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Impacts of nature imagery on people in severely nature-deprived environments

Nalini Nadkarni

Summary


An estimated 5.3 million Americans live or work in nature-deprived venues such as prisons, homeless shelters, and mental hospitals. Such removal from nature can result in an "extinction of experience" that can further lead to disinterest or disaffection toward natural settings, or even biophobia (fear of the natural environment). People who infrequently – or never – spend time in nature will be deprived of the numerous physical and emotional benefits that contact with nature affords. We report on the effects of vicarious nature experiences (nature videos) provided to maximum-security prison inmates for one year, and compared their emotions and behaviors to inmates who were not offered such videos. Inmates who watched nature videos reported feeling significantly calmer, less irritable, and more empathetic, and committed 26% fewer violent infractions as compared to those who did not watch the videos. Prison staff corroborated these findings. This research reinforces the value of nature exposure as a powerful tool not only for corrections administrators, but also for urban planners and policy makers, to promote socially desirable behaviors.