The holidays are over, so maybe it’s time to feng shui your office space to get that vacation relaxation high. Researchers from the Sheffield Cognition and Neuroimaging Laboratory studied the effect of visual scenery on the perception of tranquility. Their research suggests that natural scenes have a more positive impact on the brain than industrial imagery.
Twelve men between the ages of 22 and 24 participated in the study. Each participant was shown 3.5 second movies of beach and traffic scenes; the beach was defined as the “tranquil” stimulus, and the traffic was defined as “non-tranquil.” Some of the movies included audio, while others played in silence. In order to prove the connection between visual stimuli and mental tranquility, the researchers created beach and traffic audio segments that sounded similar to one another. During the observation, each participant’s brain function was examined with an MRI machine.
Psychologically speaking, peace is associated with the brain’s ability to rest, or a period in which a person does not have to focus on a task. In this study, the tranquil beach scenes prompted a higher response in brain areas that are associated with mental rest than the non-tranquil traffic scenes. The interesting variable of this study was the use of fairly identical audio segments for the beach and traffic scenes. The brain’s reaction to an audio stimulant is dependent upon the connected visual stimulant.
The researchers theorized that the effects of audio stimulation on emotional processing areas of the brain are buffered according to the visual stimulant. Which makes sense, According to this particular study, mental peace occurs when multiple qualities of a stimulus are tranquil. You must walk in the sand, taste the salty air, listen to the seagulls, and watch the breaking waves of the water to truly feel at peace.
Of course, this study is not the only evidence of the human need for nature. As we reported earlier in a study on outdoor exercise, the benefits “outdoor effects were first noticed indoors at a lab. Scientists had their subjects look at images while running on a treadmill. According to the research, “An 8.7 percent decrease in blood pressure was reported after exercising whilst viewing rural pleasant pictures compared with a 1.9 percent decrease when faced with a blank screen and a 3.3 percent increase in blood pressure after viewing urban unpleasant pictures.”