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.