Unnecessary Study of the Month

Nature is Good

By Christopher Werner December 27, 2008 Published in the August 2008 issue of Seattle Met

In case you were too busy with your newest Wii game to catch the memo, Seattle researchers have spelled it out: Nature does the body good. Technology, not so much. That’s what the UW Human Interaction with Nature and Technological Systems Lab found after monitoring the heart rates of 90 college students as they worked in front of a window, a blank wall, or a plasma screen displaying nature scenes. Those in front of the window experienced a quicker drop in heart rate and tended to experience this decreased heart rate more often. The plasma screen—even in hi-def—was just as ineffective as the blank wall at reducing low-level stress. The conclusion: Technology can’t replace the outdoors. “There are limitations to technological representations of nature,” says Rachel Severson, one of the study’s authors. Justification for luddites? Yes. Groundbreaking? Hardly. But the researchers might be onto at least one thing: Those plasma screens in hospitals and hotels with pictures of waterfalls and tulip fields? Don’t buy one. Unless, of course, it features sunshine—which, let’s be real, you’ve got to take whenever you can get it, fake or not.

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