What's wrong with virtual trees? Restoring from stress in a mediated environment

Y.A.W. Kort, de, A.L. Meijnders, A.A.G. Sponselee, W.A. IJsselsteijn

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179 Citations (Scopus)
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Restorative environments are environments that can help restore depleted attention resources or reduce emotional and psychophysiological stress. These effects have been demonstrated not only in real environments, but also in mediated (projected, broadcasted, etc.) environments. However, the importance of simulation qualities to restoration outcomes has not been systematically studied. The present experiment investigates the importance of immersion in a mediated environment in relation to restoration. Is a projected natural environment more restorative when one is more immersed in it, and hence feels more present in it? The hypothesis was that a more immersive projection would show stronger stress-reducing effects of a mediated restorative environment. After performing a stress-inducing task, participants watched a nature film on either a high or low immersive screen. Physiological measurements (heart period and skin conductance level) were taken throughout the experiment. In addition, we measured self-reported affect and presence using the ITC-Sense of Presence Questionnaire. Significant effects of the screen size manipulation appeared on physiological measures, but not on self-reported affect. The data showed an interaction between screen size and restorative phase on heart period and skin conductance level, indicating stronger restoration for the immersive screen condition over time. We therefore conclude that immersion enhances restorative potential of a mediated natural environment. Self-reported affect did correlate significantly with experienced presence, illustrating the relevance of this experiential counterpart of immersion, although a mediating effect of presence has not yet been established.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)309-320
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Environmental Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2006


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