Author Archive

Think Outside the Box, or Better Yet – Restore Outside the Room

May 9th, 2016 No comments

By Maggie, Meg, Tara, and Raymond

After studying for a long time, do you feel brain-dead, or unable to focus anymore? This fatigue occurs when your attention, or more specifically, directed attention, is depleted. Directed attention is controlled, effortful attention that helps one inhibit irrelevant information in the environment and select important information. Thus, prolonged use of directed attention usually results in mental fatigue, which in turn decreases performance on affective and cognitive measures (Bratman, Hamilton, & Daily, 2012). Exposure to nature can help one recover from this fatigue. Attention Restoration Theory (ART; Kaplan, 1995) states that natural settings are restorative because they are often extensive, allow us to be detached from our everyday thoughts and worries, fit our needs for relaxation, and, most importantly, capture our attention automatically and effortlessly. These properties are collectively referred to as soft fascination, in contrast to the hard fascination produced by urban environments. That is, unlike urban environments, nature has very few stimuli that may require our directed attention. For instance, in a forest there is no traffic for us to worry about, nor there is any car honk by our ears.

Previous studies (e.g., Atchley, Strayer, & Atchley, 2012; Berman, Jonides, & Kaplan, 2008) have found that after exposure to nature, people tend to perform better on cognitive tasks. For example, in one study, participants completed the Remote Associates Task (RAT; Mednick, 1962) either before going on a hike into the wilderness or on the fourth day of the hike (Atchley et al., 2012). The RAT is a creativity task in which participants have to come up with a word that connects three words that are presented on each trial and that appear to be unrelated (Mednick, 1962). For example, if the three presented words are “swiss,” “cottage,” and “cake,” the correct answer will be “cheese.” The RAT is thought to tax attention and higher-order cognition. The results revealed a 50% boost in performance for participants who completed the task while on the hike (Atchley et al., 2012). Thus, it seems that nature starts to show its positive impact on cognition after three days of exposure. Read more…

Top reasons why you should NOT quit playing video games

November 24th, 2015 2 comments

There are 1.23 billion people worldwide who spend an hour a day, on average, playing video games, reported by I used to be one of those game players when I was in elementary school. However, my parents enforced me to quit playing games by setting up strict time limits, and even locked the computer with a password that I have never successfully cracked. My parents are not the only ones who are of the belief that playing video games is not beneficial at all, but a waste of time. Searching “video game playing” on Google, the top 10 search results are on how to quit playing video games and why video games can ruin one’s life. On the contrary, recent bestseller books and psychology studies argued against this common belief that playing video games is in fact not a total waste of time. When people play games, they are “wholeheartedly engaged in creative challenges,” said Jane McGonigal, a game designer and bestseller author, cited in


Read more…

Categories: Attention, Memory Tags: ,