Attention Restoration Theory

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Looking at natural scenes can be relaxing, but did you know it can also help improve attention?  According to the Attention Restoration Theory (Kaplan & Kaplan, 1989),  nature is a catalyst in restoring focus and concentration.  Mental fatigue that occurs from sustained direct attention can be frustrating.  The tendency can be to try to push through the fatigue to reach the deadline.  However, research indicates that taking a break to be in nature can be the remedy.  In order to focus on an academic task for example, all other stimuli has to be filtered out.  Think about all the background noise that has to be quieted during the day and it is obvious why the brain is tired.  When outdoors, there is another cognitive process that is engaged, that of involuntary attention.  A good example of involuntary attention is when something interesting happens in the landscape, such as a butterfly floating by, we are naturally drawn to watch it.  This act does not strain our concentration, but instead restores it.  

“According to Kaplan, the natural environment must have four properties in order to provide this restorative effect:

Extent (the scope to feel immersed in the environment)
Being away (providing an escape from habitual activities)
Soft fascination (aspects of the environment that capture attention effortlessly)
Compatibility (individuals must want to be exposed to, and appreciate, the environment)” (Ohly, H. et al., 2016).


To learn more about this fascinating research check -out the following article:

Heather Ohly, Mathew P. White, Benedict W. Wheeler, Alison Bethel, Obioha C. Ukoumunne, Vasilis Nikolaou & Ruth Garside (2016) Attention Restoration Theory: A systematic review of the attention restoration potential of exposure to natural environments, Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B, 19:7, 305-343, DOI: 10.1080/10937404.2016.1196155