1 7.90 (0.37) 9.40 (0.41) 7.90 (0.30) 8.40 (0.33)
Experiment 2 7.92 (0.96) 9.33 (0.86) 7.83 (1.04) 8.83 (0.90)
ANT effects (ms)
Executive 86 (11.30) 67 (8.45) 81 (15.50) 93 (17.96)
Orienting 47 (6.46) 55 (7.33) 46 (10.01) 43 (4.73)
Alerting 32 (6.86) 31 (5.23) 36 (6.52) 46 (5.63)
Note. The table presents mean scores, with standard errors in parentheses.
All of the Attention Network Task (ANT) measures are contrast scores,
calculated as follows: executive attention 5incongruent response time
(RT) – congruent RT; orienting attention 5center RT – spatial RT; alerting
attention 5no-cue RT – center-cue RT.
2
One participant was removed for having an extremely low initial backwards
digit-span score. Two participants had missing mood data.
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when walking downtown (1.50 digits vs. 0.50 digits). With
paired ttests we explored the main effects and found that the
improvement when walking in nature was highly reliable,
t(36) 54.783, p
rep
5.99; but it was not when walking downtown,
t(36) 51.708, p
rep
5.88. Furthermore, there were no main
effects or interactions associated with walking order (i.e., nature
walk first or second). Therefore, the restorative effects of nature
improved performance beyond simply repeating the backwards
digit-span task a second time.
The month during which subjects were tested was added as a
between-subjects factor (four levels: September, November,
January, and July) to our initial ANOVA, but it was not reliable,
F(3, 33) 5.998, showing that the season in which subjects were
tested had no impact. In a separate repeated measures ANOVA
with mood as the dependent variable, we found that mood im-
proved when participants walked in nature compared to down-
town, F(1, 35) 59.639, p
rep
5.98, but changes in mood did not
correlate with changes in backwards digit-span performance
(nature: r5.206, p
rep
5.80; downtown: r5.029, p
rep
5.54).
Finally, participants’ ratings for how refreshing the nature
walk was did correlate reliably with postwalk backwards digit-
span scores, r5.41, p
rep
5.96, when baseline digit-span scores
were partialed out. This finding indicates that participants may
have had some awareness of the refreshing quality of a walk in
nature. In summary, interactions with nature improved directed-
attention abilities as assessed with a backwards digit-span task.
This finding is consistent with ART.
EXPERIMENT 2
Our aim in Experiment 2 was to test ART by using the Attention
Network Test (ANT; Fan et al., 2002, 2005; we used the ANT
version from Jin Fan’s Web site: http://www.sacklerinstitute.org/
users/jin.fan/). This task identifies three different attentional
functions: alerting, orienting, and executive attention. These
different functions are dissociable both behaviorally (i.e., Fan
et al., 2002) and neurally (Fan et al., 2005). We predicted that
interactions with nature would improve only executive functions,
but not alerting and orienting, because these latter two functions
require less cognitive control compared to executive functions.
Method
Subjects
Twelve (8 females, 4 males; mean age 524.25 years) University
of Michigan students participated in this study. All participants
gave informed consent as administered by the university’s in-
stitutional review board. Participants were paid $20 per session
for their participation.
Measures
The PANAS and backwards digit-span task were used as
in Experiment 1 to replicate those results. In addition, we
administered the ANT, in which participants responded to the
direction of a centrally presented arrow. Alerting contrasts trials
in which a central cue alerts participants that an upcoming trial
is approaching with trials in which no cue is given (the cue
facilitates performance). Orienting contrasts trials in which a
spatial cue informs participants where the arrows will appear
(top or bottom) with trials in which a center cue provides no
spatial information (here, the spatial cue facilitates perfor-
mance). Executive attention contrasts trials in which the direc-
tion of the center arrow is incongruent with the direction of
flanking arrows with trials in which the direction of the flanking
arrows matches the center arrow (here, incongruency worsens
performance). There were 96 congruent trials, 96 incongruent
trials, 72 spatial-cue trials, 72 center-cue trials, and 72 no-cue
trials. In addition, there were 72 trials that had a double asterisk
cue (appearing at the top and bottom of the display) and 96 trials
that had no flanking stimuli surrounding the target arrow. There
were 288 trials total in this task. A schematic diagram of the
ANT is shown in Figure 1.
Procedure
In Experiment 2, participants viewed either pictures of nature or
urban areas to further control each participant’s experience.
Research has shown that merely viewing pictures of nature can
have restorative benefits (e.g., Berto, 2005).
Participants performed the PANAS and the backwards digit-
span task as in Experiment 1. Participants then performed the
ANT, after which they viewed pictures of either nature (scenery
of Nova Scotia) or urban settings (pictures of Ann Arbor, Detroit,
and Chicago).
3
Picture viewing lasted approximately 10 min,
during which participants rated on a scale of 1 to 3 how much
they liked each picture; there were 50 nature and 50 urban
pictures. Pictures were displayed for 7 s, followed by a rating
interval that lasted until the participant responded. After picture
viewing, participants performed the backwards digit-span
task, the ANT, and the PANAS a second time. Participants
returned to the lab a week later and performed the same pro-
cedure, but viewed the complementary set of pictures. The order
of picture type was counterbalanced across the participants.
Results and Discussion
Our results verified our predictions based on ART; improve-
ments were found only on the executive portions of the ANT and
only after viewing pictures of nature compared to urban areas.
Furthermore, we replicated the results of Experiment 1 as par-
ticipants reliably improved their backwards digit-span only
when viewing pictures of nature.
We were led to these conclusions by a multivariate (executive,
orienting, and alerting) repeated measures ANOVA on ANT
response time for correct trials with two within-subjects factors:
3
Our stimuli can be downloaded at http://www-personal.umich.edu/
bermanm/RestorationPictures/.
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Marc G. Berman, John Jonides, and Stephen Kaplan
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the picture type viewed (nature vs. urban) and the time of test
(before picture viewing vs. after picture viewing). The picture-
type-by-time interaction was of most interest and was found
reliable only for the executive portions of the ANT, indicating
that exposure to pictures of nature led to more improved exec-
utive attention performance than did exposure to urban pictures,
F(1, 10) 517.089, p
rep
5.99. In all analyses, there were no
main effects or interactions associated with picture-viewing
order (i.e., viewing the nature pictures first or second). As pre-
dicted, no reliable differences were found on alerting or ori-
enting contrasts when participants viewed pictures of nature
compared to urban pictures. Overall, performance was quite
accurate (i.e., 91%), and no reliable changes were associated
with accuracy.
We conducted a separate repeated measures ANOVA for
backward span. The location-by-time interaction was not reli-
able, F(1, 10) 50.486, p
rep
5.68. However, when we explored
the main effects with paired ttests, we found that performance
on the backwards digit-span task only improved reliably when
viewing pictures of nature, t(11) 52.972, p
rep
5.96, but not
when viewing pictures of urban areas, t(11) 51.436, p
rep
5.83.
The ANT and backwards digit-span results can be seen in
Table 1.
No reliable changes in mood were found when participants
viewed pictures of nature versus pictures of urban areas, t(11) 5
.03, p
rep
5.51. However, participants rated viewing pictures of
nature as significantly more refreshing, t(11) 54.45, p
rep
5.99,
and more enjoyable, t(11) 53.35, p
rep
5.97, than pictures of
urban areas. In addition, liking ratings of the nature pictures
were greater than those of the urban pictures, t(11) 53.70,
p
rep
5.98. These ratings did not correlate reliably with changes
in performance on the backwards digit-span task or the ANT, but
were positive.
In sum, Experiment 2 extended the results of Experiment 1,
confirming that improvements achieved through interacting with
nature were selective to directing attention. If interactions with
No Cue Center Cue Spatial Cue
Congruent
Cue
100 ms
Time
Delay
400 ms
Target
1,700 ms
ITI varies
from 600 to
3,200 ms
Incongruent
Fig. 1. Schematic diagram of the Attention Network Task (adapted from Fan, McCandliss, Fossella,
Flombaum, & Posner, 2005). Initially, participants encountered one of the three cue types that are shown in
the upper left of the figure: a centrally presented cue, warning that a target was approaching; a spatial cue,
indicating where the target would appear; or no cue to provide spatial or anticipatory information. After a
delay interval, participants saw a set of arrows either at the top or at the bottom of the display and were
required to respond to the direction of the center arrow. The different target types are shown in the upper
right of the figure. In congruent targets, all arrows pointed in the same direction, and in incongruent
targets, the center arrow pointed in a different direction from the flanking arrows. Executive attention is
represented as the difference in accuracy (ACC) and response time (RT) between congruent and incon-
gruent targets, averaging over all preceding cue types (i.e., no cue, central cue, spatial cue). Orienting
attention is represented as the difference in performance (ACC and RT) between spatial-cue trials and
center-cue trials, averaging over all target types (i.e., congruent and incongruent targets). Alerting at-
tention is represented as the difference in performance (ACC and RT) between center-cue trials and no-cue
trials, averaging over all target types (i.e., congruent and incongruent targets). The intertrial interval (ITI)
varied between 600 and 3,200 ms (averaging 2,400 ms) and depended in part on the participant’s response.
See Fan et al. (2005) for more details.
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nature had improved all portions of the ANT, alternative
explanations, such as increases in motivation or effort induced
by interactions with nature, may have been tenable. Addition-
ally, we replicated the findings of Experiment 1 with the back-
wards digit-span task.
GENERAL DISCUSSION
Taken together, these experiments demonstrate the restorative
value of nature as a vehicle to improve cognitive functioning.
These data are of particular interest especially when one con-
siders the difficulty of discovering training regimens that are
intended to improve cognitive performance in any way (Posner &
Rothbart, 2007, but see Jaeggi, Buschkuehl, Jonides, & Perrig,
2008).
We can be confident that directed-attention mechanisms were
restored in these studies because only portions of the ANT that
involved directed attention were improved by interactions with
nature. Moreover, the backwards digit-span task relies heavily
on directed-attention mechanisms because such working
memory measures have a large attentional component (Jonides
et al., 2008) as items are moved in and out of the focus of
attention. Each of our experiments showed consistent im-
provement on the backwards digit-span task as a function of
interactions with nature. There were also indications that par-
ticipants’ perceptions of the restorative value of nature were
valid, as these perceptions correlated with improvements on the
backwards digit-span task.
Nature may also be more peaceful than other environments,
thereby restoring directed-attention abilities. However, in
Experiment 2, the environments were equally peaceful (i.e.,
both were in a quiet experimental room), yet only viewing pic-
tures of nature produced cognitive improvements. We concur
that there is an important peaceful element to nature, but believe
that this peacefulness is driven by natural environments cap-
turing attention modestly and limiting directed attention—not to
sheer quiescence alone.
Other interventions have been found that alter cognitive
performance, such as glucose consumption, which can improve
performance on cognitive and self-regulatory tasks and worsen
performance when glucose is depleted (Gailliot et al., 2007).
Chervin et al. (2006) have shown similar effects with sleep.
Meditation may be another intervention able to restore directed-
attention abilities (Kaplan, 2001; Slagter et al., 2007; Tang et
al., 2007). Therefore, it is important to compare the effects of
these interventions with that of nature and to see whether these
interventions affect similar cognitive mechanisms.
In sum, we have shown that simple and brief interactions with
nature can produce marked increases in cognitive control. To
consider the availability of nature as merely an amenity fails to
recognize the vital importance of nature in effective cognitive
functioning.
Acknowledgments—We thank Jason Duvall and Ray DeYoung
and the rest of the Seminar on Environmentally Sensitive
Adaptive Mechanisms (SESAME) group for their help. In ad-
dition, we thank Katie Rattray, John Meixner, and Courtney
Behnke. This work was supported in part by a National Science
Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship to M.G.B.,
a Cognitive Science Cognitive Neuroscience (CSCN) Grant to
M.G.B., and NSF Grant 0520992 to J.J.
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Cognitive Benefits of Nature Interaction
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... Several lines of evidence have indicated that natural settings have the capacity to restore human attentional and cognitive abilities (for reviews, Ohly et al., 2016;Stevenson et al., 2018). Among cognitive skills, being exposed to natural elements has been shown to increase performance in working memory tasks (Bratman et al., 2015), improve performance in sustained attention exercises (Berto, 2005), increase cognitive control, and concentration (Hartig et al., 2003;Berman et al., 2008Berman et al., , 2012. ...
... Contrarily with some previous investigations [as reported in the review of Ohly et al. (2016)], the DSB task did not show an increase in performance after exposure to nature (but see Grassini et al., 2019). Nevertheless, in many of the previous studies revealing this effect the participants were exposed to a real and multi-sensorial experience of nature (e.g., exposure to real natural settings) of a long duration and generally connected with a physical activity in nature (e.g., walking, see Berman et al., 2008;Berman et al., 2012). The short duration of our exposure to natural stimuli, or the lack of a task involving physical activity during the exposure, may have affected the measurable effect of restoration in the DSB task. ...
... Additionally, the DSB used in our experiment was digitalized and visual, while the most used type of DSB in the literature has been auditory and with verbal responses (see, e.g., Berman et al., 2008Berman et al., , 2012. However, please note that previous studies have also used the type of DSB employed in the present investigation (see AuBuchon et al., 2015;Grassini et al., 2019). ...
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Various lines of evidence have shown that nature exposure is beneficial for humans. Despite several empirical findings pointing out to cognitive and emotional positive effects, most of the evidence of these effects are correlational, and it has been challenging to identify a cause-effect relationship between nature exposure and cognitive and emotional benefits. Only few of the published studies use psychophysiological methods to assess the biological correlates of these positive effects. Establishing a connection between human physiology and contact with natural settings is important for identifying cause-effect relationships between exposure to natural environments and the positive effects commonly reported in connection to nature exposure. In the present study, we recorded physiological indexes of brain activity (electroencephalography) and sympathetic nervous system (electrodermal activity), while the participants were presented with a series of videos displaying natural, urban, or neutral (non-environmental, computerized) scenes. Participants rated the scenes for their perceived relaxing value, and after each experimental condition, they performed a cognitive task (digit span backward). Participants rated natural videos as the most relaxing. Spectral analyses of EEG showed that natural scenes promoted alpha waves, especially over the central brain. The results suggest that experiencing natural environments virtually produces measurable and reliable brain activity markers which are known to be related to restorative processes.
... Being in nature greatly enhances human well-being (Berman et al., 2008;Brymer et al., 2014;Loureiro and Veloso, 2014;Barton et al., 2016;Lawton et al., 2017). Walking or cycling in a city's parks, wandering through a forest, or simply resting one's eyes on natural scenery improves an individual's cognitive capacities (Berman et al., 2008). ...
... Being in nature greatly enhances human well-being (Berman et al., 2008;Brymer et al., 2014;Loureiro and Veloso, 2014;Barton et al., 2016;Lawton et al., 2017). Walking or cycling in a city's parks, wandering through a forest, or simply resting one's eyes on natural scenery improves an individual's cognitive capacities (Berman et al., 2008). Natural environments make individuals feel 'at home' because they relate 'pleasurable sensations in the experience of landscape to environmental conditions favourable to survival', and 'natural settings have discernible well-being benefits... as they conform better to our biological structures, cognitive functions, and evolutionary adaptations' (Mallgrave, 2013, p. 75). ...
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Activities in natural environments greatly enhance human well-being and can support the integration of foreigners into a new country. This article explores how residents from different ethnic backgrounds in Turku, Finland appreciated and engaged with urban natural environments and how this engagement benefitted their well-being and, ultimately, their integration. Individuals enjoy activities in nature in particular ways, which may vary according to a person’s physical, social, and psychological characteristics. This is especially true for immigrants who apply traditions from their home countries to the ways in which they interact with their new environment and enjoy activities in nature. Three dimensions of nature experience—social, emotional, and normative—emerged from the research, which, in turn, supported well-being and different types of integration: interactive, identificational, and cognitive. We argue that because these dimensions are an integral part of a person’s identity and cultural background, familiarity with them may prove pivotal to constructing more welcoming and intercultural urban natural environments. Different approaches to engaging with nature should be considered in the design of urban environments and urban nature, as well as in integration programmes, to enhance the well-being and integration of foreign-background populations.
... Prior research [2,56] has demonstrated how virtual nature environments can reduce stress and improve mood during work. It is well known that spaces filled with greenery or even a view on greenery provide an opportunity for recovery from mental fatigue and are generally beneficial to human health [4,27]. Further work indicates that VR can reduce stress more effectively than simply streaming a video of relaxing content [48] and that interactive VR environments are more effective than passively consuming VR content [57]. ...
Preprint
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... Green has already been used in explicit nutrition health profile labelling (Schuldt, 2013), green packaging was described as being more healthy (Huang and Lu, 2015;van Rompay et al., 2016) and green lighting discouraged appetite for food (Suk et al., 2012) with color being able to influence perception (Tijssen et al., 2019). Third, a nature-rich environment might provide more self-discipline in restraining from eating via impulse inhibition, since better inhibition or cognitive control was observed in a natural compared to urban environment (van den Berg and van den Berg, 2011;Taylor et al., 2002;Berman et al., 2008). Indeed, nature (Kim et al., 2010), but also package color (Tijssen et al., 2019), can stimulate brain activity of the regions related to reward and inhibition. ...
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We compared psychophysiological stress recovery and directed attention restoration in natural and urban field settings using repeated measures of ambulatory blood pressure, emotion, and attention collected from 112 randomly assigned young adults. To vary restoration needs, we had half of the subjects begin the environmental treatment directly after driving to the field site. The other half completed attentionally demanding tasks just before the treatment. After the drive or the tasks, sitting in a room with tree views promoted more rapid decline in diastolic blood pressure than sitting in a viewless room. Subsequently walking in a nature reserve initially fostered blood pressure change that indicated greater stress reduction than afforded by walking in the urban surroundings. Performance on an attentional test improved slightly from the pretest to the midpoint of the walk in the nature reserve, while it declined in the urban setting. This opened a performance gap that persisted after the walk. Positive affect increased and anger decreased in the nature reserve by the end of the walk; the opposite pattern emerged in the urban environment. The task manipulation affected emotional self-reports. We discuss implications of the results for theories about restorative environments and environmental health promotion measures.