A review of the limitations of Attention Restoration Theory and the importance of its future research for the improvement of well-being in urban living

Brittany N. Neilson, Curtis M. Craig, Alexandra T. Travis, Martina I. Klein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations

Abstract

Attention Restoration Theory (ART; Kaplan, 1995) is the predominant theory identifying characteristics of nature that are thought to make it restorative. Albeit, these characteristics lack operational definitions, thus generating several methodological challenges in critically assessing ART. For example, a major component of restoration within the ART framework is soft fascination, which is an involuntary capturing of attention, but not in a dramatic fashion. However, there is no empirical support of nature’s ability to innately hold attention, and this poor understanding contributes to the challenges in developing an operational definition of soft fascination. We describe attributes of stimuli that are known to capture visual attention (e.g., salience; Ruz & Lupiáñez, 2002) and consider whether such attributes are consistent with the notion of soft fascination. Since ART evolved from literature on aesthetics and environmental preferences (e.g., Kaplan, 1987), a review of this literature may inspire new ways to define restorative characteristics of nature, and thereby, promote the implementation of these characteristics into built environments. Thus, the purpose of this paper is to review and integrate relevant literature from multiple subfields of psychology to inspire research that can employ new methodology and ultimately better our understanding of the mechanisms underlying restorative environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-67
Number of pages9
JournalVisions for Sustainability
Volume2019
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 21 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Neilson, B.N., Craig, C.M., Travis, A.T., Klein, M.I.

Keywords

  • aesthetics
  • attention capture
  • Attention Restoration Theory
  • directed attention
  • visual perception

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