Nature's path to thinking about others and the surrounding environment

Kathryn E. Schertz, Hiroki P. Kotabe, Kimberly L. Meidenbauer, Elliot A. Layden, Jenny Zhen, Jillian E. Bowman, Tanvi Lakhtakia, Muxuan Lyu, Olivia A. Paraschos, Elizabeth A. Janey, Anya L. Samtani, Andrew J. Stier, Kathryn Gehrke, Stephen C. Van Hedger, Kathleen D. Vohs, Marc G. Berman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research has shown differences in pro-social and pro-environmental attitudes after exposure to different physical environments. It is unclear whether these perspective shifts are associated with changes in conscious thoughts and feelings about other people and the environment. In Study 1, we used a within-subject experiment to measure social and environmental thought content throughout 1-h environmental explorations of a nature conservatory and an indoor mall. At three survey time points, participants (N = 86, undergraduates and community members) reported whom they were thinking about and how connected they felt to the physical and social environment. Using Bayesian multi-level models, we found that while visiting the conservatory, participants were less likely to think about themselves, felt closer to people nearby and around the world, and felt higher connectedness to their social and physical environment. In Study 2, we used a correlational design to investigate the association between perceived naturalness of city parks and feelings of connection to nearby others and the physical environment while visiting. Participants (N = 303, Chicago residents) reported feeling higher levels of connection to nearby people and the physical environment when they were visiting city parks rated as more natural. These studies further our understanding of the ways in which natural environments influence conscious thoughts and feelings about the social and physical environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102046
JournalJournal of Environmental Psychology
StatePublished - Aug 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier Ltd


  • Experience sampling
  • Natural environments
  • Public spaces
  • Social orientation


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