Mar 31, 2011 11:23 PM GMT
Recent research suggests that the mere presence of plants can boost your attention span
You are probably aware that eating plants is good for you. However, what you may not know is that plants can provide benefits even if your taste buds run for cover at the first mention of spinach. New research is beginning to show that just having plants in your workspace may improve how you think.
In a study to be published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, researchers show that the mere presence of plants in an office setting boosts one’s ability to maintain attention.
As humans spend more of their lives in front of screens, scientists have devoted more attention to the effects these artificial environments have on the mind. Sometimes, this new study suggests, it may be possible to reap benefits with simple changes in decorating strategy.
These findings build on a body of research based on Attention Restoration Theory. According to this theory, the reason why you can stare at spreadsheets for only so long before wanting to toss your computer monitor through the window is that everyone has a limited capacity for this kind of work. This limited capacity system makes use of “directed attention” which is effortful, controlled voluntarily, and diminishes with use.
You can contrast this with the kind of attention that is engaged when you are out walking in a park. Your attention is drawn first to that leaf, then to another. The shadow of a bird streaking across the green grass pulls your eyes along… until a flash of color from flowers by the path grabs your focus. This second kind of attention, called undirected attention, is effortless, automatically oriented to interesting features of our surroundings, and, according to the theory, allows the directed attention system to rest and rejuvenate itself.