Exposure to urban environments requires more cognitive processing than exposure to nature; an effect that can even be measured analysing gait kinematics whilst people walk towards photographic images. Here, we investigated whether differences in cognitive load between nature and urban scenes are still present when scenes are matched for their liking scores. Participants were exposed to images of nature and urban scenes that had been matched a priori for their liking scores by an independent participant sample (n = 300). Participants (N = 44) were either asked to memorise each image during walking or to rate each image for its visual discomfort after each walk. Irrespective of experimental task, liking score but not environment type predicted gait velocity. Moreover, subjective visual discomfort was predictive of gait velocity. The positive impact of nature described in the literature thus might, at least in part, be due to people's aesthetic preferences for nature images.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Work in the BVI movement lab was supported by an equipment grant of the Wellcome Trust (WT089367AIA). DB is supported by a PhD studentship from the Faculty of Science, University of Bristol. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Copyright © 2021 Burtan et al.