New Study: Looking at Nature Improves Cognitive Performance
Spending time in nature helps make kids healthier, happier, and smarter – which is why the Nature Rocks program we helped found aims to inspire parents to reconnect their kids with the outdoors. But viewing nature can also provide mental benefits to office workers. A recent study by researchers at the University of Melbourne found that subjects who were exposed to a “green” roof (an urban rooftop covered with plants) did better on cognitive tests.
As this Washington Post article explains, the research subjects were asked to perform a tedious, mentally challenging task, and then spend a short break looking at either the green roof or a concrete roof. Those who looked at the green roof showed better focus and performance after the break than the other group. So, not only can green roofs help save energy by keeping the building and the surrounding area cooler, they can also add a much-needed dose of nature to a busy office environment.
Chris Mooney, contributor to The Washington Post
While still relatively novel in the United States, so-called “green roofs” — urban rooftops covered with grasses, plants and other types of greenery — are becoming increasingly popular around the world. In France, newly built commercial rooftops must sport either greenery or solar panels, according to a recent law. Facebook, meanwhile, recently installed a massive 9-acre green roof at its office in Menlo Park, Calif.
The logic is obvious: Green roofs can reduce the retention of heat in urban areas, help to cool down buildings and thereby lower their energy use, and even pull some carbon dioxide from the air and feed it back into plant growth. Plus, they look cool.
But the psychological benefits of green roofs to busy office workers may also be substantial, according to new research. In a study published in the journal Environmental Psychology, the University of Melbourne’s Kate Lee and a group of colleagues found that interrupting a tedious, attention-demanding task with a 40-second “microbreak” — in which one simply looks at a computerized image of a green roof — improved focus as well as subsequent performance on the task.
Image credit: AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck