Being in the natural environment has beneficial effects, including improved performance on subsequent mental tasks that require careful control over thought and action. This restorative effect has also been observed for individuals with depression after they experienced a 50 min walk in nature. While individuals without depression experienced this restorative effect even after brief exposure to low-intensity, digital nature stimuli, the negative thought biases associated with depressive symptomatology might interfere with the restorative effect during such brief exposures. The goal of this study was to assess whether brief exposure (4 min and 10 s) to two-dimensional digital nature images results in the restorative effect on a cognitive control task, the Sustained Attention to Response Task (SART), in individuals with depressive symptoms, compared to a control group without these symptoms. The results indicated that only typical individuals show improved performance after the low-intensity nature exposure, while individuals with significant depressive symptoms experienced no performance improvement. Thus, the findings imply that the salient negative self-focus associated with depression inhibits the restorative effect during such brief nature interventions. The results provide potential constraints for the scope of the restorative effect with digital nature and boundaries for its application in treatment of individuals with certain psychological states, such as depression.
- Environmental psychology
- Restorative natural environments