Investigating working memory capacity in an online nature intervention
Charbonneau, Brooke Zauner
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Viewing natural stimuli has shown to have beneficial effects on cognition. However, for those in urban areas, nature may not be as accessible. An online intervention may allow them to receive such cognitive benefits. However, specific cognitive processes that may benefit from nature are still not well understood. This study aimed to investigate which cognitive processes could benefit from an online nature intervention. Two hundred and nineteen participants were recruited from Montana State University and completed two tasks that measured either Working Memory Capacity, attentional control, or memory. Within each task, 40 nature images and 40 urban images were randomly presented before each experimental block in the two tasks. Results revealed higher performance after viewing nature images compared to urban images across attentional control tasks but not for Working Memory Capacity or memory. When controlling for preference for natural settings and nature images, the effect became marginal for attentional control tasks. Exploratory analyses revealed that this effect of nature became nonsignificant when controlling across dimensions of fascination and mystery. These results indicate a small, but significant, benefit of viewing natural settings for attentional control, an essential component of Working Memory Capacity. Future research should investigate if benefits increase with longer or more comprehensive interaction with nature, individual differences in the degree of benefits nature can provide, and characteristics that natural settings possess which may increase attentional benefits.