The psychological impact of spending time in nature is clear; the natural environment tends to relax and restore us. The field of therapeutic landscape design began with an effort to integrate landscape into design to enhance user experience. Design researchers have continued to study the benefits of its use worldwide, albeit, until now, without scientific rigor. The Nature Effect is a research project that examines the restorative impact of spending time in nature. It considers why the time we spend in nature is peaceful. In an effort to identify the causes of its benefits, a cognitive task has been created and an experiment will be performed that measures the performance of the subject completing the task under two different subject conditions. The task involves identifying animals based on characteristics using a symbolic animal matrix display. The experiment uses the task to illicit a response that is or is not suggestive of a restorative nature effect. Researchers who study cognitive psychology often design and use cognitive tasks in order to measure cognitive processing under different conditions. Research on stress suggests that stress often reduces the performance level of the subjects when performing a task. Researchers often design tests to quantitatively assess performance by having the participants perform a task in conditions that create stress by design. The intention of my project is to show that nature reduces the stress on subjects performing a task and thereby enhances their performance. I will attempt to show this by having my subjects perform an identical task in three different subject conditions and will then compare their performance outcomes.
It is common knowledge that spending time in nature is peaceful and restorative, but there is limited research on what evokes this feeling. In an effort to enhance user experience though the design process, the field of therapeutic landscape design is dedicated to integrating the natural world into interior and exterior spaces in an effort to connect man to nature and tap into these benefits. However, there is currently little research that reveals what is restorative about nature and there are no standards in this area that can be broadly applied. As a designer, it is my responsibility to enhance the lives of individuals through their experience with the spaces in which they reside, work, study, and gather. In order to do this effectively, I study how and what about the natural world enhances the lives of individuals. It is my goal to conduct science-based design research that measures the indicators of the restorative impact of nature in order to quantify the value of our experience and develop methods and practices to support more successful integration of nature into the design process in the future.