Undergraduate Honours Theses
Interactions with nature have been associated with improved emotional well-being and attentional functioning. Nature, however, is a broad category, encompassing several ecosystems that are perceptually distinctive (e.g., forests versus countryside fields), making it unclear whether all nature environments improve well-being to similar degrees. Therefore, the current experiment assessed how viewing a brief video of different natural environments, compared to viewing a video of an urban environment, influenced subjective ratings of restoration and psychological well-being. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three video conditions, which depicted a simulated walk through a forest, a countryside field, or an urban city. Immediately before and after the videos, participants rated their current emotional states. Participants additionally rated the perceived restorativeness of the video. Taken together, the results suggest that not all nature environments contain the same restorative potential. First, the current study supports previous research in which virtual exposure to nature improves psychological well-being; specifically, the simulated forest walk significantly increased happiness relative to the countryside and urban walks. Second, results from the “Fascination” subscale of the Perceived Restorativeness Scale suggested that the forest walk elicited the greatest fascination, followed by the urban walk, and then the countryside walk. The differentiation of the forest and countryside walks, despite comparable green space in both environments, suggests that an environment's restorativeness cannot be entirely predicted based on whether it is considered natural.
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