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Psychon Bull Rev. 2019 Apr;26(2):522-530. doi: 10.3758/s13423-018-1539-1.

Of cricket chirps and car horns: The effect of nature sounds on cognitive performance.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA. svanhedg@uwo.ca.
2
Center for Practical Wisdom, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA. svanhedg@uwo.ca.
3
Brain and Mind Institute, Western University, London, ON, Canada. svanhedg@uwo.ca.
4
Department of Psychology, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA.
5
Center for Practical Wisdom, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA.
6
School of Education, University of California - Irvine, Irvine, CA, USA.
7
Department of Cognitive Sciences, University of California - Irvine, Irvine, CA, USA.
8
MIND Research Institute, Irvine, CA, USA.

Abstract

Attention restoration theory (ART) posits that stimuli found in nature may restore directed attention functioning by reducing demands on the endogenous attention system. In the present experiment, we assessed whether nature-related cognitive benefits extended to auditory presentations of nature, a topic that has been understudied. To assess directed attention, we created a composite measure consisting of a backward digit span task and a dual n-back task. Participants completed these cognitive measures and an affective questionnaire before and after listening to and aesthetically judging either natural or urban soundscapes (between-participants). Relative to participants who were exposed to urban soundscapes, we observed significant improvements in cognitive performance for individuals exposed to nature. Urban soundscapes did not systematically affect performance either adversely or beneficially. Natural sounds did not differentially change positive or negative affect, despite these sounds being aesthetically preferred to urban sounds. These results provide initial evidence that brief experiences with natural sounds can improve directed attention functioning in a single experimental session.

KEYWORDS:

Attention; Attention restoration theory; Cognitive and attentional control; Nature

PMID:
30367351
DOI:
10.3758/s13423-018-1539-1

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