Processing of natural scenery is associated with lower attentional and cognitive load compared with urban ones. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 62, 1-11.
Environmental psychology has provided evidence for psychologically favorable effects of exposure to natural settings, by means of controlled laboratory experiments as well as outdoor field studies. Most of these studies have employed subjective rating scales to assess processes and outcomes of exposure to nature, while only few of them have used physiological measures to assess the neural correlates of these benefits. The present study used electroencephalography (EEG) to explore how the brain engages in processing of images of natural vs. urban scenery. During EEG recording, the participants (n = 32) were presented with a series of photos depicting urban or natural scenery. Participants rated the sceneries for their subjective relaxing value. Images of natural scenery were rated as more relaxing compared to the images of urban scenery. Event related potentials suggested a lower attentional demand for images of natural scenery compared to urban ones. Signal spectral analyses revealed differences in brain activity level and cognitive demand between natural and urban scenery. Our data suggest that the visual perception of natural environments calls for less attentional and cognitive processing, compared with urban ones.