Nature Improves Attention

When study­ing com­plex tasks, tak­ing a moment away from the prob­lem is a proven way to refo­cus one’s thoughts.

How dif­fer­ent sur­round­ings affect this “atten­tion res­tor­a­tion” has now been stud­ied and it has been dis­covered that the more com­plex a prob­lem, the more a nat­ur­al (non-urb­an) scene bene­fits our focus and study–wheth­er this nat­ur­al scene is real (e.g. a walk in a park) or not (e.g. land­scape pho­to­graphs) doesn’t mat­ter.

In a second exper­i­ment, stu­dents did both a back­wards digit-span and a second, visu­al atten­tion task. Instead of going for a walk between tests, they viewed pic­tures of nat­ur­al scenes or urb­an scenes. Once again, scores improved sig­ni­fic­antly more on the digit-span task after view­ing nat­ur­al scenes com­pared to urb­an scenes. On the visu­al atten­tion task, the stu­dents were only bet­ter at the task in cer­tain cases. For very simple tasks with few dis­tract­ors, there was no dif­fer­ence between the stu­dents see­ing nat­ur­al or urb­an scenes. But for more com­plex tasks requir­ing more focused atten­tion, again the stu­dents who had seen the nat­ur­al scenes did bet­ter.