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Exposure to Nature Improves Creative Thinking

THURSDAY, Dec. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Spending several days hiking without access to electronic devices improves scores on a creativity test by 50 percent, according to a study published online Dec. 12 in PLOS One.

Ruth Ann Atchley, Ph.D., from the University of Kansas in Lawrence, and colleagues studied 56 men and women (average age, 28 years) who took a four- to six-day wilderness hike where no electronic devices were allowed. A 10-item test of creative thinking and insight problem-solving (the Remote Associates Test) was given to 24 subjects before the trip and to 32 subjects on day four of the trip.

The researchers found that the group that took the test during the hike scored 50 percent higher than the group that took the test before the hike (6.08 versus 4.14). They note that the study does not address whether this is due to increased exposure to nature, reduced exposure to technology, or a combination of both.

"Our results demonstrate that there is a cognitive advantage to be realized if we spend time immersed in a natural setting," Atchley and colleagues conclude. "We anticipate that this advantage comes from an increase in exposure to natural stimuli that are both emotionally positive and low-arousing and a corresponding decrease in exposure to attention demanding technology, which regularly requires that we attend to sudden events, switch amongst tasks, maintain task goals, and inhibit irrelevant actions or cognitions."

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