Wisdom Research Forum 2017: Kathryn Schertz (video)

A thought in the park: The influence of naturalness and low level visual features on expressed thought

The following is a recorded presentation of Kathryn Schertz, Doctoral Student in the Environmental Neuroscience Lab from the University of Chicago at the University of Chicago Center for Practical Wisdom Research Forum in August 2017.

Watch this video and previous wisdom research presentations on the Uchicago Wisdom Research YouTube channel!

Presentation abstract: Prior research has shown that the physical characteristics of one’s environment have wide ranging effects on affect and cognition. Other research has demonstrated that one’s thoughts have impacts on mood and behavior, and in this two-part study we investigated how physical features of the environment can alter thought content. In the first study, we analyzed thousands of journal entries written by park visitors to examine how low-level and semantic visual features of the parks correlate with different thought topics. We found that people are generally positive and reflective, about life, family, and the world around them. Today’s fast-paced, digitally-saturated world does not often lend itself to reflection, but here we demonstrate that urban greenspace may be a location that allows for these reflections, which could be beneficial for mental health. In the second study, we experimentally manipulated exposure to visual features to determine if they causally induced thinking about these same topics under more generalized conditions. Results from Study 2 demonstrated a causal role for perceived naturalness and high non- straight edges on thinking about topics related to “Nature” and “Spiritual & Life Journey”, respectively. These results have implications for the design of the built environment to influence human reflection and well-being.

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