The Effects of the Natural Environment on Attention

The Effects of the Natural Environment on Attention

The Effects of the Natural Environment on Attention Restoration: Part II
Rebecca M. Daniel, B.A., Lisa J. Emery, Ph.D.

Participants
Participants consisted of 58 undergraduate
psychology students (44 females and 14 males) with
an average age of 19.26. Participants signed up via an
online research database (SONA). Year in college
ranged from freshman to junior.
Measures
Search and Memory Test (SMT; Smith & Miles, 1987):
Participants searched 18 lines of 59 letters for
specific target letters for ten minutes.
Backwards Digit Span Task (BDS): Participants recited
strings of random numbers in reverse order,
increasing in difficulty, until a discontinue criteria was
met.
Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS;
Watson, Clark, & Tellegen, 1988): a 10-item selfreport measure aimed at measuring positive and
negative affect.

SMT Number Correct

Whitewater Caf

RESULTS

30

10

25

8
BDS Score

20
15
10

Solarium

Whitewater Caf

6
4
2

5
0

Pre-Restoration

0

Post-Restoration

Pre-Restoration

Post-Restoration

Hypothesis 1: There were no measured differences between locations of
attention restoration in the context of SMT or BDS correct responses prepost-restorative experience.
Solarium

Whitewater Caf

Solarium

30

14
Negative Affect

Positive Affect

25
20
15
10
5
0

Whitewater Caf

16
12
10
8
6
4
2
Pre-Restoration

0

Post-Restoration

Pre-Restoration

Post-Restoration

Hypothesis 2: There were no measured differences in either positive or
negative affect between conditions pre- post- restorative experience.
No Prior MH Diagnosis

Prior MH Diagnosis

Solarium

18

Solarium

Solarium

Whitewater

16
14
Negative Affect

12
10
8
6
4
2

Whitewater Caf

0

Pre-Restoration

18
16
14
12
10
8
6
4
2
0

Pre-Restoration

Post-Restoration

Whitewater

Post-Restoration

Exploratory analysis: Participants who reported a previous MH diagnosis in
the Solarium reported a greater decrease in negative affect than those in
Whitewater Caf.
Prior MH Diagnosis
No Prior MH Diagnosis
35

Whitewater Caf

Solarium

Whitewater

Solarium

Whitewater

35

30

30

25
SMT Correct

METHOD

Procedure
Participants met the experimenter at a conference
room in the Student Union on-campus and completed
a series of measures aimed to induce directed attention
fatigue (e.g., the PANAS, a backwards digit span, the
SMT). Participants were then randomly assigned to sit
quietly for 10 minutes in either a naturalistic (e.g., the
Solarium) or less-naturalistic environment (e.g.,
Whitewater Caf; described below). Next, participants
returned to the conference room and completed the
same measures as before as well as additional
measures (e.g., DASS-21; Henry & Crawford, 2009;
Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale [ASRS-v1.1]; Kessler et
al., 2005; and a demographic questionnaire).

Solarium

SMT Correct

Attention Restoration Theory (ART) suggests that being
immersed in or simply just viewing natural settings (e.g.,
lush vegetation and running water) can promote both
positive mood and restoration of cognitive resources (e.g.,
attention; Kaplan, 2001; Bk, Garvill, Olsson, & Grling,
1996). Specifically, Berman, Jonides, and Kaplan (2008)
found that after walking 2.8 miles in an outdoor natural
setting, undergraduate participants experienced affective
and cognitive improvements as measured by a backwards
digit span task and the PANAS (Watson et al., 1988). Hartig
et al. (1996) found that participants who simply looked at
pictures of nature in comparison to participants who
looked at pictures of an urban area showed evidence of
attention restoration, though did not experience any
difference in reported mood. It is important to note that
the majority of previous research included an exercise
component to their nature intervention or had
participants simply view pictures. The current study
utilized a hybrid environment that involved quiet sitting in
an environment with living trees, running water, and a
view of the outdoors.

METHOD, CONT.

Negative Affect

INTRODUCTION

20
15
10

25
20
15
10

5

5

0

0
Pre-Restoration

Post-Restoration

Pre-Restoration

Post-Restoration

Exploratory analysis: Participants who reported a previous MH diagnosis in the
Solarium reported a greater increase in SMT responses than those in
Whitewater Caf.

Analysis
We first performed a 2 (Condition) x 2 (Time Point)
mixed Analysis of Covariance (ANCOVA) on the SMT
Correct scores, with number of people present and
playing of music included as covariates.
We then performed a 2x2 mixed ANCOVA on BDS
scores, with the same covariates listed above.
Finally, we performed a 2x2 mixed ANCOVA on positive
and negative PANAS scores, also including the
covariates listed above.
Reprints may be obtained at agelabs.appstate.edu

CONCLUSIONS
The current study failed to replicate previous research
in that simply being immersed in and viewing natural
elements did not facilitate attention restoration or
affective improvements in the sample as a whole
Participants surrounded by natural elements with a
previous MH diagnosis did, however, experience
attention restoration and affective improvements
Individuals without a MH diagnosis may need the
component of exercise to experience attention
restoration while in natural environments

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