Psychology

A Walk in the Woods

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Science  12 Dec 2008:
Vol. 322, Issue 5908, pp. 1611
DOI: 10.1126/science.322.5908.1611a

Spending time in the outdoors is commonly regarded as a wholesome approach to coping with the cacophony of contemporary developed societies. But does immersion in a natural environment lead to more than simply a sense of feeling refreshed—that is, might the metaphorical recharging of one's batteries be real? Berman et al. find that the less obtrusive sensory stimuli provided by a walk through an arboretum enabled people to perform better on a standard working memory task (backward digit span), in comparison to the stimuli of a stroll through a downtown landscape. Subsequent testing revealed a specific effect of scenic as opposed to urban settings on the executive portions (versus the alerting or orienting components) of an attentional network task, suggesting that a brief hiatus from focused application of attention allows for the replenishment and renewal of cognitive control centers. — GJC

Psychol. Sci. 19, 1207 (2008).

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