The Effects of Environment on Memory and Reasoning Skills: Comparing Natural and Artificial Environments
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The Attention Restoration Theory (ART) suggests that our directed attention is subject to fatigue, and that the presence of nature and natural environments allows us to recover from that fatigue, consequently improving cognitive function. Three hundred and eighty undergraduate degree-seeking students of all classifications from diverse academic disciplines at Texas State University were tested using modified forms of the Sentence Repetition Test and the California Verbal Learning Test to test verbal memory and verbal learning, and a modified form of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-IV Matrix Reasoning to test non-verbal reasoning/fluid intelligence. Half of the subjects (190) were tested in their classroom at the regularly scheduled class time or one located in the same building at a predetermined date and time. Half of the subjects (190) were tested in an outdoor garden classroom at a predetermined date and time. No significant difference was found to exist between either the memory or reasoning scores of the two groups. Comparisons of subjects in the same demographic categories produced three significant P values. Students classified as seniors (P=0.035), students ages 36-40 (P=0.030), and students ages 41 and above (P=0.041) who were tested in the natural environment performed significantly better on the Sentence Repetition Test than those tested in the artificial environment.