Do we prefer some types of nature over others?

Have you ever stopped to notice the various types of nature that exist on our planet?

Think about it.

We have:

  • Forests
  • Water
  • Snow
  • Sand
  • Rocks

These are all unique components of nature.

One Trent University student, Alex Hooke-Wood, thinks that each component is so unique that he is returning to Trent this fall to begin his Master’s program in Environmental Psychology.

Nature Picture 1

During his fourth year at Trent, Alex stumbled upon many articles that detailed the numerous benefits that nature has upon people’s well-being.

These benefits include the reduction of stress and improvement of mood, to name just a few. However, much of this research focused on ‘green’ space (e.g. forests, trees, grass) and left out many other types of nature.

The purpose of Alex’s study was to look at possible differences among various types of nature and their varying effects on one’s well-being.

Do people need to be in a forest or by the water to enjoy the benefits of nature? 

To answer this question, Alex conducted a study where people were randomly assigned to one of five conditions – forest, waster, rock, sand and snow.

Each of these conditions included a set of nature pictures.

Participants viewed one of the five nature components, and then responded to questions regarding their preference, mood, and connectedness to nature.

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Results showed that people preferred images of forests and water MORE than rock and sand images.

Results also showed that snow images didn’t have much of an impact on people’s responses (HA! No surprise there!).

Although participants clearly stated a preference for nature types, there was no difference in the participants’ mood after viewing the various images. Nature images don’t necessarily have an effect upon people’s moods.  

Alex also discovered through his research that participants who considered themselves more connected to nature and thought about how their actions affect our environment preferred ALL nature images more than those less connected to nature. These participants also had a more positive mood after viewing the images.

Aside from the numerous benefits that nature can provide to people on a global scale, it can also affect us on a more personal level. Exposure to nature can have both physical benefits, such as reducing stress, as well as psychological benefits.

Alex’s research is just a small piece in puzzle of how and why nature affects people psychologically, in some very beneficial ways. 

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His research is particularly important as it is starting to uncover the various psychological effects brought about by the various types of nature. This research is still in its infancy, thus much more needs to be done.

Current findings suggest that people don’t have to be in a forest or by the water to enjoy the benefits of nature.

Rocky, sandy, and snowy areas can potentially be just as restorative, even if one is not in one’s preferred natural setting. 

That is why ALL aspects of nature is so important to protect & preserve! 

Alex says,

Trent University encouraged me to have higher standards for myself, but also provided the feedback and guidance necessary to achieve that higher standard. They told me to climb a ‘mountain’, but they also provided the gear. Now I feel very well prepared and I look forward to continuing my studies and research at Trent.

trentu

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