Restorative Effects of Observing Natural and Urban Scenery after Working Memory Depletion

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International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health


According to attention restoration theory observing nature has restorative effects on cognitive components, such as working memory, after a cognitive depleting task. Additionally, urban environments are thought to have no effect or even a negative effect on cognitive restoration. Previous research has confirmed that observing actual, as well as digitally presented nature sceneries leads to more restoration of working memory capacity (WMC) than observing (digital) urban sceneries. To further investigate these findings, we conducted an experiment with 72 university students as participants. After a WMC depleting task, participants observed either digitally presented nature scenery, urban scenery or no scenery, and subsequently performed a digit span test, which was used to measure restoration of WMC. Results indicated significant higher performance on the digit span test for those who observed nature scenery in comparison to those who observed urban scenery or no scenery, thereby replicating results from previous research. Observing urban scenery was neither harmful nor helpful in terms of cognitive restoration compared to observing no scenery. These findings provide a foundation for implementing a brief intervention of observing nature in academic settings to facilitate the restoration of WMC.

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