Thursday, December 25, 2008

Cognitive benefits of a walk in the woods

An article by Berman et al. in Psychological Science (PDF here) shows that immersion in a natural environment leads to more than simply a sense of feeling refreshed, it also recharges our cognitive batteries:
We compare the restorative effects on cognitive functioning of interactions with natural versus urban environments. Attention restoration theory (ART) provides an analysis of the kinds of environments that lead to improvements in directed-attention abilities. Nature, which is filled with intriguing stimuli, modestly grabs attention in a bottom-up fashion, allowing top-down directed-attention abilities a chance to replenish. Unlike natural environments, urban environments are filled with stimulation that captures attention dramatically and additionally requires directed attention (e.g., to avoid being hit by a car), making them less restorative. We present two experiments that show that walking in nature or viewing pictures of nature can improve directed-attention abilities as measured with a backwards digit-span task and the Attention Network Task, thus validating attention restoration theory.


  1. as a regular and inveterate walker of the woods (and occasional hills) I'd be fascinated to read this paper. Unfortunately it's buried in a subscription only site. Let us know when it's released to the wild...

  2. I've gone ahead and put the PDF file in the post for you to fetch.