Does Looking at Nature Make People Nicer?

A new study from the University of Rochester published in Personality and Social Psychology argues that paying attention to the natural world makes people feel better and also makes them behave better. Richard Ryan, an author of the study, says that viewing nature can not only have personal health benefits, but also broader social benefits. The University of Rochester writes that 370 test subjects exposed to natural as opposed to man-made environments led people to “value community and close relationships and to be more generous with money.” 

Lead author Netta Weinstein argues that the research findings illustrate the value of green space in cities. “Incorporating parks and other representations of nature into urban environments may help build a stronger sense of community among residents.  To the extent that our links with nature are disrupted, we may also lose some connection with each other.” The University of Rochester says the lack of green space in cities may explain higher levels of personal reservation, indifference, and estrangement in urban dwellers than rural dwellers. “We are influenced by our environment in ways that we are not aware of,” Weinstein noted.

Even indoors, Weinstein says people should maximize their connections with nature. “Because of the hidden benefits of connecting with nature, people should take advantage of opportunities to get away from built environments and, when inside, they should surround themselves with plants, natural objects, and images of the natural world.” 

The University of Rochester researchers studied 370 participants. The study included four experiments in which the participants were exposed to either natural or man-made settings. Participants were encouraged to pay attention to their environments by looking at colors, textures, and imagining sounds and smells.

Other researchers are exploring how viewing nature in cities has positive cognitive effects (see earlier post), and can aid rehabilitation (see earlier post).

Read the article and research study

Image credit: Paul Crosby, Paul Crosby Architectural Photography. Westminster Presbyterian Church Fellowship Courtyard and  Memorial Columbarium, Minneapolis, MN. Coen + Partners, Inc.

4 thoughts on “Does Looking at Nature Make People Nicer?

  1. Matthew Latham 10/22/2009 / 10:23 am

    I can attest to this anecdotally. Whenever I am out hiking people love to wave, say hello, or stop and chat. Definitely not the same as on a city street.

  2. Cisco 10/28/2009 / 12:08 pm

    Maybe we ought to get all the polititions and place them in Yellowstone or the Adirondacks and see if that helps our political landscape!

  3. Kirt Manecke 10/29/2009 / 6:27 am

    I agree 100%. Nature provides a very soothing and peaceful place in this busy world. Great post.

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