Nature’s ability to Restore Attention

Samrat Urval
3 min readFeb 9, 2021
The Legendary Kaplans

The evergreen and legendary study by environmental psychologists Rachel and Stephen Kaplan was laid down in the 1970s. The invaluable findings from their nine-year survey for the US Forest Service proposed that direct and indirect contact with nature can aid the recovery from mental fatigue and restore attention. In further support of the theory, nature experiences can improve psychological health. They found out that nature helped in restoring the brain’s ability to process information.

The Kaplan research consisted of following participants in outbound programs that took participants to the wilderness for two weeks. During these Outbound trek programs, participants reported experiencing a sense of peace and the ability to think more clearly. They also said that just being in nature was more restorative than physically challenging activities.

Over time, the Kaplans developed the theory of Direct Attention Fatigue. Stephen Kaplan and Raymond DeYoung described it as “Under continual demand, the ability to direct our inhibitory process tires. The distractibility then permits the immediate environment to have a magnified impact on our behavioural choices. This condition reduces mental effectiveness and makes consideration of abstract long-term goals difficult.” The commonly observed symptoms attributed to this fatigue were irritability and impulsivity, resulting in regrettable choices. At the same time, impatience led to making ill-informed decisions.

The hypostatization by the Kaplans that the best antidote to a fatigue of this nature which is brought by direct attention is ‘involuntary attention’ that they coined as “fascination.” It occurs when we are in an environment that fulfil the following criteria:

  1. The setting must transport the participant away from the day-to-day routine, a feeling of extent providing a sense of fascination.
  2. A certain degree of compatibility that matches the expectation of the participants while exploring the environment.

Furthermore, the Kaplans found that the natural world is as capable of a place as it gets for the human brain to overcome mental fatigue and restore.

Their research also suggests that nature simultaneously calms and focuses the mind. At the same time, it offers a state that transcends relaxation, which allows the mind and the brain to detect beneficiary patterns that it would otherwise miss out on.

We at IEXP 360 design our programs with the deep-rooted foundations of Attention Restoration by nature. The best beneficiaries for participants of our programs are:

  1. Participants spend most of the year in urban settings in high-tech classrooms, clogged by the virtual world.
  2. Surrounded by concrete jungles with minimal access to green space and cooped at home.

IEXP 360 takes program designs extremely seriously to bring the best aspect of the participants to the forefront. Providing them with the toolkits to enhance, magnify, understand their optimal patterns on essential life skills. The importance of balancing nature and technology is as fundamental as developing a fertile hybrid mind.

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Samrat Urval

Experiential Educator, Entrepreneur, Traveler, Adventurer, Meditation Exploration, Fitness Enthusiast, NOLS Graduate