Backpackers got 50 percent better scores in a creativity test after spending four days in nature shutting electronic devices off, a new study by psychologists from the University of Utah and University of Kansas reveals.
David Strayer, a co-author of the study and professor of psychology at the University of Utah, says,
"This is a way of showing that interacting with nature has real, measurable benefits to creative problem-solving that really hadn't been formally demonstrated before. It provides a rationale for trying to understand what is a healthy way to interact in the world, and that burying yourself in front of a computer 24/7 may have negative implications that need to be neutralised by taking a hike in nature."
Strayer continues, "Writers for centuries have talked about why interacting with nature is important, and lots of people go on vacations. But I don't think we know very well what the benefits are from a scientific perspective."
The study involved 56 people—30 men and 26 women—with an average age of 28. They participated in four- to six-day wilderness hiking trips organised by the Outward Bound expedition school in Alaska, Colorado, Maine and Washington state. No electronic devices were allowed on the trips.
Of the 56 study subjects, 24 took a 10-item creativity test the morning before they began their backpacking trip, and 32 took the test on the morning of the trip's fourth day.
Individuals who had been backpacking four days got an average of 6.08 of the 10 questions correct, compared with an average score of 4.14 for people who had not yet begun a backpacking trip.
"We show that four days of immersion in nature, and the corresponding disconnection from multimedia and technology, increases performance on a creativity, problem-solving task by a full 50 percent," the researchers conclude.
However, they note that their study was not designed to "determine if the effects are due to an increased exposure to nature, a decreased exposure to technology or the combined influence of these two factors."
While earlier research has indicated nature has beneficial effects,it's equally plausible that it is end of overt multitasking that is associated with the benefits.
This will hopefully help all those glued to their computer screens to realise the value of the serene natural surroundings as it will help them do the same computer-related tasks more creatively.
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