Sometimes nature doesn't work: absence of attention restoration in older adults exposed to environmental scenes

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Cassarino, Marica
Tuohy, Isabella C.
Setti, Annalisa
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Background/Study Context: An accumulating body of literature indicates that contact with natural settings can benefit health and wellbeing. Numerous studies support Attention Restoration Theory (ART), which suggests that even short exposure to nature, as opposed to urban environments, can promote attention restoration by stimulating soft fascination. However, it is unclear whether the restorative effects hold in aging. This study tested nature effect on cognitive restoration in older people.Methods: Utilizing the Sustained Attention to Response Task (SART), we explored changes in attentional performance in 75 healthy older individuals before and after exposure to either natural or urban scenes. We checked for age-related differences by comparing the older sample to a group of 21 young participants.Results: We found no effects of environmental exposure for either attentional accuracy, sensitivity to visual targets or reaction times. Our older participants had worse accuracy and slower reaction times than a younger control group who used the same paradigm.Conclusion: The results of our study conducted with older adults show no attention restoration effects in this population. Potential geographical/cultural moderators as wells as methodological considerations are discussed to provide insights for future studies on cognitive restoration in older age.
Attention Restoration Theory , ART , Soft fascination , Cognitive restoration , Sustained Attention to Response Task , SART , Older age , Directed attention , Restorative environments , Aging , Nature , Urban
Cassarino, M., Tuohy, I. C. and Setti, A. (2019) 'Sometimes nature doesn't work: absence of attention restoration in older adults exposed to environmental scenes', Experimental Aging Research, 45(4), pp. 372-385. doi: 10.1080/0361073X.2019.1627497
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© 2019, Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Experimental Aging Research on 7 June 2019, available online: