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Natural scenes calm drivers more than city views, study finds

COLUMBUS, Ohio The hassles and frustration of commuting and road trips may not seem so bad if you drive down scenic, tree-lined streets, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that people who viewed a videotape of a drive down a scenic parkway scored lower on a test of frustration than did others who viewed a drive through a metro area cluttered with buildings and utility poles.

While commuters may not get to choose their views as they drive to work, the results suggest that nature can have a calming effect on drivers, said Jack Nasar, co-author of the study and professor of city and regional planning at Ohio State University.

"Researchers have long found that nature can be an antidote to stress," Nasar said. "We found that roadways with views of vegetation and trees rather than more urban scenes can make drivers feel a little less frustrated."

Nasar conducted the study with Jean Marie Cackowski, a former graduate student at Ohio State and now managing editor of the Journal of Planning Literature. The study appears in the November 2003 issue of the journal Environment and Behavior.

"It is clear from the study that our natural environment has a psychological affect on us, even when we're doing something mundane as driving a car," Cackowski said.

The study involved 106 college students who viewed one of three videotapes. Each tape was 4 minutes and 45 seconds long and showed a view through the front windshield of a car as it drove along a roadway. The three videos were taken within eight miles of each other on northern New Jersey or southern New York highways.

One video, labeled "Scenic Parkway" was of a four-lane roadway through a wooded area with few buildings or man-made structures visible from the roadway. The second video, labeled "Garden Highway" was of a six-lane, controlled access highway that, while not as wooded as the scenic parkway, still showed relatively few buildings or utility poles. The third v
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Contact: Jack Nasar
Nasar.1@osu.edu
614-292-1457
Ohio State University
24-Nov-2003


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