Impact of Urban Nature on Executive Functioning in Early and Middle Childhood

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Schutte, Anne R.; Torquati, Julia; Beattie, Heidi L.
attention; working memory; attention restoration theory; nature; cognition; preschoolers; Child Psychology; Cognition and Perception; Developmental Psychology; Psychology
article description
According to attention restoration theory, directed attention can become fatigued and then be restored by spending time in a restorative environment. This study examined the restorative effects of nature on children’s executive functioning. Sevento 8-year-olds (school aged, n = 34) and 4- to 5-year-olds (preschool, n = 33) participated in two sessions in which they completed an activity to fatigue attention, then walked along urban streets (urban walk) in one session and in a park-like area (nature walk) in another session, and finally completed assessments of working memory, inhibitory control, and attention. Children responded faster on the attention task after a nature walk than an urban walk. School-aged children performed significantly better on the attention task than preschoolers following the nature walk, but not urban walk. Walk type did not affect inhibitory control or verbal working memory. However, preschoolers’ spatial working memory remained more stable following the nature walk than the urban walk.