December 19, 2008

Walk in park better than downtown walk

A walk in the park or looking at nature photos is more mentally refreshing than a walk in an urban environment or viewing urban photos, U.S. researchers say.

Psychologists Marc G. Berman, John Jonides and Stephen Kaplan of the University of Michigan designed two experiments to test how interactions with nature and urban environments affect attention and memory processes.

One group of volunteers completed a task designed to challenge memory and attention. The volunteers then took a walk in either a park or in downtown Ann Arbor, Mich. After the walk, volunteers returned to the laboratory and were retested on the task.

In the second experiment, after volunteers completed the task, they viewed either nature photographs or photographs of urban environments and then repeated the task.

In the first experiment, performance on the memory and attention task greatly improved following the walk in the park, but did not improve for volunteers who walked downtown.

However, the study, published in the Psychological Science, also found the group that viewed the nature photographs performed much better on the retest than the group who looked at city scenes.