Adults and children have been spending more time interacting with media and technology and less time participating in activities in nature. There are ramifications of such a life-style change not only for our physical well-being, but what impact does this change have on cognition?
A study by University of Kansas psychologists has demonstrated that interacting with nature has real, measurable benefits to creative problem-solving in ways that have not been formally demonstrated previously.
Backpackers scored 50 percent better on a creativity test after spending four days in nature disconnected from electronic devices. Of 56 subjects in the study, 24 took a 10-item creativity test the morning before they began their backpacking trip, and 32 took the test on the morning of the trip’s fourth day. Results showed that people who had been backpacking four days got an average of 6.08 of the 10 questions correct, compared with an average score of 4.14 for people who had not yet begun a backpacking trip.
Researchers state that this study has demonstrated that four days of immersion in nature, and the corresponding disconnection from multimedia and technology has increased performance on a creativity, problem-solving task by a full 50 percent. They point out that their study was not designed to determine if the effects are due to an increased exposure to nature or a decreased exposure to technology but rather a combined influence of these two factors.
Unlike other studies, where subjects were tested in labs after brief periods outdoors, “the current study is unique in that participants were exposed to nature over a sustained period and they were still in that natural setting during testing,” the researchers write.